After Ben Stokes’s decision to withdraw from the Test series against India to look after his mental wellbeing, it needs no repeating that England look a shadow of themselves without him. His presence and ability to perform in the big moments are unmatched, and his prowess with bat in hand will be the most severely missed attribute of all.
This leaves behind an excellent opportunity, though, for the blossoming Sam Curran to take the reigns as England’s swashbuckling all-rounder. With Chris Woakes nursing a broken heel, Curran may well be given more responsibility than ever as England’s man to call upon with bat and ball.
Curran has impressed so far in the Test arena, averaging 25.6 with the bat and 32.5 with the ball in 21 games. But it is most recently, in franchise, white-ball cricket, that the Surrey man has been particularly effective, and with the formats becoming increasingly intertwined his exploits for the likes of the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL will be hugely encouraging to England’s senior management.
It is impossible, of course, to fill the boots of arguably England’s most talismanic cricketer in over a decade. To put it in rather diluted terms though, Curran has never shown himself to be overawed by the big occasion. After seeing him bat during his debut in 2018, many pipped him to become a specialist of the sort, rising into England’s top six. His knack of picking up wickets at regular intervals means that perhaps more pressure will subsequently fall on him with the pads on. Should he deliver, England need not worry too much about the world beyond Ben Stokes.