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Sunil Narine has been cleared to play in the upcoming Indian Premier League. His inimitable action was erased at an ICC accredited center just days before the tournament started, by ESPN Cricinfo.
This news will undoubtedly be a relief for fans of Kolkata Knight Riders, for whom the West Indian spinner is a star man, but it should also appeal to neutrals.
KKR will open the competition against the Mumbai Indians on Wednesday at Eden Gardens and the inclusion of Narine will be extremely important.
Statistics tell only half the story of his talent. He is ranked second best T20 bowler in the ICC world ranking. He was last year’s IPL Most Outstanding Player, winning 21 wickets in 16 matches to help his team win the competition. But it still feels like we haven’t seen its full potential yet.
In a tournament renowned for its brute strength, Narine brings another kind of attraction. Amidst cheerleaders, flamethrowers and six-bars, hors-fil will invariably offer a master class in deception, theft and wicket-making.
The 24 balls he is allowed to play are a treat. They offer a whole different spectacle. Well-placed drummers become cautious at best and bamboozled at worst.
Narine rarely delivers six similar balls. He plays heavy boules, well-disguised doosras, difficult carrom or “knuckle” balls, and top-spinners, among others.
We give him real respect. The drummers need to focus. You can’t just aim for a big shot at his bowling alley and hope to send it into the loud crowd.
The 26-year-old is completely unique. Its strange mixture to the fold with both arms raised intrigues the viewer. You can watch the replay in slow motion without always understanding what delivery it’s playing.
In 2013 he scored a hat-trick against Kings XI Punjab which showed his talent. The first wicket was with a conventional break which found additional bounce and was slightly behind. The second was a doosra who grabbed the leading edge for a catch and roll. The third was a faster ball that hit the top of the stump.
Each a different delivery, each with the same result.
These are not one-off events either. Under pressure, Narine is always excellent with the ball in hand.
Last year he was tasked with defending 12 points in a super over for the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League. He did not concede any points. On one delivery, a batsman made contact with the ball – he was caught at the limit.
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Drummers are often made dumb. Some try wild swings, but they usually end in failure. Others spend time, pushing and nosing in a futile attempt to try to acclimatize. This tends to lead to runway drying up and a pressure induced wicket.
Bowlers occupy the top seven spots in the ICC T20 bowlers ranking. The more skilled have the ideal skill set – they’re hard to score and pick up wickets.
But even among the best Narine stands out.
IPL is cricket’s fast food. It’s an immediately rewarding experience: kebab after a night out at the pub. The modern fan appreciates the cheap feel of big hits, fast bowlers smash bright stumps and endless gimmicks, just like they appreciate fatty meat on hand.
Nostril offers a completely separate appearance. It is fine dining among the proliferation of fast food restaurants.