IPL 2023: How should Sam Curran handle pressure of being most expensive signing?


Sam Curran appeals for a wicket while playing for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League
Sam Curran spent two seasons at Chennai Super Kings, after playing for Kings XI Punjab in 2019. He has taken 32 wickets and scored scored 337 runs in 32 IPL games
Dates: 31 March to 28 May
Coverage: Live ball-by-ball commentary from more than 40 matches on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app (UK only).

At 24 years of age, Sam Curran had one of world cricket’s greatest honours bestowed upon him when Punjab Kings paid £1.85m to snap him up for the Indian Premier League last December.

That made the England all-rounder the most expensive player in the competition’s 16-year history and came on the back of him being named player of the tournament in England’s T20 World Cup success in November.

But with the honour comes the £1.85m question: just how big are the expectations on the most lucrative player in the most lucrative cricket tournament?

That is best answered by former South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris, who previously held the record after being signed by Rajasthan Royals for £1.6m in April 2021.

Morris had played 70 IPL games by that point, taking 80 wickets and scoring 551 runs.

“Your expectations being a big-money player probably would be you need to put in match-winning performances day in, day out,” says Morris.

“I’d be lying if I said there wouldn’t be any added pressure. Obviously there are a lot of eyes on you. People are expecting you to fail or wanting you to fail so that they can write things about you, and unfortunately that’s the nature of the beast.

“I always enjoyed pressure. I liked the responsibility that was put on my shoulders. Cricket without pressure would be boring. That’s what makes special things happen, and that’s when you perform your best.

“When you fail it’s a learning curve, but when you win and everyone sees, it’s an unbelievable experience.

“We’re going to have bad days, we’re going to have good days, but there are going to be a lot more bad ones. It’s about accepting that you’re probably going to fail most of the time.”

Chris Morris reacts while playing for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League
Chris Morris took 15 wickets and scored 67 runs in 11 games for Rajasthan Royals in 2021 – the year he became the most expensive signing

The IPL, and cricket in general, was not without its challenges for Morris. A lot rides on every game. There are a lot of eyes on you and a lot of voices with a lot of things to say.

It’s easy to see how, with so much invested in the tournament, the expectations would be heightened on the highest-paid player.

Morris had an up-and-down tournament in 2021, finishing as the 12th highest wicket-taker.

He bowled well in the opening phase of the tournament in India, taking 12 wickets and making a match-winning 36 off 18 balls in Rajasthan’s opening game.

But after Covid-19 forced the tournament to be postponed and then rearranged in Dubai later in the year Morris struggled, missing three games, and only taking one wicket in the four games he played.

“It’s a different animal,” says Morris of the IPL. “It’s the biggest cricket tournament in the world.

“It’s an unbelievable privilege to be there, and there are a lot of people out there that are hoping you fail and you’ve obviously got your own demons to deal with [when] not performing.

“I got rid of social media comments. I still have social media but I don’t read the comments. I don’t read the news, whether it was good or bad, because I wanted to keep myself level.”

While tuning out the noise was a useful antidote for Morris, that’s not to say things will work in the same way for Curran.

Morris was 34 when he stepped out as the most expensive player and had more than 200 T20 games under his belt. Curran might be 10 years younger but has already played 157 T20s.

England's Sam Curran celebrates with the trophy after they win the 2022 T20 World Cup
Sam Curran was named player of the tournament in the 2022 T20 World Cup after taking 13 wickets to help England win the trophy

Does Morris think the price tag will burden Curran? No. Quite the opposite. In fact he feels it could elevate him to even greater heights.

“There’s a reason why teams wanted to pay so much for him,” says Morris. “He needs to remember, it wasn’t just one team that said ‘we’re going to pay this much and that’s it’.

“I always tell the youngsters, ‘Remember what got you here; remember why people wanted you; remember why you played the game’.

“With the added pressure you sometimes feel you need to push yourself a little bit harder to perform but Sam’s quality will shine through.

“He has an X-factor about him and he’s one of those guys that can have an excellent game every game.

“For a man not to play under pressure, if there’s someone that can do it, it’s him, so I wouldn’t worry about the added expectation.”

Morris feels the money paid is almost irrelevant and believes Curran has what it takes to show that’s the case.

“It’s not the first time that a lot of money has been paid for a sportsman to do something.

“I played with Sam at Surrey when he was 17, I don’t think there’s much change in what he is now.

“He’s just grown as a cricketer and as a person and there’s only bigger things waiting for him in the future.”

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