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Sunil Narine, not a powerplay basher anymore

Last updated on 16 Apr 2024 | 05:01 PM
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Sunil Narine, not a powerplay basher anymore

The reincarnation is such that Sunil Narine doesn’t care about who the bowler is

Till the start of 2023, the running joke around the Kolkata Knight Riders camp was that none of the batters really converted a start into a three-figure score. 

But over the last two seasons, that has been proven wrong twice, with Sunil Narine’s blistering century against Rajasthan Royals on April 16 (Tuesday). 

You might be shocked to know that Narine has scored a century. 

Over the last three years, his batting averages have been such that expecting a century from him wouldn’t have been on your bingo list. He averaged 3 in 2023, 8.88 in 2022 and 7.75 in 2021. 

He was that bad. 

Fortunes started swinging his way when a certain Gautam Gambhir walked in as the mentor for the franchise. In just six innings this year, Narine averages 53.40, and has struck his runs at 190.71, and his fortunes have coincided with the franchise’s fortunes. 


What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when someone talks about a left-handed batter? 

If you have followed cricket extensively over the last few years, the first name on your mind would be none other than Ravichandran Ashwin. Ashwin has made a career out of picking left-handers, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Against left-handers in the IPL, Ashwin has a bowling average of 27.7 at an economy rate of 6.4. He comes with a huge reputation for terrorising left-handed batters. 

But Sunil Narine isn’t cut from the same cloth. He’s one of those rare batters who walks out with the only intention of terrorising Ashwin, the LHB monster. 

Till the start of this clash against Rajasthan Royals on April 16 (Tuesday), Narine had barely faced off-spin this year but in the three balls that he faced, he smashed a six. So, when Sanju Samson threw the ball to Ashwin, it felt like this was either going to make or break the entire clash. 

Before today’s battle against Ashwin, the southpaw had scored 60 off 22 against the willy spinner for only one dismissal, striking at a mighty rate of 272.7. In fact, he was scoring a boundary off every 2.2 deliveries against one of the best spinners in world cricket. 

You could see that in Ashwin’s delivery stride that he knew Narine had a wood over him, with a full toss first ball. The second delivery against him was yet again wide, and Narine let it go. But come the third delivery, Narine was ready for it, with a four over the extra cover region. Under pressure, Ashwin tossed it up again but the result was the same. 

Even Sanju Samson’s field setup for Narine confirmed the outside off-stump theory. There was a fielder in the deep point, there was a deep cover fielder and a long-off. Usually, captains have three fielders in the leg-side region but for Narine, RR had three deep fielders in the off-side. 

It didn’t matter because Narine was now aiming to go down the ground. All of this got to Ashwin, who for the first time in his IPL career, erred his line and length to this extent. Narine won the battle, scoring four fours and two sixes, striking at 200 against the veteran spinner. 


What’s the first word that you associate with Narine? 

Swashbuckling, charismatic and then a certain powerplay basher? 

The numbers back that up too, with 798 of his 1213 runs at this level coming in the powerplay, a phase wherein he strikes at 175. 

In the middle-overs phase (7-15), he only scored 289 runs, averaging 13.14. So, all the historical evidence backed his tag as a powerplay basher. But Narine has changed that notion, and how. 

Narine has batted six times this season, scoring 276 runs, averaging 46 with a strike rate of 187.76. While powerplay still continues to be his strongest suit (average 78, SR 183.53), Narine has shown his prowess well beyond that six-over phase. 

Also Read: The reincarnation of Sunil Narine, the T20 opener

Only on two occasions this year has Narine been dismissed in the powerplay. On all other occasions, he’s carried his batting mayhem well beyond. In the middle-overs phase (7-15), the southpaw has smashed 90 off 50 balls, averaging 30, and striking at a gargantuan 180. 

What’s more astonishing about this is how Narine hasn’t wasted deliveries in the middle-overs, with just 14 dots, while scoring 13 boundaries. He has maximised the spinners by hitting the gaps. 

Whenever Narine has survived both phases, he has tonked the ball, scoring 30 off 12 balls, striking at 250. In essence, the left-hander has not just abolished the tag of a powerplay basher but also extended himself as a threatening option for Kolkata at the top of the batting order. 

Apart from Ashwin, Narine also took down his spin partner Yuzvendra Chahal, against whom he scored 33 off 11 deliveries, with three sixes and two fours, striking at 300. It was slaughterhouse batting. 

You’d assume that the quickest of them all, Kuldeep Sen, would have had a wood over Narine. But even his efforts were futile, with the left-hander scoring 21 off nine balls. Quickly and in the most disdainful fashion, when Narine completed his maiden T20 century (or in any format), it was off just 49 deliveries. 

Not only has Gambhir’s return revolutionized a struggling KKR unit but he also has instilled a lot of confidence in Narine. 

Narine, the fearsome opener is back. But this time his destruction has lasted longer than just the powerplay. Neither was the last sentence nor the fact that he would score a T20 century was on your bingo list when the 2024 IPL began. 

“I would have taken it (Orange Cap) as a joke because I haven't opened in such a long time or did much with the bat in the years past. With GG (Gambhir) coming back, he gave me the confidence and his assurance that I'll open the batting,” Narine said in the post-match presentation. 

The name of the game is confidence, and the player benefitting from it is none other than a certain Sunil Philip Narine.

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