IPL 2021: Sunil Narine picked four key wickets for KKR in the Eliminator.
Sunil Narine was on a downhill slide from the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). He was proving to be ineffective as a pinch hitter for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and was also temporarily withheld from bowling due to questions about his action.
His poor form continued in the first half of IPL 2021 as KKR managed only two wins from seven matches in India. He was also left out of the West Indies squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
But on Monday, Narine showed why he is one of the best players to have played the shortest format with a one-man show against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the IPL 2021 Eliminator. He picked up four wickets while also playing a brilliant cameo of 26 off 15 deliveries – a knock that included three sixes off the first three legitimate deliveries he faced.
His innings proved crucial in the end as KKR just about crossed the line to book their place in Qualifer 2, where they will face Delhi Capitals (DC).
And his four wickets? They were of Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, AB de Villiers and the in-form KS Bharat.
Narine has been pushed down the batting order this season by KKR, but with the ball, he has been lethal. He has forged a great partnership with fellow mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy as KKR turned around their floundering season to reach the IPL playoffs against all odds.
Against RCB, if his performance with the ball (4/21) wasn’t enough, he took up the challenge after being promoted to no.5. He took the game away from the opponents in a low-scoring chase of 139.
The pitch was tricky and the match went right down to the wire, with KKR winning by four wickets, with just two balls remaining. If he had not reduced the required run rate with his gusty cameo, it could have been a different story altogether for the Eoin Morgan-led side. Morgan said after the win:
“Narine makes it look very easy. He bowled outstandingly well.”
If there was ever a performance for the big stage, this was it.
Sunil Narine – a certified IPL legend
Sunil Narine has so far picked 15 wickets in 11 IPL 2021 matches. He also went past Sri Lanka and Mumbai Indians (MI) legend Lasith Malinga for the most number of four-wicket hauls in the tournament. On Monday, it was the seventh time Narine picked up four wickets or more in a IPL match.
IPL 2021: Sunil Narine played a sublime cameo of 26 off 16 against RCB.
Talks of KKR needing to discard the West Indies player have been put to bed by his marvelous returns this season.
Apart from taking wickets for fun, and crucial ones at that, Narine is also difficult to pick and hence, difficult to score off.
He boasts an economy rate of 6.74 after playing 132 IPL matches – the best among players who have played more than 100 matches in the tournament.
In fact, among players with a better economy rate than him in the IPL, the next closest to him in terms of number of matches is Rashid Khan, who has played 76 IPL games.
He is the eighth-highest wicket-taker in the tournament, but no bowler has more scalps than him in IPL history with a better economy rate.
Narine is most definitely one of the most impactful players in the history of the IPL.
West Indies, meanwhile, may need to rethink their decision to keep him out of their T20 squad on the basis of his fitness. Narine has showed that he can be a match-winner in the UAE conditions. And with the T20 World Cup set to take place in the UAE and Oman, Narine’s inclusion only makes sesne.
The Windies chief selector, Roger Harper, had said of Narine’s exclusion:
“Sunil Narine is a great miss for a team like this in a tournament like this. Any team would miss having a bowler of that quality in the team but as I mentioned with Rutherford and some of the others Sunil also did not make our fitness standards.”
But will the West Indies miss a trick by keeping a proven match-winner, who has showed that he still has possesses the ability to single-handedly win matches, out of the squad purely due to fitness issues?