For someone who thrives on variety, Kolkata Knight Riders’ Sunil Narine has been remarkably consistent across his three IPL seasons.
In 2012, he took 24 wickets in 15 matches at an average of 13.50 and an economy rate of 5.46
In 2013, he took 22 wickets in 16 matches at an average of 15.90 and an economy rate of 5.47.
And with one match to go in 2014, he has taken 20 wickets from 15 matches at an average of 18.05 and an economy rate of 6.01.
It all adds up to 66 wickets at an average of 15.68 and an economy rate of 5.65, numbers no other bowler can match over the same three seasons. If Narine were to bowl every over in an IPL game, teams would average 113 for 7. Only three times in the IPL has his economy rate been higher than the overall innings rate. For a spinner who often bowls at the death, this doesn’t just make him special, it makes him unique.
He has succeeded because despite super-slow motion replays and footage of every ball he bowls, batsmen still struggle to pick his variations in the T20 format. “Sometimes I am surprised that they already haven’t (figured me out) with all the technology available nowadays,” he told the Hindu earlier this week.
While Narine primarily bowls the off-break, he is careful to vary his pace and is able to extract turn even when he bowls flat and quick. His main variation is his now famous knuckle-ball, which he pushes out of the front of the hand using two knuckles rather than the one knuckle Ashwin uses for his carrom ball. Like the carrom ball, the knuckle ball also spins from leg to off. Narine also disguises his deliveries, as Aakash Chopra explained on ESPNcricinfo last season.
“By bowling even his offspinners with a scrambled seam, Narine manages to keep the batsman guessing which one will head the other way. And since he bowls both his variations from the front of the hand (the doosra is usually bowled from the back of the hand), you have to look very closely at which way his fingers are turning at the point of release - not an easy job.”
In addition, Narine has mastered the art of when to bowl which delivery. He understands that accuracy is a weapon and trying too many different things can be counter-productive. If a pitch offers turn, he concentrates on the off-break, occasionally slipping in the knuckle ball to keep a batsman honest. In other conditions, he mixes both deliveries, increasing the risk for batsmen who might charge down the wicket.
The nature of T20 cricket is also an ally. If batsmen did not have to take chances, Narine is not as effective - his Test average is 40.52 and his strike-rate is 78.5.
Narine’s best performance this season came against Royal Challengers Bangalore in a must-win game for both sides at the Eden Gardens and exemplifies how effective he is when batsmen must take chances. After KKR had racked up 195, Narine ripped out the heart of RCB’s batting by dismissing Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers while conceding just one boundary — from the first delivery he bowled. From the next 19, three of the most devastating batsmen in world cricket could manage no more than two runs from any single delviery.
Kohli faced eight of those deliveries across three different overs.The first four were off-breaks. The fifth was a knuckle ball that Kohli cut to backward point for a single. That was followed by another off-break and another knuckle ball, which beat Kohli all ends up and left him looking like a sailor adjusting to land after a long trip at sea.
Having set up the RCB captain, Narine went back to the off-break. It seemed to offer Kohli width and he rocked back to cut. The ball turned back into him and bounced, cramping Kohli. Instead of racing past point, the ball looped to third man, where Morne Morkel took a sharp catch.
In Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and Virender Sehwag, Kings XI Punjab have the three of the biggest and baddest hitters in this IPL, but it won't phase Narine. Come tonight's final, he will do what he does best. It is up to them to figure him out.
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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2014 14:01:30 IST