Sunil Narine has been one of the key members of the Kolkata Knight Riders team since 2012. He has helped the team win the Indian Premier League twice and has been by far one of the most consistent bowlers of the tournament.
However, since 2015, his performances have dropped significantly. This year, Narine is nowhere close to his best. Although it is still too early in the season and a bowler needs more time to prove his worth in the shortest format of the game, it could be time for the KKR management to think twice before including Narine in the starting XI.
Here are five reasons why he should be dropped from the line-up.
#5 Squad balance
For every franchise in the IPL, it is essential to select the four foreign players and the seven Indian players in a way that proper balance is maintained. The eventual winner of a match is often decided even before it starts and selecting the right mix is of utmost importance.
Going in with Narine in the line-up no doubt makes the bowling stronger but what about the batting? After Chris Lynn’s injury, KKR’s batting appears a little depleted. They have world class openers and Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan in the middle-order but that stability is still missing.
Dropping Narine would mean including Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla as the two spinners, both of whom are better batsmen than Narine. It would also mean that KKR would be able to draft in an extra foreigner. Along with Trent Boult, Chris Woakes and Lynn’s replacement (Colin De Grandhomme?), Shakib Al Hasan as the fourth foreigner will add the much-needed balance to the team.
#4 Shakib Al Hasan can then be included
The natural replacement for Sunil Narine in KKR’s line-up would be Shakib Al Hasan. The Bangladeshi all-rounder has found immense success in the limited-overs format of the game and is amongst the best in the world in his role.
Narine’s role in the team is to bowl one over in the powerplay, one or two when a partnership needs to be broken and a final spell during the death overs. Now, Shakib is better suited to this role. He has a good economy rate and can also pick up crucial wickets.
Additionally, he will also strengthen the batting. Coming in at number four or five, he can bring some stability to the middle order while others around him provide the fireworks. If KKR are to qualify for the playoffs, it is fair to say that Shakib will play a huge role in that.
#3 Batsmen are having no trouble picking him
It had become apparent after Narine made his comeback following his ban that he had lost his variations. However, aside from the that, the West Indian has been unable to extract the kind of turn and bounce off the pitch that he used to in his heydey.
The very batsmen who once feared Narine are now playing him with considerable ease. In fact, as we saw in KKR’s first match, he was taken to the cleaners by the likes of Brendon McCullum and Dinesh Karthik. Narine had indeed lost his mojo.
It is not that the West Indian is bowling in poor areas. However, the batsmen are able to read him and play accordingly. They do not look in any discomfort whatsoever, and as a result, KKR have not benefitted much from his bowling so far this season.
#2 KKR already have a potent spin attack
KKR’s bowling attack is one of the strongest in the IPL. While they have quality fast bowlers like Trent Boult and Umesh Yadav, it is their spin department that gives them the edge over most sides. Aside from Narine, their squad boasts the likes of Shakib Al Hasan, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav.
Now, each of these spinners is vastly different from the other. But on closer inspection, one will realise that each of them is, primarily, a wicket-taking spinner. While most teams count on their spinners to stem the run flow during the middle overs, KKR actually depend on them to pick up crucial wickets and break partnerships.
While Chawla is a good leg-spinner with a very good googly, we have already seen what Kuldeep is capable of. Shakib, for his part, is handy in the death overs when the opposition batsmen are looking to hit the ball out of the ground. Do KKR still need Narine in the starting XI?
#1 The ‘mystery’ is missing
With Sunil Narine, it was always about the mystery. The spinner would bowl every delivery with the exact same action and the batsman would never know what was going to happen until the very last moment by when it was too late.
Although primarily an off-spinner, Narine had mastered the art of turning the ball both ways without any discernible change in action. Along with the mystery, there was the pace and bounce that he extracted off the wicket and the many variations. He was virtually impossible to pick.
But then the ICC banned him for an illegal action. After going through several tests, Narine has been able to make a comeback to cricket. However, now, all his magic tricks are missing. Even though it has been some time since he made his comeback, Narine’s current bowling is bereft of that X-factor and this makes him look like any other average spinner.