By Richard Edwards
Allan Lamb could have been forgiven for opening a bottle of something a little bit special and raising a glass to the sky on Tuesday night following Tom Curran’s Ashes call-up.
The Surrey bowler was whistled out to Australia – ahead of both Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett – after Steve Finn was forced to fly home with a knee injury. For Lamb, a member of England’s victorious Ashes winning side of 1986/87, it was a special moment, having known Tom, 22, and his two brothers, Sam and Ben, since they were old enough to pick up a bat and practise under the shadow of their father and close friend of Lamb, Kevin.
Lamb and the Zimbabwean all-rounder were two of county cricket’s most colourful characters throughout the 1980s and were influential in turning Northamptonshire into one of the English game’s most formidable units. The former England batsman remained close to the Curran family after calling time on his playing career and has played a key role in the development of all three brothers since the death of their father as a result of a heart attack back in 2012.
Little wonder that he was delighted when news came through of Tom’s call-up.
“I had lunch with him on Sunday and he was telling me that he was going to play in Hobart in the Big Bash, now all of a sudden he has been called up to an Ashes tour, which is really great,” says Lamb. “Listen, he probably doesn’t have the pace of some of the players that have dropped out, but he has been very consistent and he deserves a call-up.
“They grew up in Northampton but they went back to Zim. I had been trying to get (Tom) to come over here for ages and was trying to persuade Kevin because we had a couple of options where he could have gone to Stowe or to Oakham. I don’t think Kevin wanted them to leave Zim but then he came over, after Ian Greig persuaded Kevin to let Tom come, and Surrey picked him up when he went to Wellington School.”
When Kevin died, in the same year that Tom arrived back in England, Lamb was instrumental in bringing both Sam and Ben across to be with their elder brother.
“They couldn’t stay in Zim so I got them into Wellington and since then I’ve been advising them and looking after them since they’ve been in the UK, acting as their other father, I guess.”
England have every reason to thank him for his immense contribution, with Tom having already won a first England cap in both Twenty20 and one-day international cricket and Sam becoming the youngest player ever to take five wickets on his county debut.
Ben, meanwhile, spent last summer playing for the MCC Young Cricketers. It’s quite some cricket family, with all the brothers also sharing their father’s passion for playing the sport with a smile fixed firmly on their face.
“When they were little, when Kevin was playing with me, all they did was play cricket in the garden,” says Lamb. “They’re talented all-round – they played golf, squash, tennis, they’re all just very talented kids.
“A lot of credit must go to Kevin because he was the one who got them to where they were. He used to spend hours with them in the nets in Zimbabwe, helping and really looking over the boys. All the credit must go to Kevin. He’ll be hugely proud of everything they’ve achieved so far and he’ll be a really proud dad knowing that his son has now been called up on an Ashes tour.”
The tough thing for Tom now, though, is to force his way into England’s plans for a series that few give them a chance of winning. In reality, he’s probably little more than a travelling reserve with the series less than two weeks away but, as the injury to Finn proved yet again, his chance might yet come along.
“He’ll have to bide his time, but he’s the kind of player that people love to have around because he has this infectious enthusiasm for the game,” says Lamb.
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