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IPL can act as a 'one-day finishing school' for Curran

SIMON HUGHES: There has been some criticism of his IPL involvement, with observers commenting that he would be better off playing in the County Championship and pushing for a place in England’s Test side. I disagree...

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There will be some familiar faces missing when the County Championship starts in a week’s time.

No Moeen Ali for Worcestershire, Chris Woakes for Warwickshire, Ben Stokes or Mark Wood for Durham or Jason Roy or Tom Curran for Surrey. No Jofra Archer for Sussex either. All of course will be trawling round India in the IPL, as will the more regular English visitors to the tournament like Joe Buttler, Alex Hales and Chris Jordan. 

All, apart from Curran and Archer, are seasoned cricketers with plenty of county experience drawn inevitably to the IPL by the chance to healthily supplement their income while their international profile is still high. Archer and Curran’s participation is interesting and inextricably linked.

Archer only got an opportunity in the Big Bash when Curran, who had a contract with the Hobart Hurricanes, was called into the England Test squad in Australia (mainly due to Craig Overton’s injury.) Archer impressed sufficiently with his lithe death bowling and slick fielding to land a lucrative contract with Rajasthan Royals, partly as cover for their star signing Stokes.

Curran featured prominently in England’s one day triumph over Australia, but, because of his inadvertent absence at the Big Bash, attracted no bids for the IPL. But following Mitchell Starc’s injury he has been called in as a replacement at the Kolkata Knight Riders. There has been some criticism of his IPL involvement, with observers commenting that he would be better off playing in the County Championship and pushing for a place in England’s Test side.

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Curran has taken seven wickets in six T20s for England

Time will tell, but I disagree for two reasons. One, there is an orderly line of fast or medium-fast bowlers ahead of Curran in the queue for the Test side. All are either quicker than Curran, or do more with the ball. He hovers around 80mph and mainly angles the ball into the right hander. You cannot fault his perseverance, enthusiasm, intelligence or fitness. But his natural attributes at the moment do not promise five wicket hauls at Test level.

Two, these attributes are ideal for one-day cricket. He can tie free-flowing batsman down by giving them no width and he hits the stumps often. He has great variety and excellent anticipation. He reads batsmen well.

He is hugely competitive and wants the ball at climaxes of matches. All he needs is a bit more experience and he will be a top-class one-day bowler. The IPL will provide that experience. It is a one-day finishing school. It is like county cricket used to be for the West Indies in the 1980s. There are so many brilliant players, and coaches, to interact with you can’t fail to learn. 

At KKR Curran will be competing with the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine for the overseas bowling slots. He may not play all that much. But that doesn’t matter hugely.

He can pick their brains, and train with them under the astute guidance of the KKR bowling coach Heath Streak (a similar sort of bowler to Curran) and learn from the exciting young Indian pacemen in the KKR squad.

Playing in the Pakistan Super League last month, Steven Finn reported that he was already working on a googly slower ball that he had seen his Islamabad colleague Rumman Raees develop. Curran should get the same benefits. The IPL is a cricketing brainstorm: It’s the Expo of sport. Only a fool wouldn’t benefit from it.

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