Since the start of 2020, Sam Curran has averaged 49.50 with the ball in Test cricket. That’s nine matches in which his form and previously distinctive “knack” for taking wickets has significantly faded. Indeed, on day one against India at Lord’s, it felt like the Surrey man’s brightest attribute was his haircut. His bowling was predictable and unthreatening, exasperated by an inherent lack of pace that hasn’t always been detrimental.
Many have professed to finding Curran’s medium-pacers extremely difficult to face, and in 2018 the all-rounder lived up to such a billing by rescuing England on several occasions both with bat and ball. He is undoubtedly a lively presence and England have benefitted greatly from his involvement in all three formats.
However, when the pitch is flat and the swing gentle, it can become perplexing trying to deduce the specifics of Curran’s role in the Test arena. His aforementioned recent numbers with the ball have not been sufficiently justified with big runs, despite attractive, often useful contributions. When he does find the boundary, it seems obvious that he ought to be more of a batsman who bowls.
Particularly in the absence of Ben Stokes, that seems Curran’s best fit. It would take some of the pressure off his bowling and give him a better opportunity to influence each facet of a Test match, which he is capable of doing. When Stokes does return, Curran may well be dropped, but England must sharpen their focus on what exactly they want from him in order to tap his considerable talent more effectively.