Kolkata: Sunil Narine. the mystery spinner who played a big hand in turning around the fortunes for Kolkata Knight Riders with their maiden IPL title in 2012, had been one of the longest serving overseas cricketers for a single team in the league. Much like a Kieron Pollard for Mumbai Indians or Dwayne Bravo of Chennai Super Kings, the 32-year-old Narine has been almost a talismanic figure for the Knights - who have in turn backed him strongly during his troubled phases for suspect action or a dip in form.
‘‘If I have to do it all over again, I will do it the same way, same franchise and everything,’’ the West Indian said on the eve of what would be his 10th season for the Knights. The 14th season of IPL will be held across six venues in India from April 9, though the Eden Gardens will be deprived of seeing the Knights in action with none of their ‘home’ matches slotted there.
Looking back at his association with the franchise in a video ‘I am a Knight,’ the Trinidadian candidly admitted that the X-factor about him came from the fact that he was still a bit of an unknown quantity in international cricket.
MORE ON IPL
- India cricket star Jasprit Bumrah marries presenter Sanjana Ganesan
- Indian Premier League: Vishnu Vinod eager to get started with Steve Smith and Shreyas Iyer at Delhi Capitals
- Why T20 broadcaster played MS Dhoni Indian Premier League ads
- Indian Premier League: Going for more money doesn’t mean ball swings more
‘‘At the start of IPL, the pitches were a little more spinner-friendly and that contributed to my success. Being the new kid in the block, you have your time when no one knows much (about you). I didn’t play much international cricket for them to really know what I do what I don’t. So, I think the surprise in IPL was probably the best given the fact that I didn’t play much international cricket.
‘‘It was a dream-come-true and a dream start. I could have asked for nothing better. Actually going out there and winning the title was icing on the cake,’’ he said.
More an allrounder now
A big plus about his game came to light much later when the Knights pushed him up the batting order in 2018, and Narine made the most of it with some uninhibited strokeplay. ‘‘First time I opened was in Big Bash and then came here right after the next year. They asked if I was keen to open so I said, whatever the team needs, I am willing. What I could do to contribute to our victories, I will try my best. (Gautam) Gambhir came to me and said don’t change anything, just play confidently, go there and just try to give us a good start. That was the main aim,’’ he recalled.
There is often a perception that a spinner of Narine’s calibre should have added more value to West Indies cricket - but their board’s frequent run-ins with the top T20 players did not help the cause either. Narine, however, betrays no signs of bitterness when he speaks about his start-stop career in the famous maroon shirt.
‘‘Just travelling with West Indies and the senior guys you look up to that play the game, like Kieron Pollard, DJ Bravo, Darren Bravo and those guys, it was a joy for me to be at the West Indies level with them after watching them for so long. You know you just want to start international cricket and I think that the India series was the foundation of my start as a good bowler and someone to look at. I am thankful to West Indies and everyone who gave me the opportunity and was backing me 100 percent to be going out there and just executing my skills,’’ he added.