A year ago, Tom Curran had just made his England Test debut. His brother Sam, younger by three years, was generally considered a little time away from full honours, yet, while Tom hasn’t played a Test since, Sam has played seven – and won every one.
Even many at Surrey are surprised by the pace of Sam’s rise to being an integral member of England’s Test side, but in one corner of the England & Wales Cricket Board, the ascent of the younger Curran is no surprise.
Since 2014 the ECB has been working with Bangor University on improving talent identification. Their research – which has so far concentrated on English Test batsmen in men’s cricket – has found a statistically significant factor that separates leading England’s elite from those further down the food chain: those who excel in Tests are far more likely to have older siblings than those who remained county cricketers.
When the researchers analysed the most successful English batsmen to have played in the past 15 years, they found, on average, elite England Test batsmen since 2004 have 1.2 older siblings. The group of county batsmen analysed had only 0.4 older siblings.
Michael Vaughan, Graham Thorpe, Jos Buttler, Alastair Cook and Paul Collingwood are all recent or current players with older siblings who have thrived, and while this advantage is not universal – Ian Bell and Joe Root were both the eldest children – in any family of two children, being younger “increases the baseline probability of becoming a future international, based on the journeys of the international batsmen in recent years gone by,” explains Ben Jones, the lead researcher, from Bangor University’s Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance.