Sam Curran: ‘Impact Player rule is quite confusing’

Punjab Kings’ stand-in captain in IPL 2024 and the 2022 T20 World Cup Player of the Tournament, Sam Curran, shares his thoughts on the season gone by and England’s prospects in the upcoming ICC event.

Published : May 22, 2024 10:07 IST - 8 MINS READ

Stepping up: Sam Curran stood in as Punjab Kings captain in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, who missed the majority of the games in this IPL due to a shoulder injury.
Stepping up: Sam Curran stood in as Punjab Kings captain in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, who missed the majority of the games in this IPL due to a shoulder injury. | Photo Credit: R. V. MOORTHY

Stepping up: Sam Curran stood in as Punjab Kings captain in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, who missed the majority of the games in this IPL due to a shoulder injury. | Photo Credit: R. V. MOORTHY

England’s Sam Curran is highly valued in global franchise leagues for his all-round skills. Despite a challenging season as captain for Punjab Kings in this year’s IPL — PBKS didn’t reach the playoffs for the 10th season in a row — the 25-year-old remains optimistic.

The 2022 T20 World Cup Player of the Tournament shares his thoughts on England’s prospects in the upcoming ICC event and discusses the Impact Player rule in the IPL with  Sportstar.

You took over the reins from injured Shikhar Dhawan midway through this IPL season. How do you sum up your team’s campaign?

Taking over halfway was always going to be a challenge, but I think it was an experience I didn’t want to turn down. Unfortunately, the results haven’t been what we would have liked. But we played some excellent cricket in patches. We just haven’t got those close points you need. Overall, it was a very frustrating result, but you always have to look at the positives when you are losing.

You have to make sure you keep getting better at those things. The group has been fantastic, and the energy in the camp has been really good.

When you look back and reflect, is there anything that you could have done differently?

That reflection will probably be done sometime after the tournament, but hindsight is a fantastic thing. You always look back and think, ‘Oh, I wish we had done that.’

We batted well in some games, and we bowled well in others. But we just haven’t put those perfect few games together with the bat, ball, and field.

But that’s the sport. That’s why we play this great game where you learn from losses, and take confidence from good performances. I always like to look forward.

How much has the IPL changed over the last couple of years with the Impact Player rule?

I guess the fans and people watching at home would love to just keep seeing lots of sixes, but I think the Impact Player rule has made a huge difference. With the bat, it allows players to go fractionally more attacking at the top of the order because they know if it doesn’t go to plan, you are most likely to just bring in that extra batter at No. 7 or 8. In a way, it has probably helped the scores and how the players are playing, but vice versa, if you bat well, it allows an extra bowler to be in when you are defending. So, there are pros and cons for each team. I think it does make it quite confusing, as it shifts the focus from 11 players and requires more tactical analysis. The rule has been here for a couple of seasons. Who knows what they will do with it? But it certainly has increased the scoring. The way batsmen are developing has been fantastic to watch, but the challenge of keeping it fair between the bat and the ball will always be a debate.

Since the game seems tilted towards the batters now, how does a bowler approach tricky situations?

You’ve got to watch the batsmen. They are finding different ways to attack the bowlers. The grounds in India offer some really good batting wickets. There’s also the dew factor. As bowlers, you’ve got to keep challenging yourself in training. You need to start experimenting with different kinds of deliveries. You want to be in those moments —defending totals for your team. It might not always work, but you can reap great rewards from doing that.

I just hope the game keeps developing in a fair way. The IPL is such a great tournament, so everyone wants to see lots of runs. That said, there’s nothing better than some good bowling as well. It’s been a fantastic competition in that regard.

In this edition, teams scoring 240-plus has become the norm. So, from a bowler’s point of view, how crucial is mental conditioning?

Yeah, the mental aspect is very important. The IPL is a long tournament; there are lots of games, both home and away. You just have to look at a team like RCB (Royal Challengers Bengaluru) and see how they’ve found some rhythm in the last couple of games.

You have always got to keep believing when you have a bad day. You wake up the next day, stay positive, and keep your mindset good. As a captain, I have tried to keep the mood in the camp positive.

The management does that as well. We’ve lost some games, some close ones as well, and that can be quite tough because you play some good cricket and still lose. Each team has such good players, so the tournament is even. Anyone can beat anyone on their day. That’s the fantastic thing about the tournament. It’s just about winning those crucial moments. You just have to keep believing that things will turn around and that you’re there for a reason.

Sometimes, if you do have a tough day, don’t be too hard on yourself because there are a lot of games to come.

As captain, how did you handle the challenge of Punjab Kings losing six out of seven home games in Mullanpur and Dharamshala, especially given the absence of Dhawan?

Of course, our home record hasn’t been amazing. It was just putting together that perfect game we struggled with, particularly at home. I wouldn’t say it’s got to do anything with the home ground or the home conditions. It’s fair for both teams on the same day; unfortunately, we just didn’t put in the best performances on those days. But then we went away and got good wins in Kolkata and Chennai.

That’s just the nature of T20 cricket and the IPL, where anyone can beat anyone. There are a lot of positive signs to move forward when the team comes back to play at the home stadium next year.

Punjab Kings has one of the most formidable fast bowling line-ups, comprising Chris Woakes, Kagiso Rabada, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, and you. With the game going the batters’ way, what were the conversations that the bowling group had while preparing for the games?

We have been quite lucky this year, as we have had a nice contingent of fast bowlers and even some of the guys that haven’t played—you look at Woakes, who has such experience. It’s been really good to be able to chat with each other and, when we are training, learn from each other.

That’s the great thing about the IPL—you can pick each other’s brains. I have chatted quite a bit with Arshdeep about left-arm bowling and the little things we can work on together. Harshal’s coming in as an experienced player for our team has been fantastic. He has been in a really good rhythm over the last few games. KG (Rabada) is one of the world’s best bowlers in all formats. So, he has been great to be around. A lovely guy who’s keen to share ideas and is very positive.

The T20 World Cup is around the corner. The wickets in the US are untested, whereas the ones in the West Indies could be slightly slower. As a fast bowler, how do you plan to adapt to the conditions?

We don’t play in the US since our group (Group B) is in the Caribbean. The wickets are different at each venue. There are some very high winds there as well, which could be a factor when you’re bowling.

Some surfaces might turn a little bit, so you can use your slower balls and use the pitch, whereas some grounds will be a bit smaller with high winds. We just adjust to the conditions on the day. We’ve got a very experienced bowling attack, and we will have our plans. There are so many good teams; it’ll be tough to pick the winner right away.

Being the defending champion, surely there will be a lot of expectations from England...

Going into another World Cup year is hugely exciting. We are defending champions, and we take a lot of confidence from that. We have a few games against Pakistan to prepare for the World Cup, and it will be really good for the team to come together after a long time apart.

We are going to play in the Caribbean, which is a fantastic place to play cricket. But it’s a World Cup, where you have to take one game at a time. That’s what we did well in Australia last time when we won it. I am sure the messaging will be very similar. Everyone starts with zero points.

Whoever adjusts best to the conditions will have an advantage. We will be ready for our first game when it comes in early June. Expectations are always going to be there for a team like England — from all big teams, for that matter. India is a very strong team, as are South Africa and Australia. The West Indies, the home nation, are a fantastic team as well. Come the end of June, and we will be up at the final, fingers crossed.

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