Ben Curran has brought his journey full circle by blazing a trail for Northamptonshire where his father Kevin was a folk hero in the 1990s.
Now Curran is making new memories with bat in hand for the Steelbacks, under the watchful guidance of two other greats of the club, legendary England batsman Allan Lamb and county coach David Ripley.
Both men were teammates and friends of Kevin’s during his nine years at Wantage Road, a period when the Zimbabwe international played a starring role in Northamptonshire’s Lord’s final triumph in 1992.
On his retirement, Kevin and wife Sara moved back to southern Africa with Ben and brothers Tom and Sam, who all soon followed in their father’s footsteps with bat and ball in hand.
Lamb was a big influence and guiding hand to the young Currans when they relocated to England after Kevin’s premature death in 2012. It is clear there is a strong bond between the two families.
“We’re very close,” said Curran. “Allan and Lindsay have been very welcoming to us, because they were good friends with my Mum and Dad before we moved over. They’ve been instrumental in just guiding us, giving advice when we need it. They’re always there for us.”
Curran says Lamb has helped him to navigate his way into adulthood and a career in professional cricket, even if his approach to cricket might belong to an earlier era.
“We talk all the time. He has a very old school approach, ‘just bat long’,” laughed Curran. “But it’s great. It’s more just chatting, just getting life advice as well. And yes, technical stuff on the field and just the way to go about things. I just know he’s there when I need him.”
Curran has only hazy memories of playing on the outfield at the County Ground as a young boy but says the club meant a lot to his father.
“My Dad had very fond memories of the place and there are still a lot of people associated with the club that played and knew my Dad who talk very highly of him. It’s fitting now that I’m also playing for Northamptonshire.”
On leaving school, Curran spent four formative seasons on the MCC Young Cricketers scheme under head coach Steve Kirby, which gave him exposure to professional cricket and a platform to mature as a player.
During games for the ‘YCs’ against Northamptonshire, Curran caught the eye of Ripley who admired his ‘competitive spirit’ and offered him a run in the Second XI before giving a senior debut in the Vitality Blast in 2018. He duly rewarded Ripley’s faith with an unbeaten 83 to take Northamptonshire to championship victory over Sussex.
After playing a key role in Northamptonshire’s 2019 championship promotion run, Curran has imposed himself in white-ball cricket this season with a maiden half-century in the Vitality Blast from just 19 deliveries and a run-a-ball 94 in the Royal London Cup against Somerset. Crucially both innings helped set up victory, something which made the knocks that much sweeter.
While he admits to a disappointing championship return so far this year, he feels his game is going from strength to strength.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve enjoyed the white-ball stuff and so hopefully just finish well in the red-ball comp. Just keep looking to get better, keep looking to improve, is all I can do really.
“In white-ball you just have a bit more of that freedom. You’ve got to keep up with that scoring rate. I just looked to enjoy my white-ball cricket this year, be aggressive, have that intent, and a couple of times it’s gone my way.”
While it remains a dream to follow his brothers into the England set-up, Curran’s goal for now is to focus on scoring runs for Northamptonshire in Division Two of the championship, where the club will be determined to show that their 2019 promotion form was not a flash in the pan.
“We’ve had a really good red-ball season. We’ve been on the receiving end of some very close losses. Think back to Yorkshire [who won by one run]. Had that gone our way, which it very easily could have, we could have been in Division One, playing for the championship trophy.
“We’ve just got to keep our heads held high, keep our form going and hopefully we can win the majority of our last four games.”