Despite being known to be incomparably shrewd in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) surprised everyone last year when they acquired the services of England all-rounder Sam Curran.
The 3-time IPL champions always head into the auction with a clear plan in mind, but it was quite hard to comprehend why they shelled out 5.5 crores for a player who has scored only 95 runs and picked up only 10 wickets (at an economy rate of 9.78) in the 9 games he has played so far.
But upon closer inspection, Sam Curran fits the bill perfectly for MS Dhoni's side. The recent withdrawal of vice-captain Suresh Raina from IPL 2020 further adds weight to this claim.
Sam Curran lends enviable balance to CSK
In a team that has always tried to have a fast bowling all-rounder, right from Freddie Flintoff to Albie Morkel and currently Dwayne Bravo, Sam Curran could add enviable balance.
Although injuries prevented Flintoff from making an impact at CSK Morkel is one of the team's greatest all-rounders of all time, and Curran seems to be a perfect blend of the two. While he has the South African's swing with the new ball and strokeplay down the order, his never-say-die attitude and lower-order renaissance acts have been likened to Flintoff's.
And Sam Curran's inclusion in the CSK playing XI should be a mere formality after the departure of vice-captain Suresh Raina. The team's leading run-scorer in the history of the IPL has left a massive hole in No. 3, with Ravindra Jadeja being the team's only other left-hander.
In Michael Hussey, Parthiv Patel and Matthew Hayden, and in Raina at No. 3, CSK have always had the luxury of a southpaw at the top of the order, and Sam Curran's promotion in the batting line-up could see him make an impact similar to the Kolkata Knight Riders star Sunil Narine.
The England all-rounder is an effortless hitter of the cricket ball, and has shown that he has an uncluttered mind while attempting the big shots. Sam Curran is also a versatile stroke-player like any modern-day youngster, and can play a wide range of sweeps and reverse sweeps.
It remains to be seen if CSK will trust Sam Curran with an opening slot, given that they've not gone down the pinch hitter route in the past. In the absence of Raina, MS Dhoni might opt for an experienced presence at the top of the order in what will be a like-for-like replacement for the Uttar Pradesh batsman, such as franchise legend Murali Vijay.
Vijay is an excellent player of spin, and so are Faf du Plessis and Ambati Rayudu. Even if Curran is not trusted to open, he could come in at No. 3 as Raina did, although it must be said that this is a highly unlikely option.
Sam Curran will also add variety to a threadbare pace attack
In the bowling department, as well, CSK have always managed to field a left-armer - Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Ashish Nehra, Doug Bollinger, etc.
And Sam Curran adds variety to a CSK bowling attack that currently has only right-arm pacers in Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Josh Hazlewood and Lungi Ngidi. With his angle across and swing into the right-handers, as well as his cutters and slower balls, he is the complete package.
Morever, Curran will also take some pressure off Chahar in the powerplay. On the spin-friendly Cheapuk tracks, MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming often opted for just two pacers and while this is a strategy that has worked for the side, it puts immense pressure on the Rajasthan pacer to do well in the powerplay and Dwayne Bravo to keep the run flow in check at the death.
If Sam Curran can provide a couple of overs with the new ball and perhaps another one or two at the death, he will greatly aid CSK's struggling pace attack. He might also give CSK the option to bench Shardul Thakur, who has conceded runs at an economy rate of over 9 in both the previous seasons, although he has bowled his heart out whenever called upon.
Is Sam Curran one for the CSK future?
In a team teeming with experience and veteran leadership, Sam Curran cuts a youthful figure and his purchase was perhaps one with an eye on the future. One of CSK's greatest success mantras has been their trust in the core of the side, and the 22-year-old may be next in line to carry forward the team's legacy.
He has a whole lot of cricket ahead of him in all three formats and in all stages, and Sam Curran might just prove to be one of CSK's smartest buys in the history of the IPL.
Published 04 Sep 2020, 18:23 IST