The cricketer Kevin Curran enjoyed the best years of his career playing for Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire. And although he missed out on Test cricket when he chose to remain in England when Zimbabwe became a Test-playing nation, he had already established his credentials as a fine all-rounder. The former Zimbabwe national team coach died yesterday after collapsing while out jogging in the eastern city of Mutare. He was 53.
Curran was born in the town of Rusape in 1959 in what was then Rhodesia and Nyasaland. He made his one-day international debut in Zimbabwe's famous 13-run victory over Australia at Trent Bridge during the 1983 World Cup, in Zimbabwe's first-ever ODI, led by the former England and current India coach Duncan Fletcher. He averaged 26.09 with the bat in one-day internationals, with two half-centuries and a highest score of 73. As a bowler, his best one-day figures were 3-65.
He played his best cricket, though, in the County Championship, first with Gloucestershire, who controversially declined to renew his contract at the end of 1990 – he could be a somewhat fiery character. He moved to Northamponshire, where he stayed until retiring in 1999. He played for Zimbabwe in the 1987 World Cup, but by the time Zimbabwe gained Test status in 1992 he had almost completed his 10-year qualification for English residency and was not tempted back.
He was considered one of the County Champion ship's most effective overseas players from the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s. He scored 1,000 runs in a season five times and had a best first-class score of 159 and best bowling figures of 7-47. He also played provincial cricket in South Africa.
Curran served as Zimbabwe's assistant coach and had a spell in charge of Namibia. He was appointed director of coaching at Zimbabwe's cricket academy in 2004 and was national head coach from 2005-07, replacing the former West Indian batsman Phil Simmons. He was coach during one of Zimbabwe's toughest spells, when it withdrew from Test cricket in 2006 because of a breakdown in the relationship between players and the Board against the backdrop of Zimbabwe's political and economic troubles.
Curran was coaching Mashonaland Eagles, who were in Mutare to play Mountaineers in a one-dayer and Twenty20 game when he died. "We are still in shock. Kevin was the epitome of health and we have yet to make sense of this tragic loss," Zimbabwe Cricket's managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa said. "The cricket fraternity has been dealt a great blow."
Mashonaland Eagles' chief executive Vimbai Mapukute also paid tribute, saying, "I have yet to meet a man more passionate about cricket in this country. KC had put his heart and soul into developing our franchise and had great plans for our high-performance gym and other facilities ... I feel that I have not only lost a key business ally but a friend as well."
Zimbabwe returned to the five-day game last year and Curran's contribution as a domestic coach and selector was considered pivotal to the southern African country's hopes of improving its cricket set-up.
"He was a great believer in the future of Zimbabwe Cricket and he came back to this country to help the rebuilding and restructuring process," ZC's Director of Cricket, Alistair Campbell, said. "He will be desperately missed by everyone, not least by his son, Sam, who was Zimbabwe's junior cricketer of the year last year. He had a father he can be proud of for the rest of his life."
Kevin Curran, cricketer: born Rusape, Rhodesia and Nyasaland 7 September 1959; married (one son); died Mutare, Zimbabwe 10 October 2012.