IPL: Inscrutable Sunil Narine weaves his magic on Kings XI Punjab

Sunil Narine went on to play a pivotal role in Kolkata Knight Riders’ title triumph © AFP

On April 15, 2012, Sunil Narine bamboozled Kings XI Punjab with his huge, puzzling repertoire of deliveries on a slow Eden Gardens surface. His five-wicket haul was a just reward for his immaculate line and length. Yet, somehow, Kolkata goofed up the run chase. But for the batsmen around the world, Sunil Narine was announcing his arrival. Sarang Bhalerao revisits the top-notch bowling performance from Narine.

When you talk of West Indies and the history of spinners one name stands out — that of Lance Gibbs. The svelte figure, who got the ball to jump and spin, carved a niche for himself amidst galaxy of fast bowlers. Accuracy was Gibbs’ forte; his action was chest-on and he had an indomitable desire to beat the batsman in the air.

When you talk of Sunil Narine, he looks like a rockstar with the spiked hairdo. There is an amalgam of traditionalism and modernity in his bowling. Traditionalism: in terms of sticking to the basic line and length relentlessly. Modernity: in the way he holds the ball and releases, confounding the batsman who may otherwise find it easier to decipher the DaVinci code.

Narine had weaved his magic on the Indian batsmen when he had donned Trinidad and Tobago colours. Against Chennai Super Kings, he bowled unsullied lengths and accounted for Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Dhoni especially was dancing to the tunes of this unheralded greenhorn. Eventually the perpetual struggle of Dhoni ended and Narine had won the mini-battle.

His exploits with the ball made owners of various franchises sit up and take notice. Kolkata Knight Riders were the propitious people who bid for the ‘mystery-man’ for a whopping $700,000.

At the Eden Gardens, Kolkata hosted Kings XI Punjab. Kolkata were bowling at Eden Gardens. The wicket was slow; Gautam Gambhir used Narine’s inscrutability upfront. Gilchrist, who has the propensity of upstaging grand performances, looked to go after Narine in his first over but the raw recruit had the last laugh.

If Gilchrist miscued, Shaun Marsh was bewildered by Narine’s carom delivery. Marsh probably was oblivious to the fact that Narine’s repertoire had a ball that darted back in. Typecasting Narine as an off-spinner was a cardinal sin committed by Marsh, who was bowled neck and crop.

Kolkata were blessed to accommodate the quota of the fifth bowler in the middle overs because of Narine’s foray. Gambhir’s modus-operandi was to hold back Narine for a couple of overs. Narine’s third over of the match was a bamboozling fiesta. The lesser-known batsmen just could not gauge the direction of his deliveries.

The fifth wicket was a bizarre dismissal where the No 10 tried to outwit Narine with a scoop shot. But such wacky shots were exercises of futility. Narine finished with a five-for.

Kolkata surprisingly failed to chase 131. They fell short by two runs.

Narine’s stellar bowling display solved Kolkata’s pet-peeve. Although Kolkata lost the match, they went on to win the coveted IPL title.

Narine played a pivotal role in their title triumph (24 wickets in IPL 5). The batsmen still find it difficult to gauge his variations. The mystifying factor of Narine still pervades.

Brief scores: Kings XI Punjab 134 for 9 in 20 overs (Mandeep Singh 38; Sunil Narine 5 for 19) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 132 for 7 in 20 overs (Debabrata Das 35; Piyush Chawla 3 for 18) by 2 runs.

(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)