“There will be many more situations that will be beyond the grasp of his formative mind in the next few years, but with a serene calmness and a stubborn will, be rest assured that Sam will once again wade through it all”
As a young child (not that he looks any older today), Sam Curran would often be thrown into situations that would be well beyond the grasp of his formative mind. Upstaged and left homeless after the family farm in Zimbabwe was seized when he was just 5, Sam along with his brothers Tom and Ben packed up their bitter-sweet cricketing memories from the place to tug along into the residence of Geoff Marsh, the then coach of the Zimbabwe cricket team.
Bitter-sweet because while the huge farm that sprawled acres had laid the foundation of the love for cricket between the brothers, Sam would often spend his afternoons forcefully nestled amid nature as Tom and Ben bullied (not literally!) their baby brother into submission when their father Kevin, who had played 11 Tests for Zimbabwe, was absent. He would have to watch with impatience as Tom kept bowling from one end while Ben perfected his skills as a left-handed batsman and in the deepest of hearts he knew that this regime would carry on long past their teenage years. After all, it was unofficially the youngest brother’s job to carry on his role as the ball-boy to perfection.
However, the unfair life that Sam had pictured slipped away into oblivion when his father passed away a few years later, leaving his mother to take care of the three children. Forget playing cricket, the arduous task of going about their daily life without much finances and without the guidance of a father seemed too tough to imagine but the friends that Kevin had made in his cricketing years stepped in to ensure that the family did not fall into despair. Allan Lamb, Marsh and Ian Grieg managed to convince his mother to allow Tom to move away to England where he could hone his cricketing skills and make a career for himself in the sport that Kevin had idolized so much.
Uprooted and without his eldest aid by his side, Sam became a recluse and this is when the waves of maturity swept over him. He had to grow up sooner than he had thought he would have to and by spending days pondering over the ways of life and why calamity had struck him and his family alone, a sense of acceptance rode over him. He no longer believed in questioning the universe but instead focused on sharpening his mind that would not succumb even when the toughest days engulfed him.
And it was this toughness that has been vastly on display in the ongoing series against India. After pitching in with a Man-of-the-Match performance in just his second Test match where he grabbed a match-haul of 5 wickets along with a brilliant counter-attacking knock 63 with the bat, Sam furthered his performance in the next Test, making 40 with the bat. But he was unceremoniously dropped from the third Test because England could ill afford to not pick Chris Woakes, the Player of the Match in the second game, or Ben Stokes who was coming back into the team after passing the court trial. As the cricketing realm lent its support to Sam – imagining him to be a young individual who would have been devastated at the plight – the cricketer in question must have silently smiled, accepted the decision like a true team man and pledged to perform even better when the opportunity next arose for him.
Just like he had done when Wellington College in England where Tom had been sent accepted to enrol him just at the request of Lamb. Just like he had done when the strong cricketing nuances that his father had taught him started holding him in good stead for his school’s cricket team. Or when Surrey that had strong connections with Wellington College suddenly picked the tiny-framed Sam to play for their first XI when he was just 16 one summer afternoon as he was hopping on from the train to head back home after his school team had lost the semi-finals.
As he produced a traditional inswinger in the fourth ball of his FC debut to send back Joe Denly a few months later, he was marked down as a player to watch out for, with his natural swing and his no-holds-bar approach with the bat winning attention. He took eight wickets in the game, with a five-wicket haul in his first innings thus becoming the youngest player from Surrey to scalp 5 wickets on debut. Bowling in tandem with Tom a childhood dream had been fulfilled, even though, the brothers would have hoped that the journey towards it would have been a lot less stiff.
As he marked a return into the Test team for the fourth Test, Sam was keen to not let the chance slip away and this time shone with the bat when his team needed him the most. After being 86 for 6 in a crucial game, England were looking down the barrel but some fine determination by the baby of the team Sam who gritted it out for his 136-ball 78 ensured that the home side managed to make 246, which proved game-changing in the end. His ability to dig in and bat with the lower order could potentially make him a number 5 batsman as well and his second innings score of 46 that frustrated the Indians proved that he has the big match temperament to go with his natural flair.
Yes, Sam will play in conditions that will offer less swing. He will play against better opponents and against batsmen who can play him better but if he can continue to beat batsmen outside the off stump like he did against Virat Kohli, by far the best batsman on the tour, he can possibly become the first left-arm pacer to scalp hundred wickets for England in Test cricket.
There will be many more situations that will be beyond the grasp of his formative mind in the next few years, but with a serene calmness and a stubborn will, be rest assured that Sam will once again wade through it all.