Richard Mann pays tribute to Sam Curran, whose performances in the IPL have taken the competition by storm and seen him earn special praise from MS Dhoni.
The career of Sam Curran has been a curious one. So far, anyway.
A product of Surrey's academy, Curran was only 17 years-of-age when he claimed a five-wicket haul on his County Championship debut against Kent back in 2015 and three years later he was receiving his England Test cap at Headingley.
Curran - with his zippy left-arm inswing delivered with a fast action not too dissimilar to that of the great Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram - was an instant hit; picking up crucial wickets with the ball and batting with wonderful freedom and bravery in England's subsequent series victory over India.
Since then, Curran has rarely let England down but his lack of height and pace - he generally operates around the 80mph mark - has often meant he has been forced to make way for his bigger, faster seam bowling colleagues, while his batting has stuttered through lack of game-time and the inevitable information sharing that nowadays allows opposition sides to identify player weaknesses like never before.
Still, it is worth remembering that Curran is still a very young man with a bright future and though some might have written off his limited-overs credentials for England - owing to the lack of swing afforded to seam bowlers by the stubborn white Kookaburra ball - IPL giants Chennai Super Kings see things differently.
Led by the legendary MS Dhoni, CSK have consistently proven one of the most successful franchises in the history of the competition, but that didn't stop them adding Curran to their ranks at this season's auction, a signing that has been one of the highlights of an otherwise frustrating campaign for the men in yellow.
Curran was initially expected to provide cover for fellow all-rounder Dwayne Bravo while the West Indian worked his way back to fitness, but so good has Curran been, he has quickly become one of CSK's most valuable players.
With nine scalps already, the Surrey star is CSK's leading wicket-taker in the competition so far and while there has been the odd expensive night, Curran has generally delivered probing spells with the new ball up-front before returning to bowl well in the slog overs.
Furthermore, he is getting better all the time, apparently revelling with the responsibility and exposure he so badly missed when carrying drinks for England for much of the summer, while the fire in his batting has been re-lit once more. Ballsy late-innings cameos have provided CSK with the bravado and skill so far missing from their top order and an eye-watering tournament strike-rate of 190.38 has made a mockery of his slender frame and babyish looks. Appearances can be deceptive - this is a street fighter with the silky skills of a world champion boxer.
Dhoni has seen it, too, describing Curran as the 'complete cricketer' earlier this week having placed even more responsibility onto his slender shoulders by asking him to open the batting and bowling in Tuesday's victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad.
It was a move that raised a few eyebrows before the match - it meant Shane Watson was demoted to number three in the batting order - but Curran once again delivered: 31 from 21 balls with the bat and 1-18 with the ball from his three overs paving the way for a much-needed win for CSK.
Praise is always welcome, but it doesn't come from a much higher office than MS Dhoni, a towering figure within the sport whose history of nurturing young talent both with India and CSK makes for impressive reading.
Dhoni was India captain when Virat Kohli first arrived on the international stage, while as CSK captain, he took a left-field pick like Albie Morkel and made him into an IPL star, at the same time building a championship-winning side around a batsman like Mike Hussey, whose T20 credentials had been generally underrated elsewhere. Doug Bollinger and even Dwayne Bravo are other names who had life breathed into their careers under Dhoni's tutelage at CSK.
When Dhoni identifies talent, he trusts his judgement and vast experience and will give his players the responsibility and opportunity to excel. It's one of the reasons why you rarely see CSK chopping and changing their team; Dhoni knows what is required to get the job done, and how to do it. Three IPL titles and five more finals is proof enough of that.
The fact that Dhoni appears to be making Curran his latest project is as a huge compliment to the 22-year-old, as is the fact that CSK can boast such a rich history of developing talent in the biggest franchise tournament in the world. England might want to take note.
Right now, Curran finds himself on the fringes of the England starting XI in all three forms of the game, but he is improving fast - Dhoni is making him better - and with the promise of so much more to come, who knows just how far this devilishly-talented all-rounder can go.