IPL: Is the enigmatic Sunil Narine back to chucking again?

A video clip of the West Indian bowling to Rahul Tripathi rakes up an old debate

Sunil Narine in action during an IPL match (photo: BCCI)
Sunil Narine in action during an IPL match (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

After opening their IPL 2024 campaign on a winning note last Saturday at home, Kolkata Knight Riders have had a good six-day break before they take on Royal Challengers Bengaluru on Friday, 29 March. If the uber-expensive Mitchell Starc’s wicketless debut for the Knights had been a source of concern for them, another old wound seems to have surfaced – mystery bowler Sunil Narine’s action.

The senior pro, a trusted matchwinner during Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy days and a key architect of their title wins in 2012 and 2014, is again in the news for the old bugbear of his. In their tournament opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the West Indian was at his economical best in giving 19 runs off his four overs for a wicket – but a video clip of him bowling to Rahul Tripathi has gone viral.

Several social media users questioned if he was bending his elbow more than the permissible 15 degrees again while Simon Doull, the former Kiwi allrounder and now a TV pundit, has also added fuel to the fire. In a chat with Cricbuzz, Doull insinuated that Narine has returned to his former bowling style as he is subject to less scrutiny in franchise cricket than he would be on the international scene.

“Brilliant from Narine [his spell against SRH]. He assesses situations. He had a little bit of time when he got called for throwing. Narine was under the pump a little bit, he has remodelled his action a touch. He knows now, not playing international cricket, I think he knows he’s not going to be called anymore.

‘’He knows that’s not a problem for him so he’s probably gone back a little bit to the old action in some way, shape or form. He’s actually getting more purchase. He was one of the few that actually got a little bit of assistance out of the track tonight,” Doull said.

Those who have followed the 35-year-old Trinidadian’s career are well aware of his travails with his actions - which caused him to miss the 2014 Champions League T20 final. He was barred from bowling in international cricket one year later before he received clearance to bowl in all domestic and international cricket formats in 2016 after a correction programme supported by the KKR management.

However, Narine was again called out for his bowling action in the Pakistan Super League in 2018 and then in the middle of the Indian Premier League in 2020. He changed his bowling motion after being cleared shortly after on both occasions.

Now very much a journeyman in franchise cricket, Narine last played for the West Indies in 2019 and announced his international retirement last year. It remains to be seen how Gambhir, now the mentor and fiercely protective of his players, tackles a ticklish problem!

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