It’s hard to remain a ‘mystery’ in today’s times — with all the video footage available to scrutinise every movement in slow-motion, the action has shifted from the 22 yards to the editing table. Yet, Sunil Narine continues to stay ahead of most analysis. In his debut season in the Indian domestic T20 league last year, Narine took 24 wickets and helped the Kolkata Knight Riders win the trophy for the first time. But it isn't just his wicket-taking ability that makes everyone sit up and take notice but the web of mystery he spins around his hapless prey.
By bowling even his off-spinners with the scrambled seam, the seam position doesn’t give away the ones that head the other way. And since he bowls both his variations from the front of his hand (doosra is bowled from the back of the hand), it’s imperative to look very closely which way his fingers are turning at the point of release, which isn’t an easy job.
Still, it isn’t just the variation or his ability to disguise them that makes him a difficult bowler to get away in the shortest format. There are many bowlers who have more variations up their sleeve than Narine. Yet, it isn’t about the quantity but the quality of execution. In fact, Narine has only two variations in his bag — but he knows how and when to use them.
Pace and bounce
In addition to his game-sense and variety, it’s the pace at which he operates and his effective stock ball that makes it very tough to score off him. He bowls really flat and slightly quicker but without compromising on the turn off the surface. In fact, if there's something in the pitch for the spinners, he rips them across the right-hander and away from the southpaw. His speed and flatter trajectory don’t allow the batsman to step down the track and that takes away an important weapon from their armoury, for most batsmen use the momentum of coming down the track to play the lofted shot. There aren’t many who can hit the long ball without coming out of the crease.
Now, if you can’t step out, you look to either slog-sweep or go deep into the crease to pull if it's slightly short. Narine’s extra turn and bounce makes both shots tough ones to execute.
The writer is a former Indian opener