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by Saksham Mishra & Cricket World Monday 25 May 2020
In a close match between West Indies A and Bangladesh A in 2011, the former needed 14 to win at St Lucia with just one wicket remaining when last man Nelon Pascal joined Sunil Narine at the crease on the last day of a four-day match. The chances of a West Indies victory seemed grim.
Narine, not known for his batting ability then, hit boundaries with ease, and brought up the win with a reverse sweep to the surprise of his teammates. In the successful run chase, Narine made an unbeaten 26, while playing all sorts of unorthodox strokes. When asked by his coach Colin Borde about how he managed to pull it off, Sunil replied in his typical manner, "because they were the right balls to hit."
After making his international debut in December 2011, a high point in Narine's career came when he finished with extraordinary figures of 3/9 from 3.4 overs in the final of the the ICC World T20 in 2012 against Sri Lanka and played a major role alongside Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy in helping West Indies to their first World trophy since 1979.
Some of his most memorable performances have come in domestic T20 franchise cricket. The spinner picked up 24 wickets from 15 matches at an average of 13.50 and an economy of 5.47 in his first season for the Kolkata Knight Riders, taking them to their maiden title victory in 2012.
His numbers were almost as good the next year with 22 wickets at 15.90 and an economy of 5.46. In 2014, Narine once again was the architect of Kolkata Knight Riders' title win. The West Indian picked up 21 wickets from 16 games in the season at an average of 19.38 and an economy of 6.35.
At a time when off spinners were beginning to be discarded for their ineffectivity in the T20 format, Narine blazed a trail with his gamut of variations, including various types of carrom balls, knuckleballs and skidders.
Narine had to work on his bowling action in 2011, just before making his ODI debut in India and achieved tremendous success for a couple of years. But it was in 2014 when the troubles with his bowling action resurfaced. He was reported twice for suspect bowling action in the Champions League T20.
Narine withdrew from the West Indies 2015 World Cup squad to work on his bowling action. He returned to international cricket in November 2015. Shortly after his return, the ICC suspend him from bowling in international cricket.
He was then cleared to bowl in the 2016 IPL but with the new action, he was not the same bowler anymore. Narine managed just 11 wickets from 11 games that season at an average of 27.3 and economy of 7.09.
Teams had begun to take him on, and with his stock off spinner not being as effective with the revamped action, Narine had to reinvent in order to prolong his career.
Who would have imagined that a mystery spinner who was first selected for the Trinidad & Tobago squad in January 2009 after picking up all the wickets in a trial match, would go on to become such a useful pinch hitter as an opener.
It was by chance that Andre Russell was suspended in 2017 and Chris Lynn injured his shoulder the same year. Kolkata Knight Riders were in search of an opening batsman and they decided to try Sunil Narine at the top. Narine had done decently well for Melbourne Renegades on a one-off occasion in the BBL as an opener, scoring 21 off 13 deliveries.
The move worked like magic and before you could realise, the mystery spinner was now a proper all-rounder. He scored 224 runs in IPL 2017 and took it to a whole new level next year, with 357 runs at 22.31 and a strike rate of almost 190.
Narine continues to be an effective pinch-hitting opener and mystery spin all-rounder for franchises across the globe.
© Cricket World 2020