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INDIA: The mystery of Sunil Narine at IPL

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Archiman Bhaduri for CaribDirect

Staff Writer - Archi

He is the latest mystery that batsmen are desperately trying to solve as thousands of cricket fans are left awestruck by his show in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twemty20 tournament.

It’s been more than a month now that the tournament is going on in India, but none of the batsmen, playing for different franchise teams from all over the world, are able to solve the riddle called Sunil Narine.

The 23-year-old, who comes from that part of the world which is more famous for producing bone and jaw-breaking fast bowlers down the ages, has taken everybody by surprise in India.

The West Indian spinner is a quiet personality who talks softly and often seems to be shy to face the world. But once you give him the cricket ball in his hand, he turns into a silent death.

Sunil Narine. Photo courtesy thehindu.com

Narine came to the attention of cricket lovers in India when he took 10 wickets at an economy rate of 4.37 in the Champions League Twenty20 meet in India in 2011. The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) team bought him for US$700,000 in the IPL auction in February 2012, having had a “base price” of just $50,000. And the off-spinner proved in no uncertain terms that he was a good buy.

With the league stage of the tournament over, Narine is the second highest wicket-taker of this IPL picking up 22 victims in 13 matches.

The way Narine bamboozled arguably the best batsman the game has seen has left everybody spellbound.

In the match against Mumbai Indians, Narine left a well-set Sachin Tendulkar completely foxed with a viper-like off-break, that turned big, brushed his pad and bat on its way to find the great man’s middle stump. Even Tendulkar couldn’t solve the Narine ‘mystery’. The West Indian ended up with magical figures of four for 15 in that match, quite a feat in T20 match which is generally regarded as a deathbed for slow bowlers.

Even Narine enjoyed picking up Tendulkar’s wicket. “I just bowled a normal off-break and The Master, well, misread it… Yeah, it has to be my best wicket in all formats… Getting the greatest batsman, after all,” Narine said after that match.

No doubt it was mainly Narine’s golden arm that took KKR to the play-off stage of this IPL.

“I’m lucky to have him in the side,” KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir admitted.

Before coming into the IPL, Narine had troubled the Aussies in the ODIs back home too, taking 11 wickets in five games at an average of 14.45 and an economy rate of 3.32. A couple of Aussies have openly admitted to the fact that they just couldn’t pick him!

There has already been a good amount of analysis going behind Narine’s mystery.

Former Indian all-rounder Ravi Shastri feels it’s his high arm action (remodeled after it was deemed suspect initially), and the extra speed with which he bowls, that troubles batsmen the most. “His speed makes it difficult for the batsman to come down the track,” observes Shastri.
KKR coach Trevor Bayliss was full of praise for Narine. “The more batsmen play, they pick him better, but Narine has it in him to stay one step ahead. He’s such an unbelievable talent,” Bayliss said. “He is one of the mystery spinners. That, combined with accuracy and a bit of extra pace, has made him more than a handful. Even if you’re lucky to pick the ball, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get him away,” the Australian said.

Wasim Akram. Photo courtesy blogs.bettor.com

Pakistan’s great Wasim Akram, who is currently the bowling coach of Kolkata, said in jest that he didn’t want to pad up against Narine for the fear of making a fool out of himself! Akram also explained that Narine had an unconventional way of gripping the ball, which is why he was special.”Believe me; I had tried to read him standing behind the wicket in the nets. But I have still not been able to unlock the mystery,” Akram said,

Mumbai coach Robin Singh feels Narine is more effective on slower wickets. “He’s extremely accurate, doesn’t give you much to drive. I have been talking to (Kieron) Pollard as they play for the same state (Trinidad). He’s able to bowl an off-break with two or three fingers. It’s not like you can just look at the hand and play him. You have to consistently keep looking at him, play him off the wicket as well. The key is to play him more on the back foot. It becomes very difficult to hit him if the wicket is slower and lower,” analyses Singh.

The 23-year-old has played eight ODIs and a solitary T20 International for his country. Surely West Indies cricket can look up to Narine in future.



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