CURRAN, KEVIN MALCOLM, died after collapsing while jogging in Harare on October 10, aged 53. Kevin Curran's performance in Zimbabwe's sensational victory over Australia in their first match in senior international competition, at the 1983 World Cup, established a template for his career. On that seismic day at Trent Bridge, he made vital runs, took a key wicket and contributed to a fine fielding performance; Curran was not a player to be kept out of the action for long.
Duncan Fletcher rightly gained the plaudits for his 69 and four wickets in that game, but Curran made 27 in a sixth-wicket partnership of 70 with his captain to rescue Zimbabwe from early calamity, then removed Allan Border. Later in the tournament, he made 62 against West Indies at Edgbaston, then hit 73 and claimed three for 65 - both one-day international career-bests - against India at Tunbridge Wells.
Fletcher recalled: "Kevin always genuinely believed that any difficult situation was a challenge to be overcome." Curran also played in the 1987 World Cup in India and Pakistan, but made little impact: his international career ended after 11 matches, with 287 runs at 26, and nine wickets at 44.
Instantly recognisable by his surfer-style blond hair, Curran was a hard-hitting presence in the middle order, bowled fast-medium (and occasionally quicker), and was an electrifying presence in the field. "As a youngster, his returns to the keeper would be scrappy - until it was run-out time," said Fletcher. "Then the ball would be right above the stumps from the outfield, or a direct hit when closer in."
In England, Curran was best known for the 15 seasons he spent with Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire, when he was one of the best allrounders in the domestic game. An Irish passport - his paternal grandfather had emigrated to Southern Rhodesia in 1902 - meant he did not count as an overseas player, and he joined Gloucestershire in 1985, when his 52 wickets helped their rise from last in the Championship to third. Wisden felt a pace attack of Courtney Walsh, David Lawrence and Curran might be the most formidable the county had ever deployed. He was admirably consistent, passing 1,000 runs in four successive seasons, and adding 65 wickets in 1988, and 60 in 1990, after which Gloucestershire released him amid stories of dressing-room disharmony. Senior coach Eddie Barlow insisted Curran's departure was "in the best interests of the club".
He decamped to Northamptonshire, where his friend Allan Lamb was captain: "He was an abrasive sort of player, but an excellent team man. He got up people's noses a bit, and you definitely wanted him on your side." Curran contributed fully to four successive top five Championship finishes, and took three for 41 in the NatWest Trophy final victory over Leicestershire in 1992. "He always felt he was better than anybody else, and I liked that," said Lamb. "He would always say 'give me the ball' if we needed a wicket, or 'I'll bat at three'." Lamb also remembered a subtle motivator: "He got on really well with Curtly Ambrose, and he was good for him. Sometimes he'd say: 'I think I'm bowling faster than you this morning, Curtly.'"
In 1993, Curran finished second in the first-class bowling averages, with 67 wickets at 19, including a career-best seven for 47 against Yorkshire at Harrogate. He succeeded Rob Bailey as Northamptonshire captain at the end of the 1997 season after topping 1,000 runs that summer - including a career-best 159 against Glamorgan at Abergavenny - but the club endured a poor time under his leadership, and he was relieved of the post a year later. He returned for just one more season. He played for Natal in 1988-89, and Boland in 1994-95 and 1997-98, and finished his career in 1999 with 15,740 runs in 324 games at nearly 37, including 25 centuries, and 605 wickets at 27. When Zimbabwe achieved Test status in 1992, Curran was completing a ten-year residency qualification in the UK, and decided not to return. He did, however, fill a number of key roles in Zimbabwe cricket, initially as assistant coach of the national team, then as Phil Simmons's successor as head coach, between 2005 and 2007. He had also coached Namibia and been head of the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy. He went on to become a national selector, and at the time of his death was coach of Mashonaland Eagles.
He leaves three sons, who all inherited their father's talent. Tom played for Surrey Second Eleven in 2012, Sam was Zimbabwe's junior cricketer of the year in 2011, and Ben has also displayed great potential. Mashonaland chief executive Vimbai Mapukute said of Curran: "I have yet to meet a man more passionate about cricket in this country."