(Photo: Getty Images)
By Paul Eddison
Sam Curran’s Netflix account has taken a pounding this summer as the 19-year-old has travelled half of the cricketing world. From New Zealand, back to England, off to Australia and now the Caribbean, Curran’s taste in TV series has kept him sane on those long-haul flights.
But this summer, the Surrey youngster wants to become the star of the show himself in the middle-order at the Oval. Still just a teenager, Curran is clearly brimming with confidence after a spell with Auckland in the Super Smash, his first England call-up for the T20 series against Australia and then a three-match series with the Lions in the Caribbean. And he is happy to name- check a certain Ben Stokes as the man he is looking to emulate.
“The batting was a big work-on for me this summer,” he said. “In the future I probably see myself batting somewhere in the role that Ben Stokes does – four, five or six is where I want to be and bowling as well.
“But the main thing this winter was to work on a few things with the batting, to try and understand that side of my game a bit more. I have had a few nice scores this winter and hopefully I can take that into the Surrey season.
“Growing up I was more of a batter, I would say. But then when I grew a bit taller and stronger I got a bit quicker with the ball. I came into the Surrey side when they had a few injuries, the likes of Chris Tremlett and Jade (Dernbach), that got me my go as a bowler.
“But I definitely see myself as a batsman. I had some great chats with Stokesy while I was away in New Zealand. And being around those guys, just seeing how they train apart from anything else – I have taken that away into my game and my training.
“It is about learning from guys who have played in those big games, in front of big crowds.
“As an all-rounder you have to be fit and strong. When one is not performing you can do it with the other.
“I think they are gold-dust in cricket teams at the moment, all the teams want a good all-rounder. That shows why Stokes is going for the big money in the IPL.”
Curran’s batting record for Surrey certainly has shown flashes of brilliance. A first-class average of 29 is not to be sniffed at and he drew many an admiring glance when he smashed 96 against Lancashire at the back end of the 2016 summer.
This winter he appears to have kicked on again. For Auckland in t20 cricket, he made 157 runs at an average of 26, often coming in to bat as high as No.7 and finishing with a strike rate north of 160. He followed that up with a ton for the England Lions in a warm-up clash before their three-match ODI series against West Indies A.
But despite all that, it was that first England call-up for the t20 series that sticks most with the youngster. And his ambition is clear – he still has that fearlessness of youth.
“It was a bit frustrating not playing. I wanted to be involved, but you can learn a huge amount just being around those boys,” he added.
“Having my brother Tom there made it easier and Jason Roy from Surrey, there were a few familiar faces.
“I would have loved to have played but I learned a lot in the nets bowling at some very good batters.
“It definitely makes me hungrier. I am one step away now.
“Being at the North v South now and being around those guys, it is a great chance to perform out on the field. We want to do well in front of these selectors and hopefully get a call-up.”
He has not neglected what got him noticed in the first place however, specifically his vicious swinging left arm seam. Nine wickets in the Super Smash, although a tad expensive for his own liking, and an impressive 3-51 in the first game of the ongoing North v South series are proof of that.
“I have learned a few different slower balls, and I got a nice bit of batting time while I was out in New Zealand which I really wanted,” he added.
“Hopefully I can get up the order a bit at Surrey this year, score some runs and take some wickets.
“This will be my second full season so I don’t want to look too far ahead.
“But I need to keep performing, to try and impress the selectors and see where that gets me.
“Every team would miss someone like (Kumar Sangakkara), he is a huge loss for us but at the same time we have the players to take the responsibility and score some big runs. It’s a great wicket at the Oval and we need to try and win a few more games so a few guys are going to have to stand up with the blade.
“I learned a lot about my game this winter, going away by myself to New Zealand, getting away from those development programmes.
“That was pretty good for me as a person and a cricketer and I feel like I have come quite a long way this winter with both bat and ball. I’m feeling confident heading into the season.
“It’s been pretty long, a lot of series on Netflix to pass the time in the air, but the cricket has been great and the places I have been to have been really fun.”
But before focusing on Surrey, who have two new captains in Rory Burns and Dernbach and have lost Sangakkara, there is the small matter of the North versus South series.
Curran’s three-for in the first game made it four from four for the south over the last 12 months – Nick Gubbins’ century also key.
Curran came in at No.7, but only made two, and is itching to set the record straight.
“There has been a lot of chat around the hotel. We had a very good game in the first one – it was pretty nice to see and Gubbo’s hundred was very good,” he added.
“We have won four in a row against the north boys so I think they are getting a bit touchy now – it is a lot of fun but at the same time all the games have been very competitive.
“And there a few big-name selectors around watching and judging you so everyone wants to do their best.”
*This article originally featured in The Cricket Paper’s 23 March 2018 edition.