Sam Curran hopes to build on 'heady, but exciting' initiation
Sam Curran is living the dream of every young cricketer: suddenly picked out of nondescript cricket to play in the big leagues with a great of the game, and now touring abroad to represent his country at an international tournament. It's not exactly a scene straight out of the Hollywood flick Rookie of the Year, because despite how young Curran comes across, he is nothing like the 12-year-old protagonist in the film.
Sam was the second-youngest debutant for Surrey last season, when he was plucked out of the Second Eleven Championship to play T20s. Now, after just six first-class matches for Surrey, which he has played alongside his older brother Tom, he is now considered one of the most talented junior cricketers in England.
Ahead of England Under-19s' second World Cup match against West Indies on Friday, Curran reflected on his elevation, which he termed "heady, but exciting."
"I think everything came a bit faster than I thought," Curran told ESPNcricinfo. "There were couple of injuries in the Surrey team and I got the call-up. I just went from game to game, and they came very quickly. I thought I was dreaming when I was playing with someone like Kumar Sangakkara.
"Quite a few us here have played first-class cricket, especially Dan [Lawrence] and Jack [Burnham] who got hundreds against Fiji. I think there are eight of us who have played first-class matches, so it gives us the experience that we can share with the other guys because we are playing in conditions lot different than we are used to in the UK."
Curran was born in England but moved back to Zimbabwe when his father Kevin Curran was made Zimbabwe's head coach in 2005. As is the case with many cricketers, his game flourished while playing backyard cricket, even though it meant he only got to bowl to his older brothers. Nonetheless, he says it was a happy childhood until three years ago when his father passed away.
"My dad was the main inspiration for us brothers," he said. "We brothers were very competitive in garden cricket. I used to be the main bowler because obviously the older brothers used to take most of the time batting. I got my turn at the end for two minutes and they would hit the ball over the tennis court and it was game over. All good fun though, now that we look back as we are a bit older. Obviously the tragedy of what happened to my father got us to move back to the UK. I think now it couldn't have worked better with the cricket."
Bring up the names of Sangakkara and Alec Stewart, and the child-like enthusiasm and excitement in Sam surfaces. He also admires Jade Dernbach and Tom, his older brother, immensely for the role they have played in shaping him as a cricketer.
"Jade and Tom have been great with me," he said. "We are a bowlers' union. Jade has helped me in white-ball cricket. He is one of the most skillful bowlers. When batters are coming hard at me, he just tells me to take my time and think about what I am going to bowl. Tom does [check on me] now and again. He is in the UAE now with the Lions. Both of them are very supportive and we catch up now and again."
Curran also looks up to Wasim Akram, quite obviously because he is also a left-arm quick, and Brett Lee for the aggression. "Wasim Akram is someone, and then Brett Lee. He is quite a big one for me. I also wear the No 58 as he did," he gushed. "I just loved his aggression. For my batting, Kumar Sangakkara has helped me. Probably in a few years, I see myself batting at No 6 in the allrounder's spot like I am doing for the U-19s now."
Serious talks aside, Sam also joked about how he and his older brother often keep arguing about who is the better batsman. "We have had this argument before. I think, depends… I am probably a better four-day batsman and he is probably better in the one-day stuff," he laughed. "He is a bit stronger than me but in a couple of years down the line, I will get up the order and he can bat at No 11."
Curran's rapid rise has made him adjust to life as a cricketer, be it age-group or as a pro, and as a student at Wellington College. His plate is full at the moment, with his immediate challenge being the ongoing Under-19 World Cup, a tournament England are yet to win since 1998. "Obviously the dream is to play for England but I want to take it one at a time," Curran said. "Even last winter, I thought I would play a couple of second team games.
"It all kicked off from nowhere. My main aim over the next couple of weeks is to win the U-19 World Cup. It is our dream. Then I want to go back to Surrey and do well. I have to finish my A-levels this May and I have just signed a three-year contract with Surrey. Hopefully that's where I will be for the rest of the time I would play cricket."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84