England international Sam Curran probably has a long way to go before we can consider him as one of the best T20 all-rounders. He is just 22 years old at the moment and hasn't reached his full potential as a player either. But despite his limitations and inexperience, he is the most complete player Chennai can boast about having in the ongoing edition of the Indian T20 League.
On first look, Curran's T20 career batting average of 19.12 and bowling average of 29.94 appear to be pretty ordinary when compared to that of other renowned seam bowling all-rounders like Andre Russell, Hardik Pandya, Chris Morris, Kieron Pollard, and David Willey among others.
However, on considering the attributes he brings to the table -- a left-arm pacer capable of bowling his full quota of overs, a batsman capable of batting at any position and a player capable of playing spin well -- we can understand how rare that combination is. Couple those qualities with his 'overseas player' tag and he is an asset almost any T20 league franchise would want in their team.
Chennai skipper MS Dhoni understands that very well and that's why he was full of praise for the 22-year-old following his match-winning contributions of 31(21) with the bat and returns of 1/18 with the ball against Hyderabad on Tuesday (October 13).
"Curran is a complete cricketer for us and you need that seaming all-rounder. He strikes the ball nicely, he can bat up the order, he plays spinners well," Dhoni said.
'Complete' is a very significant and defining word used here for Curran. He might be averaging only 19.80 with the bat and 27.55 with the ball in this Indian T20 League season but his inclusion allows Chennai to plug more than one hole in their team.
On bowling ability alone, Lungi Ngidi and Josh Hazlewood are obviously far better pacers than Curran. However, they don't give Chennai the batting option that they get with the English all-rounder. Yes, Dwayne Bravo is someone who has flourished in that role for Chennai over the years, but his batting has been on the wane for at least a couple of years now.
Moreover, Curran is a left-handed batsman as well and that helps Chennai to stay prepared for match-ups in a much better way. Ravindra Jadeja is the only other left-hand batting option who bats in the top six for Chennai. So Curran's role becomes important in giving Chennai the proper balance of left and right-hand batsmen in the lineup once again.
Curran has batted in varied roles for Chennai in this season so far and he has delivered in each of those situations. His strike-rate of 190.38 is the best among all of Chennai's batsmen in this edition of the Indian T20 League and his move to the top of the order in the previous game against Hyderabad gave Chennai much-needed impetus at the start of the innings, something that they were lacking in all of the seven matches before.
As far as his bowling is concerned, a total of 30 bowlers have registered a better bowling average than Curran's 27.56 in this edition of the tournament so far. His economy rate of 8.55 has been bettered by 38 bowlers as well. In fact, he hasn't been Chennai's best bowler in terms of these metrics either. Bowlers like Shardul Thakur, Lungi Ngidi, Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma have better figures than Curran as far as at least one of these metrics are concerned.
However, what he has given to Chennai with his bowling is consistency. The left-arm seamer is the team's highest wicket-taker in the season, having picked up nine wickets thus far. He has gone wicketless only twice in the eight innings he has bowled. So this bowling consistency coupled with his fearless batting approach is what makes him such a valuable asset for Chennai.
Curran is also a fierce competitor who likes challenges thrown at him; he has that hunger inside him to make a difference to the team with his performances. It is this temperament and attitude that helps a young player like him punch above his weight and that was explained very well by Chennai's coach Stephen Fleming in the post-match virtual chat after the match against Hyderabad.
"In terms of his contribution so far it has exceeded, I think, what we wanted. Probably not in his eyes because he is very competitive. Every time he has had the challenge he has risen to it. He has been desperate to make a difference and I think we saw a glimpse today of what he can do for us in the future."
Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com / Chennai