Forgotten man Sam Curran has 'itchy feet' but is happy to bide his time

Allrounder has been laid low with a bad back since October last year, and will turn out as a specialist batter for Surrey next week

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
When Sam Curran felt pain in his back after Chennai Super Kings' defeat to Rajasthan Royals in October, he expected it would be nothing to worry about. Six months later, he is looking out on The Oval on a brisk spring morning reflecting on the most frustrating period of his fledgling career.
An initial scan discovered an injury bad enough to rule him out of the T20 World Cup before a second scan confirmed the worst: he had suffered a stress fracture of the lower back, his first serious injury, and would miss the Ashes as well. He had hoped to make his return in the IPL but was advised against entering his name in the auction and instead finds himself with "itchy feet" ahead of Surrey's County Championship opener against Warwickshire at Edgbaston next week, where he is expected to play as a specialist batter.
"It's been a long winter," he reflected, speaking to ESPNcricinfo at Surrey's pre-season press day. "I'd never really experienced an injury before and missing out on what I have has been pretty hard. They're probably the two biggest series or tournaments as a player: a World Cup for your country and an Ashes series down under.
"The first couple of months I couldn't really do much training because of the back. I just had to rest. I managed a few holidays - I went to Mexico with my girlfriend - and it was just about trying to get away from the game. I hadn't really had a chance to reflect on the last six years since leaving school, so it's been very nice. These last two months or so, I've had very itchy feet, wanting to get going again. It's weird to think the first game's a week away - especially when the weather's freezing."
Curran had planned to put himself in the mix for February's IPL mega auction, but discussions with the ECB's medical staff did not go as he would have liked. Instead, he has been covering the early stages of the tournament as a pundit on ESPNcricinfo's video show T20 Time Out, and keeping a keen eye on Chennai's progress after two years with the franchise.
"The Test matches in June are my initial goal and the end goal is probably the World Cup. Having missed last year's, I'm quite eager to get into one and see what it's like and experience that in Australia"
Sam Curran
"I'm gutted not to be there," he admitted. "It's a frustration watching from home. I wanted to go [into the auction] but I didn't in the end - which was probably the best decision. Looking back, IPL probably came a little bit too soon.
"I could have probably rolled the dice and said 'let's go'. I'm back bowling in the nets now, so if you work it out, I could probably have been bowling out there. But I'm still quite young, so I didn't want to overdo it with the match intensity and big crowds out there and risk another injury from coming back too early.
"At the time, I was really frustrated that I didn't go into the auction, but looking back at how the last couple of months have gone - I haven't been part of Surrey's winter for a long time, so it has been nice to be part of it again. I definitely want to go back [to the IPL] at some stage because you learn so much about your T20 game there: it's a tournament when you live and breathe cricket. You go down for breakfast every day and you're sitting with superstars, sitting down and chatting about the game."
Curran has been England's forgotten man over the winter. Jofra Archer has understandably been highlighted as the main absentee, but Curran's left-arm angle, lower-order hitting and versatility would have come in useful at most junctures; he had hoped to be one of the few players to appear in the T20 World Cup, the Ashes and the recent series in the Caribbean.
Instead, he has had to contend with watching from home, exchanging messages with downcast team-mates and feeling frustrated at his lack of control over the team's fortunes. Now, his focus is on winning back his place for the first Test series of the summer against New Zealand in June, with October's T20 World Cup in Australia the stand-out feature of a packed schedule for 2022.
"Not being in the squad and watching it [last year's T20 World Cup] was hard," he said, "because we were two weeks away from it and then I got injured. That was hard to take. It's one of those things - it was s*** timing but you live and learn.
"I've had a good training block at Surrey to groove lots of different things. When you play so many different games across white-ball and red-ball cricket, different things can creep into your game. It was about understanding my batting a bit better, and there's some areas in my bowling action I'd wanted to work on, so I'm sure people may see a few minor changes when I come back.
"England stuff is always in my mind but for now, it's about starting these first six Championship games, trying to put in performances for myself and for Surrey. The Test matches in June are my initial goal and the end goal is probably the World Cup. Having missed last year's, I'm quite eager to get into one and see what it's like and experience that in Australia. I just want to get back on the pitch, stay fit and, hopefully, have a really good season."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98