Jade Dernbach, Surrey’s white-ball captain, says that Tom Curran deserves to make the cut for England’s preliminary World Cup squad, which is due to be announced at Lord’s on Wednesday, purely on the strength of his nerveless attributes as a death bowler.
Curran, 24, is one of a host of fast bowlers competing for the final handful of places in England’s squad, alongside the likes of Jofra Archer – who is set to make his international debut in the ODIs against Ireland and Pakistan next month after completing his residency qualification – and Chris Jordan, whose eye-catching display in the T20Is in the Caribbean last month were a timely reminder of his talents.
But in Dernbach’s opinion, when it comes to the very specific role of closing out a contest in the final overs of a tense run-chase, none of England’s potential selections currently compares to Curran – a player who has learned and refined many of the skills that earned Dernbach his own England call-up eight years ago.
“If there was anyone in the country I’d throw the ball to, I’d back Tom Curran every day of the week,” Dernbach told ESPNcricinfo. “He has an unbelievable skill, he practises unbelievably hard, but the most important thing is he wants the ball.”
Curran’s opportunities to date have been limited to 13 ODIs and 10 T20Is since his debut in 2017, and he missed the whole of England’s white-ball campaign last summer due to a side strain.
However, he showed what he can do in his third ODI at Perth last year, when he closed out a tense 12-run win over Australia with career-best figures of 5 for 35, including the final two wickets of the match for one run in the space of eight balls.
“In those situations, when it comes down to the crunch moment, that’s when you really find out about someone, their true character shines through,” Dernbach said. “And as a young man, to want the ball and do it on the big stage, that says a lot for me.
“You may not be successful every day, and that’s the nature of being a death bowler, but to keep putting your hand up, practising your skill, and doing it as he has done for Surrey time and time again, there’s no reason he couldn’t do it on the biggest stage, and I know he would love to.
“If you offered him the opportunity now to bowl the last over of the World Cup final, to defend seven or eight, he’ll do it for you. I’d put my mortgage on it.”
The issue of English death bowling came back into the spotlight in the IPL on Thursday, when Ben Stokes endured another chastening night – failing to defend 18 off the final over for Rajasthan Royals against Chennai Super Kings, in scenes reminiscent of Carlos Brathwaite’s heist in the final of the World T20 in Kolkata three years ago.
Dernbach can sympathise. His England career came to an abrupt end after the team’s elimination from the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh, but looking back now at the age of 33, he recognises that the ability to bowl a range of variations – including his fabled back-of-the-hand slower ball – counts for little unless it is backed up by tactical nous.
“You see younger and younger guys coming into the game with these skills at their disposal now,” Dernbach said. “But it’s a 360-degree game now, in terms of where batters are capable of hitting you, so just having that skill is not enough. It’s knowing what fields to have when bowling that ball. How to trick batters into thinking you’re going to deliver a certain ball, but then offer something different. That’s where the game has developed, it’s not just the case of having a number of slower balls, it’s when and how to use them.”
Or when to not use them at all, as another of England’s fringe candidates, Jordan, demonstrated during his recent matchwinning displays against West Indies. Jordan’s figures of 4 for 6 in the second ODI in St Kitts were notable for the manner in which he attacked the outside edge to exploit helpful conditions, and were a reminder that sometimes old-school methods still have their place in the modern game.
“The most difficult ball in the game has always been the one that’s hitting the top of off hard,” Dernbach said. “But I think we probably veered away from that, thinking different balls were the way forward, because we got wrapped up in the unpredictability side of it.
“We’ve almost come full circle to think that, if that’s your best ball, then let’s wait for the batter to be able to take it away from you, and then we’ve still got something else to fall back on in slower balls and yorkers.”
Dernbach recognises that his own international days are long gone, but has no doubt that he is a better bowler now than he was as the raw talent who made his debut as a virtual unknown against Sri Lanka in June 2011.
“It’s something I’ve learnt over a long period of time, having probably been a bit mixed with my thoughts and emotions at the end of my mark in the past,” he said. “It’s been about getting a balance between what people expect me to bowl, and really trusting in what I think the situation requires me to bowl.
“That’s the key to experience. At the end of your mark you’ll get a feel for what you think you should do, so you set the field appropriately, and then put 100 percent backing into the ball you want to deliver.
“If you nail your yorker but the batsman gets down and laps you over the keeper, there’s nothing you can do. It may look disappointing, but that’s just the way it goes, because sometimes someone is allowed to be better than you. That’s the key to sports.
“But if you know that you’ve practised enough, and the moment comes to bring out that back-of-the-hand slower ball, and deliver it on fifth stump to turn away from someone trying to hit me over midwicket, if I am comfortable with it, there’s no reason I can’t do my part as well as I can in the last over.
“It’s the same with the yorker. It comes down to confidence, and what you believe you can deliver. If you’ve practise thousands and thousands of times, then it’s not going to be about any lack of ability. Sometimes the situation gets the better of us, but if you can remain clear and back that skill, nine times out of ten you’ll probably nail it.”
And it is for such reasons why Dernbach is cautious about endorsing the selection of Archer, a cricketer of massive potential, but who has played just 14 List A games in the course of his career. Instead he believes England would be better off sticking to players who have already been tried and tested in the 50-over format.
“England are talking about selecting Archer, but his only real success has come in 20-over cricket. I’d say we’ve got a ready-made Jofra Archer in Chris Jordan. He’s had plenty of international experience, he’s been around the world in the T20 leagues and played 50-over as well, as has Tom.
“Jordan, for me, is a fantastic bowler, a guy who has all the skills, has been around the world and been successful. I played with him in the T10 before Christmas, and his ability to deliver the exact skill necessary was quite remarkable. He’s the epitome of what you want your one-day bowler to be. He’s got pace, he will trouble you if he needs to go short, he’s a great example of that.
“World Cups are pressurised situations in their own right, let alone bringing people in who haven’t played a lot of that version. You want people who’ve been involved in 50-over cricket before, and have earned the right to bring the World Cup home.”
World Cup ‘buzz’ will fire up England for the Ashes – Sam Curran
England’s Test cricketers will be feeding off the “buzz” of a historic World Cup win as they prepare to try and regain the Ashes, according to Sam Curran. The Surrey allrounder is set to return to international duty in next week’s maiden Test against Ireland and he said the dramatic scenes at Lord’s on Sunday had set England up perfectly for the second half of the summer.
Curran missed out on World Cup selection, but did enjoy a productive first season at the IPL earlier this year. After a hamstring injury interrupted his return with Surrey, he has since played three Championship games as well as making an early impact on the touring Australians with England Lions – Curran claimed 6 for 95 in this week’s game at Canterbury, as well as making half-centuries in each innings.
Although Curran was left out of England’s most-recent Test XI in St Lucia, he was Man of the Series against India last summer and looks likely to return to face Ireland. The match at Lord’s, starting on Wednesday, will be England’s first four-day Test since the ICC approved the optional reduction in 2017.
“It’s obviously really exciting to be in the squad for the first Test of the summer,” Curran said. “It’s the first four-day Test for England and the first against Ireland which makes it a massive event for them and an awesome thing to be part of. It’s a slightly different England side to be in with a few of the big guns rested after the World Cup, but it’s a really exciting group and we are looking forward to linking up this weekend.
“I don’t think I’m alone in saying that it’s probably the greatest cricket match ever, and for that to be the World Cup final was incredible. That will provide a buzz for everyone across English cricket going into the Ashes, which is the biggest series an England player can be involved in in Tests, and this match against Ireland. Days like Sunday get everyone, whether they were involved or not, more excited and desperate to do well so I’m sure it will rub off as we head into the Test part of the summer.
“I watched the final with the Lions boys in Canterbury and the excitement was amazing. It was an incredible win and the boys have so worked hard. Having spoken to my brother and a few of the others I think they celebrated pretty hard as well.”
As well as his success against India, Curran played an important role with the bat in Sri Lanka last winter, helping to set England up for a 3-0 whitewash. Although his bowling was less successful in the Caribbean, he could play a pivotal role in the Ashes – his haul for the Lions, sparking an Australia collapse of 6 for 17, possibly a sign of things to come.
Curran is expected to play in the Vitality Blast for Surrey on Friday night before linking up with the Test squad, and said the “body felt good” after his recent injury.
“I feel really good going into the Ireland game,” he said. “It’s been quite a frustrating season really, I came back from the IPL, played my first Champo game and got injured, had a couple of weeks out. I’ve come back and felt good, putting in some decent performances with bat and ball. Confidence is really good, it’s just trying to contribute as much as I can. Hopefully I’m in the XI on Wednesday and I can put in a performance.
“Performing against India last summer has given me quite a lot of confidence. It’s a new challenge, a new summer. I can’t rely on that, I need to look ahead and find performances that will beat the Australians in the Ashes. The team is pretty exciting, there will be some great cricket played. I’m really excited to see what this summer holds.
“The first aim for the World Cup guys was to win that, and they’ve achieved that. But there’s another big test coming up, and the Ashes are the biggest thing you can play in as an England cricketer, that’s what I’ve always felt. Hopefully we can be lifting the Urn at the Oval in September. We have to take one game at a time and try to contribute as much as you can.”
CoA empowers selection panel, BCCI secretary no longer the convener
The BCCI’s secretary will no longer convene selection meetings. Following a directive from the Committee of Administrators (CoA), the chairpersons of the respective selection committees will now convene the meetings except on overseas tours, where the team’s administrative manager will take over the convener’s role.
It has been a long-standing practice in Indian cricket for the BCCI’s secretary to convene and attend meetings of the selection committee.
The new BCCI constitution, however, seeks to separate the management and governance functions of the BCCI, with the Apex Council – which includes the secretary – responsible for governance, the professional management team led by the CEO responsible for the management of non-cricketing matters, and the cricket committees – including the selection committee – in charge of managing cricketing matters.
In its directive issued on Thursday, the CoA noted that it had been “informed that the practice of the Hon. Secretary convening and attending selection committee meetings has continued even after the New BCCI Constitution has become effective.
“Further, it is learnt that the selection committees continue to address emails to Hon. Secretary to seek his approval in relation to any change or replacement in the team(s). Similarly, the selection committees continue to address e-mails to the Hon. Secretary seeking his approval on travel arrangements and posting for selectors to watch and attend cricket matches.”
Following the CoA’s directive, the BCCI’s office bearers and the CEO will no longer attend any meetings of the cricket committees.
The selection committee chairperson or the team’s administrative manager, on tour, will prepare minutes of every selection meeting, and forward them to the secretary for record-keeping. The selection committee will not need the approval of either the BCCI secretary or the CEO in relation to the teams they select and any changes or replacements they make.
Ranji Trophy knockouts to have ‘limited DRS’
To reduce umpiring errors, the BCCI has decided to utilise what it calls “limited DRS” during the Ranji Trophy knockout matches from this season. This restricted version of DRS will not comprise the Hawk-Eye and the UltraEdge, the two key elements of the DRS used in international cricket.
Saba Karim, BCCI’s general manager of cricket, confirmed the development saying several captains and coaches had complained to the board about the “howlers” committed by the on-field umpires that could be avoided. “Last year, in some of the knockout matches, there was some flak on umpires because there were some terrible howlers,” Karim told ESPNcricinfo. “So we want to avoid all that and use whatever help we can get. For the knockouts in Ranji Trophy matches, we will utilise all the technology available to us as a means to apply the limited DRS to help the on-field umpires make the correct decision.”
The decision to implement this limited version of DRS was approved by the Committee of Administrators, the supervisory authority of the BCCI, in June. The CoA was told that “grievances” were raised over the umpiring standards in domestic cricket at the Captains and Coaches Conclave recently and it was felt that the limited DRS could “reduce the occurrences” of bad decision-making.
One example of such controversial decision-making occurred during the last Ranji Trophy semi-final between Karnataka and Saurashtra in Bengaluru when Cheteshwar Pujara got reprieved twice – once in each innings – and that eventually cost the hosts a spot in the final.
Karim said he would have a “brainstorming session” with the match officials, including umpires and referees, along with the board’s broadcasting team to understand the “extent” to which the available technology can be used.
According to Karim, 18-20 cameras are used during the broadcast of a match – on TV or on the digital platform – and these would be utilised wherever possible to help the match officials adjudicate on debatable on-field umpiring calls.
“We are just trying to use it an experiment just to see how much it can be useful to domestic cricket,” Karim said. “We will use whatever cameras we can use to come to the right decision.”
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