He is known as an off-spinner to the world; he shot to lime light with 2011 Champions league donning Trinidad & Tobago colors. But his pre-fix off-spinner is hardly suitable for the likes of his talent and for the one who can make the ball talk in both direction with same bowling action; making him all the more difficult to pick. To begin with he has talent in abundance and looking at his IPL stint. The ball which turned more than foot before crashing master’s off stump is the testimony of the talent and bright future he would have. Looking at the kind of analysis which goes one can surely take a bet on the timelines before he is demystified and batsmen start picking him
This was probably the most awaited test debut in sometime specially in English conditions. Had he debuted back with Australia series; looking at the performance in ODIs he would have surely rattled Australians and giving them tough fight. His ODI performance with economy rate of 3.3 (Kind of economy rated during 70s) and average of 14.45 he took 11 wickets in the series. He didn’t torment Oz players like the days in 1970s & 80s but none the less playing him effectively was as much difficult. Video of number of wickets he took.
Looking at his bowling technique; his bag is full of variety and to top it all has accurate length; the only technique he needs to add to this armory will be how to flight the ball efficiently, something which bowlers like Saeed Ajmal has perfected. His all hyped test debut turned out to be chastening one; when Petersen milked him for runs and boundaries with ease. One of the reasons for drubbing being he is more suited to dryer pitch and warmer weather while in England under cloudy and damn conditions ball won’t wear and tear much hence not spinning as expected. Besides his griping of the ball won’t be subtle due to conditions. In these scenarios while conditions are cold & cloudy, flight and guile will be his major weapons. But having said that; he can look up to Shane Warne whose debut figures were 150/ 1.
Coming to his technique; majorly he bowls around good length and that is where batsmen can read fate of his delivery and playing as late as possible. His bowling style can be graded into 3 styles namely Off break, Leg Break & Knuckle Ball
Narine’s Knuckle ball behaves like a leg break which comes out of the front of his hand and achieved with extraordinary flick of index and middle finger. So the secret lies with how Sunil Narine grips the ball; when he grips the cherry with middle finger on the seam and other 2 sideways – it will be an off break while if Index finger raised slightly lower on one half & other two fingers placed slightly higher than index finger; then it will be a leg break. The secret of Knuckle ball is all in the grip when the ball is held with index and middle finger at one side and the other one at opposite side placed a bit lower than index and middle finger.
When Greg Chappell wrote “The Brain is Better Cricketer than you will ever be” he emphasizes on mental aspect involved in the game when competing opposite player of supreme talent and the one who presents lot of diversity and keeps batsmen guessing. Sunil Narine’s case is similar where vision of the batsmen is of perennial importance. To tackle his variation batsmen can visualize the pitch map area from shot of length to full length into matrix form. Based on the ball being pitched in any square of the matrix decides the shot selection. There will be some form of risk associated always when facing someone who can turn the ball in either direction equally with point blank precision. Irony of facing Narine would be; the batsmen must hit the ball without knowing exactly where it is, or precisely when it will be there.
Considering the fact based on Sunil Narine’s bowling pitch map, his 70% plus deliveries are on good length and the ones which are pitched on good length but on wider side has more chance of coming into the batsmen (IPL 5 – Sachin Tendulkar’s Dismissal) or those being top spin which hold its line but skids a bit more than orthodox off-break. Considering his penchant more towards good length delivery; this gives batsmen more time to play the ball & as late as possible. In test match scenario where unlike T20 batsmen is not under pressure to attack almost every ball; he has lot of time to understand and predict the path of delivery.
While playing good length deliveries as late as possible is one option; but dealing with fuller length batsmen will need to make sure get as close to the pitch of the ball as much possible; so even if it deviates after pitching, it will not have moved far enough to beat the edge of the bat. Secondly making sure playing defensive shot with ultra soft hands in order to make sure if ball deviates and takes the edge, it will not have momentum to reach close in fielders
Facing Sunil Narine will always present a need to predict, to launch a stroke in a particular direction or lofted stroke at point in space without being convinced that ball will arrive in that position at the right time. This cannot be achieved by practice and will remain greatest plus point for Sunil Narine when he dismisses top batsmen. He has the ability to produce deceptive visual information during his approach and delivery, exhibiting misleading signals will persuade the batsmen to play a stroke where the ball mysteriously is not.
Bewildered with his talent – IPL franchise KKR consider themselves blessed to have Sunil Narine in their ranks; who was also in shortlist of Mumbai Indians & Pune warriors. His talent was much appreciated in IPL and incidentally WICB was toast of many jokes like “No one can pick Sunil Narine – Not even West-indies picks him”. This is a modern era where 24 Cameras focus on each and everything player does on the ground; player’s mannerisms are tracked to the “T” in order to devise strategy around. Sunil Narine will have to reinvent himself once the magic code is intruded and he beomces predictable. Guile and accuracy will be his true companions if he has to headline major cricketing events.