Tom Curran hopes his success in this season’s Big Bash will help secure his place in England’s World Cup squad.
Only three men have taken more than Curran’s 20 wickets in this year’s competition, while he also batted well enough to win promotion to No. 6 in the Sydney Sixers order and finish with an average of 30.28 at a strike-rate of 144.53. He was rewarded with a new three-year deal by the franchise before he left on England duty.
He now goes into the five-match ODI series against West Indies knowing it is a final chance to impress before the World Cup squad is announced in April.
It is Curran’s misfortunate to be one of the seamers competing for a final place in that squad. With Chris Woakes, fitness permitting, certain to win selection and David Willey, who looks dangerous with the new ball, and Liam Plunkett, who looks dangerous in mid-innings, highly likely to join him, it leaves the likes of Curran, Mark Wood and, perhaps, Jofra Archer, competing for or two spots.
And while Wood looked as if he were slipping out of the reckoning when he was left out of the side for the start of the ODI series in Sri Lanka, his explosive spell in St Lucia – albeit in a different format and with a different ball – may have provided a timely reminder of his value. That leaves Curran, despite his excellent BBL form, unsure of his place.
“It helps to play in those big franchise tournaments,” Curran said in Barbados on Friday. “It’s the biggest stage apart from international cricket, so to go there and do well gives me confidence. Hopefully from that I can put in some good performances here and get in that World Cup squad.
“I try not to think about selection. In the back of your mind you want to get into the squads and you want to be playing but I don’t get too caught up in it. It’s out of my control so I’ll be focusing on what I can do.”
Curran was one of the England ODI squad members to report for training at Kensington Oval on Friday. The good news for England is that their entire squad is, at present, expected to be fit for selection for the first ODI in Barbados on Wednesday.
Willey, who left the Big Bash early following some discomfort in a shoulder that had previously required surgery, is said to be fully recovered following a period of rest, and so too is Alex Hales, who left the BPL after also sustaining a shoulder injury. Woakes, meanwhile, who missed the Test series due to a knee problem, is said to be on target to be available for the first ODI, though it seems he would still not be able to play a Test. England play a warm-up match – a full List A game meaning just 11 players a side – against a University of West Indies Vice-Chancellor’s XI at The 3Ws Oval on Sunday.
One man who is not here, however, may keep cropping up in conversations. Archer is also enjoying a decent Big Bash and becomes available for selection in around a month’s time. While England would have to commit to their squad before he had played a single ODI, it is not impossible that, given his pace and obvious talent, they could take a chance on him.
It remains an unlikely scenario, though: not only has Archer bowled in only 13 List A games – most of his white-ball experience comes in T20 cricket – but it seems the team management may be reluctant to disturb a squad that has reached the No. 1 ranking and played some of the best limited-overs cricket ever seen by an England side in recent times. As far as Curran is concerned, however, Archer would integrate pretty easily into the rest of the squad.
“I’m sure he would be welcomed,” Curran said. “It’s a great bunch of boys. I can’t see why he wouldn’t be welcomed. He’s a good player, but it’s not my job to select the side. T20 skills are transferable. They are pretty similar.”
One of Curran’s qualities is his ability to bowl at the death. He has, over recent months, nailed his yorker more often than not, while his slower balls – especially a back-of-the-hand one – remain a potent weapon. And, while he admits he would have loved to stay on for the BBL semi-finals, he has no qualms about leaving for England duty.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I’d been there for the whole competition, had built relations with my team-mates and wanted to be there to help them win. I watched it this morning and unfortunately we didn’t get over the line.
“But you’re leaving to play for your country. This is the really big stage. England is No.1.
“I enjoy bowling at the death and, if I can keep improving on that, it’s a big string to my bow. I think it was my death bowling that gave me the opportunity to make my T20 debut for England.
“You want to perform at the hardest moments; the crunch moments in the game. The yorker is the hardest ball to hit and one of the hardest to bowl. I’ve been trying to work on that constantly, keep nailing it and always trying to improve. It’s going pretty well.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.