Like Father Like Son? Let’s Hope Not

Now that the season is done and dusted, the pundits have been reflecting on what has been an interesting year. Other than continued off-field shenanigans and the rather pleasing Ashes win (understatement alert!) one of the more interesting quirks of 2015 was the emergence of several ex-players’ sons.

Although a couple of these guys have been around the county circuit for a while, they’ve only just come to national attention. Nothing gets the media talking more than an England call up (or a call up to the England performance squad).

In the audio clip below, David Fulton the ex-Kent captain talks about his players for the future. Interestingly he includes the Curran bothers, Tom and Sam, plus David Willey and Reece Topley. All of them are the off-spring of former county stalwarts: Kevin Curran, Peter Willey and Don Topley. I’m rather sad that Worcestershire’s Brett D’Oliveria didn’t get a mention – but then again, I’m extremely biased.

Although I’m not too high on David Willey – I think he’ll be a useful limited overs cricketer for England but isn’t quick enough to trouble test batsmen – I have higher hopes for the other guys on this list. Reece Topley has some work to do yet, but one must remember he’s just 21 years old. Unlike Willey he’s got some growing to do (stop sniggering at the back please).

If Topley can add a yard of pace, I think he can do a Doug Bollinger style job for England. I like his control, and he seems to have a good head on his shoulders, so there’s something to work with – if he can stay fit.

When it comes to Willey, I actually think he has more natural talent as a batsman – at least in terms of smacking the ball out of the park. Long term he’ll probably be competing for a test place with Ben Stokes, so I’m not sure how many opportunities he’ll have.

Unlike Fulton, who says he ‘takes his hat off to Willey’ for moving to Yorkshire in his quest for a test place, I think it’s a big shame that Willey has left Northants. The grass isn’t always greener you know, and I suspect he might struggle to make Yorkshire’s championship team when everyone is available. Is he a better bowler than Ryan Sidebottom, Jack Brooks, Tim Bresnan and Liam Plunkett? I have my doubts.

The Curran brothers are also exciting cricketers. It’s probably too early to make any bold predictions – Sam has only played a few games – but Tom’s performances were very impressive. Surrey have a battery of pace bowlers, including several who have international credentials (Dernbach, Meaker, Dunn etc) so he’s done extremely well to steal the headlines. I look forward to watching his development.

The other cricketer on Fulton’s list was Hampshire leggie Mason Crane. This was a bit of a curious pick, as he’s only 18 years old, but people seem to get over-excited whenever a young leg spinner emerges. We’ve seen it all before with Chris Schofield, Will Beer and Scott Borthwick (who has done a Steve Smith and now plays primarily as a batsman).

Crane may or may not develop into a quality spinner. We’ve heard good things but let’s not burden him with great expectations at this point. For every Shane Warne there’s a Beau Casson.

Anyway, I probably shouldn’t be talking about Crane. He doesn’t have a famous father so he’s the odd one out in this article. The point I wanted to make is that I actually hope the Curran brothers, Reece Topley and David Willey go on to be better cricketers than their fathers.

Kevin Curran was a very good all round cricketer and took 605 first class wickets at 28. However, being Zimbabwean he didn’t get a fair crack at international cricket. He was therefore something of a frustrated talent.

Meanwhile, Don Topley was the archetypal county servant. He took 367 first class wickets at 28, but never played for England. Reece already has 125 at 26. His ambitions must be much higher.

Finally Peter Willey was a consistent performer with the ball, and made very useful runs too, but he only averaged 31 with the bat and ball in first class cricket. This isn’t bad by any means, but it won’t be good enough to get David into the England side ahead of Stokes and the other all-rounders on England’s radar.

At least, however, these young cricketers will never suffer in comparison to their fathers. This might take the pressure off a bit and actually help their careers. One wonders whether Liam Botham chose rugby league, rather than cricket, simply to avoid all those inevitable comparisons.

I wonder how Arjun Tendulkar is going to cope with the hype if turns professional in a few years time? At least he’s a left-arm seamer rather than a right handed batsman I suppose.

James Morgan

@DoctorCopy

8 comments

  • A little unfair using Beau Casson as the comparison – did ok in his only test and then had to drop out of the game as a result of significant health issues. Your point – you have to be very good to succeed as a leggie at test level – remains valid however.

    • Hi John. Thanks for dropping by. My understanding is that Casson’s heart problems occurred a couple of years after his form deserted him. He’d already lost his place in the Australia squad and had a few nightmares at domestic level too before he retired. His first class average is 43, although his list A record is a lot better. I do feel for the guy though. He was still relatively young when he called it a day, so perhaps there was scope for a comeback / improvement.

      • I’m not sure of the exact timing and may have the events wrong in any case, but I thought his original complete form implosion (and no argument he had one) was found to be related to health issues – then he eventually came back only to collapse in his first first class game back, because of the heart issue (in his late 20s). I don’t think the perception in Australia is that Casson was hopeless, and to me there have been plenty of other Australians who would fit into the comparison you’re making at least as well (and that’s before we even get started on English candidates)!

        As I say, your point remains a fair one – for Australians, leg spinners have been sort of a holy grail and quite a few have been picked seemingly more because they were leggies than because they were actually much good. For the outstanding legspin successes for Australia in the time I’ve been watching cricket (Warne and McGill) there’ve been a fair few others tried, whose performance has ranged from the ok to the ordinary at best – Jenner, O’Keeffe, Mann, Higgs, Sleep, Holland, Hohns, Bevan, McIntyre, Hogg, White, McGain, Smith – and Casson.

        • That’s fair enough John. There were plenty of other examples I could have used. I just used Casson because I think he’s possibly the most obscure to English audiences. I have to say I only had a vague awareness of his health issues.

          • On your main theme, 3 sons of high level cricketing fathers around the Australian set-up – the Marshs (Geoff not Rod their father) and James Faulkner (his father Peter was a decent all-rounder for Tasmania, may have played an ODI or two – if he didn’t, would have been close).

  • Averaging 31 with bat and ball at Test level would be fantastic for England. Moeen is 31/36, Stokes is 31/41, and Flintoff was 31/32 (closer to 32/33 really).

    Obviously 31/31 in FC cricket doesn’t mean Test stats are the same, but still! Even if you compare FC records instead, only Stokes beats it really.

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