Sunil Narine
Sunil Narine of the Kolkata Knight Riders in action during the IPL 2021 Eliminator against the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on October 11, 2021. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

Sunil Narine is an ace in Kolkata Knight Riders’ pack. He’s been snaring wickets and bashing sixes for them since 2012. And Kolkata have reaped the rewards, winning the IPL the same year and two years later under Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy.

Seven years have elapsed since Kolkata’s last triumph, and Narine’s career has ebbed and flowed. His bowling action has been reported several times, and a recurring discomfort against short-pitched balls reduced his effectiveness as a pinch hitter. But the Trinidadian refused to be unnerved by the repeated setbacks as he worked on his game.

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An off-break bowler, he was dubbed mystery spinner for the befuddling variety of deliveries. Narine had to cease bowling some of his variations as he remodelled his bowling action to stage another of his incessant comebacks.

Monday was one of the high points of yet another comeback. A comeback that began last year and was beset by another episode of being reported for his bowling action. All that was a distant memory when Narine upended the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL 2021 Eliminator.

A four-wicket spell put the skids under Bangalore, and the scalps included Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell — the three destructive RCB batsmen. A game-changing spell indeed.

If that helped reduce the target for Kolkata, more surprises were in store. When Bangalore stifled Kolkata’s chase, Narine struck three sixes in an over to keep the required run rate at a manageable level. Another game-changing moment. It did matter as KKR huffed and puffed to cross the line.

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An all-round show from Narine is no surprise for Kolkata’s IPL watchers. His best came in 2018 when his bowling and batting shone brightly, and he was named the Most Valuable Player. The performance in the 2021 Eliminator was a reminder of those halcyon days. That too against his favourite rivals.

Bangalore have suffered at the hands of Narine in the past too. He smashed a 15-ball 54 in 2017, which remained the fastest IPL fifty until KL Rahul bested it the following year.

This year has been particularly good for Narine, who turned in fine displays for the Oval Invincibles in the Hundred and the Trinibago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League title. An IPL win would cap a perfect year for Narine.