Chennai: Less than 50 days ago, you would be hard-pressed to remember where you had heard the name Sunil Narine.
In fact, when Kolkata Knight Riders had bought him for the astronomical sum of $700,000 at the Indian Premier League auction in Bangalore in February, team co-owner Shah Rukh Khan was asked why they were breaking the bank for an unknown off-spinner from Trinidad.
Khan’s answer had been simple: “We wanted him, we got him, and the price was high due to a bidding war with Mumbai Indians.” Narine turned 24 on Saturday, and the difference between him then and now is the fame and recognition that has come with being the biggest game-changer in this edition of the multi- million dollar league. And yet, on the field, the man continues to be a bit shy and unassuming, letting his mysterious variations speak volumes for his talent.
He is the Knight Riders’ bowling mainstay, no matter what the match situation is, and how he fares in perhaps the biggest pressure game of his life so far will probably decide whether fans will get to see a new champion when the dust has settled over the final at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Sunday.
The Knight Riders’ run to the final has not been due to Narine alone, for in cricket, one individual can’t win you every game. Their campaign has been steered wonderfully by Gautam Gambhir, who has been by far their best batsman, and the sort of motivational captain that can take the fight to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s two-time defending champions, the Chennai Super Kings.
The rest of the team members have been pushed to the background, but have chipped in with performances here and there to help them win nine out of the 11 games after a slow start. But the key for them has been the performance of the back- up spinners, and Shakib Al Hasan and Iqbal Abdulla have supported Narine very well.
The Super Kings, on the other hand, sneaked in to the play-offs, but finally came back to their most dangerous form when faced with the prospect of losing their crown.
They knocked the stuffing out of Mumbai Indians in the Eliminator, before stomping hard on the league leaders, Delhi Daredevils in the second Qualifier.
Murali Vijay’s return to form with a century is just the sort of boost their top-order needed at this stage, since a good start coupled with their long batting line-up means they can put up or chase down any score. That and the experience of having played three previous finals will come in handy.
The one factor that gives Chennai a huge edge is the sea of yellow shirts that turns up for every game, and it will be up to Narine and Gambhir to silence them. ‘Yatra pratibha avsara prapnotihi’ (where talent gets an opportunity) reads the Sanskrit inscription on the IPL trophy, and it is up to the Knight Riders to make use of the opportunity to showcase their talent and break Chennai’s stranglehold on it.
Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2012. MTNPL. All rights reserved.
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