By Sudhansu R Das
He hides the ball behind his back till the last moment of his delivery. Sunil Narine is rightly called a mystery bowler for his line, length, guile and his extraordinary ability to read the flaw in batsman’s footwork. He not only reads the footwork, he reads the batsman’s mind before luring him into his trap. Any batsman with footwork flaws can fall prey to Sunil Narain’s gentle spin which he bowled like a doctor performing a surgery in an operation theatre. The batsman has to keep guessing whether it is a spin, a straighter one, a carrom ball, a knuckle or a skidder. He looks dangerous on any pitch with good fielders on the fence who can run extra pace and grab the catches. Like a spider Sunil Narine spins his web around his victim.
Narine combines his bowling recipes with amazing accuracy. His mystery is his strength which helped West Indies win the World T20 title in 2012. He was instrumental in winning two title victories for Knight Riders’ in 2012 and 2014. Narine has played 225 IPL innings to score 2739 runs with a strike rate of 144.46. He has played 373 IPL innings to take 419 wickets with a strike rate of 20.60.
Narine does not look like a rugged Caribbean cricketer. He looks more like a chubby-faced Indian temple priest with a hair-cut resembling the tail of a squirrel popping up in every appeal for LBW. Narine seldom smiles nor does he express his joy when he gets a prized wicket; he twists his jaw left or right without opening his lips. His facial expression and body language remain the same when he receives the man of the match award also.
Sunil Narine is an asset for KKR. A pinch hitter, he can open the innings and play as a middle order. The hardworking Narine always wants to prove his all round ability. In 2014, he was banned from playing for his suspect bowling action; later he was dropped from the West Indies’ team. He reworked on his bowling action and returned to International cricket after ICC cleared his bowling action just before the IPL 2021. He has come back with a match winning performance against Delhi Capitals with a two wicket haul and a swashbuckling 21 off 10 balls. Narine proved again with his all round ability with 26 runs of 15 balls and 4 wickets for 21 runs against Royal Challengers, Bangalore in the Play-off. Narine bowled Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers; he took the wicket of in-form Srikar Bharat and Glenn Maxwell to give KKR an easy target of 138.
In the IPL 2021, Narine has so far taken 14 wickets; and 4 for 21 is his highest. As the IPL progresses, Sunil Narine is fast gaining his old magic which will restore his game changer image.