From stifled to game-breaker: After a spark-free 2020 IPL season. Sunil Narine did his best at just the right time in 2021. 4,444 old T20 champions don’t die. They are just waiting for the IPL playoffs to be reborn.
It was MS Dhoni in qualifying 1 and it was Sunil Narine’s turn in the Eliminator. Narine shouldn’t be as long as it was in his glory days. Before the reshaped action, before analysts got their hands on his videos.
Three bowling balls and three strokes with the racket first cleared all doubts.
Hissed a bud that got enough bite from the surface to knock Virat Kohli’s effort over the line. He then did AB de Villiers for both the length and the twist, which by itself rarely happens.
And then he got Glenn Maxwell. Who turned any kind of sweep into a personal library collection on that IPL, right on this shot. Three balls that ripped the hearts out of the Royal Challengers Bangalore tickets.
From stifled to game-breaker: Finally, Narine had started by bringing KS Bharat, the hero of the Royal Challengers in the previous match. First into play with a candy ball.
When he came out to bat, it was an inspiring climb to No. 5. First ball, half dunking the field and crawling wildly on the deep, square leg.
Second ball, collected by its pads and on the corner of the cow. The third ball hit directly through the line. The lower hand comes out of the grip of the racket, although it was in contact.
There was a width in the middle, which meant that an equation of 59 balls of 52 became 40 of 49. Three balls that escaped the control of the Royal Challengers defense.
Modified action without biting? Not beating more threats? Save it for another day. Narine found a way back.
Not only did Narine deliver a spectacular racket and ball. But it was also used magnificently by Knight Riders captain Eoin Morgan. With Varun Chakravarthy and Shakib Al Hasan.
Morgan was able to delay the introduction of Narine until the ninth over. A point at which the previous four overs had only resulted in 17 runs. The pressure to increase the hit rate resulted in the lands of Bharat and then Kohli.
De Villiers‘ wicket was simply a great game of bowling, and as the races continued to dry up. Maxwell was also consumed with the urgency of the batting. Maxwell could have waited, with just three spinning balls and the pacemakers to throw the last three overs.
But Maxwell achieved great success in this IPL by defeating Spinners, so trying to hit Narine was not a tactical mistake. Only a champion bowler beats a champion batter with the combined effects of pressure and precision.
It was at CPL 2020 that Narine introduced her new bowling promotion for the first time. Hiding the ball behind the body in anticipation. While this prevented a view of his grip and stitching position. It would have reduced the “feel” in his hand and body in handing him over. IPL 2020 was not too hot, with just five wickets in 10 games at a savings rate of 7.95. His Smart Wickets (6.14) and Smart Economy (7.41). Indicated that he was playing better than the indicated numbers. But he was still far from being a big winner of the match.
Dropped to IPL 2021 and Narine is the most successful Knight Riders player of the season to date. His player-per-game rating is 43.24, the ninth highest overall rating. His bowling index is 37.63, sixth-best (both in at least seven games played).
The last game may have been incredible. But over the course of a season, such high numbers can only be achieved through perseverance.
They had Dinesh Karthik if they wanted a left-to-right combo with Nitish Rana in the middle. But with 11 overs and Mohammed Siraj throwing three of them, the Royal Challengers only had a pure over-pace left, the kind of bowling Narine is most prone to.
If Narine forced Kohli to turn to Siraj, it would mean an easier second half of innings. If not, Narine had the blow to take down the other bowlers. Even he might not have expected three sixes in the first three legal balls he faced.
“He was outstanding today. Both with the bat and ball, his impact was huge,” Morgan said after the game at the press conference. “He changed momentum when he went out to bat and swung it completely in our favor. And I think with the ball, he bowled as good as I’ve ever seen him bowl. Which, you know, is saying a lot. The guy is consistently exceptional every time he takes the field and always seems to take big wickets in the game.”
If a series is ever done at the IPL in Narine’s time, “consistently exceptional” might be an appropriate title for it.
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