The World Cup may be almost eight months away but England seamer Tom Curran believes the countdown begins in Sri Lanka this week.
The 2019 tournament has been a long-term priority for the England and Wales Cricket Board and there are now just three one-day series to finalise four years of preparations.
That leaves a maximum of 15 matches for players, like Curran, who are still looking to cement a place in the ICC’s top-ranked side. The first of those takes place in Dambulla on Wednesday and the wider context is unavoidable for those involved.
“You try not to think too far ahead but it’s hard not to think about the World Cup next year,” said the 23-year-old.
“It’s about taking small steps, concentrating on one game at a time but with one small eye on the World Cup, it’s a great event for everyone involved.
“Now it’s about making it permanent, so that I am one of the first bowlers on the team-sheet. That’s my goal and I’m trying hard for that.”
Curran did not feature in England’s warm-up victory over a Sri Lankan Board XI but was pencilled in for a second tour match which was abandoned without a ball bowled due to thunderstorms in Colombo.
Violent downpours followed the tourists as they travelled to the island’s forest region and cabin fever could be a problem if conditions do not relent to allow the squad some middle practice in the next 48 hours.
“This is end of the world type rain, nothing like the rain back home,” said Curran.
“A few boys have gone to the gym, a bit of recovery and a bit of Xbox, but there’s only a certain amount of that you can do. It’s not ideal but we flew over off the back of a full summer of playing, so we’re not short of game time.”
Curran has not played for his country since the New Zealand tour in March, with a side injury forcing his withdrawal from the limited-overs meetings against India on home soil.
He has played eight ODIs since his debut last year, with a five-wicket haul against Australia in Perth the clear highlight, but there is a queue forming for the final place in the bowling line-up.
Rookie paceman Olly Stone, third-choice spinner Liam Dawson and Curran’s younger brother Sam are all vying for the shirt, while Liam Plunkett is due to rejoin the squad for the last two games after being granted time off to get married.
“I’ve taken that five-wicket haul against Australia, that shows you can do it at this level. I’m hoping to get a go and I’d like to think my skills will help me out here,” he said.
“When I came back from the Indian Premier League and picked up a couple of niggles that put me out of the white-ball summer, which was very frustrating, but you get a bit of time to reflect and set goals for the upcoming winter. That’s gone now.”
The Curran brothers have put together a total of 22 appearances for their country but have yet to take the field at the same time.
Tom was happy to continue helping Surrey to a first Specsavers County Championship in 16 years while 20-year-old Sam took the Test arena by storm and rejoiced in his sibling’s breakout performances against the Indians.
“It’s been unbelievable, incredible to watch,” he said.
“It all happened so quickly. One day you’re playing in the garden together, the next you’re watching him do it in the Test team. I’m so proud, it’s awesome.”