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FEATURE: What makes Sunil Narine unique?

Introduction

Sunil Narine the maverick enigma from the West Indies is a familiar name among the cricket fans in India and the world across. He is one of those unspoken oxymorons prevalent in cricket that are nourished by antique traditions. All credit goes to the Kolkata Knight Riders who picked him in up when he was an unknown entity. With every passing season, his fan following has grown and now his die-hard followers are not limited just to India or West Indies, in fact, they are spread all across the world.T20 franchises across the world want him to play for their team as he increases the strength of any team with his magical bowling and he captivates fans alike.

T20I Batting

Matches Innings Runs Balls Faced Average Strike Rate 50s Highest Score Balls/ 4 Balls/ 6
51 23 155 138 10.33 112.38 0 30 11 28

List-A Batting

Matches Innings Runs Balls Faced Average Strike Rate 50s Highest Score Balls/ 4 Balls/ 6
336 191 2241 1525 14.84 146.95 6 79 7 12

T20I Bowling

Matches Innings  Balls Runs Wickets Average Economy Strike Rate BBM
51 49 1102 1105 52 21.25 6.01 21.1 4/12

List-A Bowling

Matches Innings  Balls Runs Wickets Average Economy Strike Rate BBM
336 331 7682 7720 379 20.36 6.02 20.2 5/19

Economy Rate

Sunil Narine’s strength is his run-prevention ability. He is one of the best defensive bowlers in history.

Sunil Narine’s economy rate of 6.02 runs per over is the equal best in the world, exactly level with his countryman Samuel Badree.

Different periods of the innings produce fluctuating run environments with the middle overs typically being the slowest scoring phase of the innings. As a result, spinners often dominate lists of best economy rates because overall they operate far more regularly through that middle phase. However, Sunil Narine is different, as he typically bowls in Powerplay as well as Death overs too.

Powerplay and Death Overs

  • Sunil Narine, unlike most spinners, also bowled a lot in Powerplay and Death Overs.
  • Among the format’s major spin bowlers he is one of only three who have bowled the majority of their overs outside the middle overs, operating instead in the tougher periods: the Powerplay and the death.
  • He has bowled 53 % of his balls in either Powerplay or Death overs, which is the third-highest by any Spinner. (fig.(ii))
  • He is the only spinner in the world to bowl more than a quarter of his overs in the Powerplay and more than a quarter of his overs at the death. (fig. (iii))

(Fig-ii)

(Fig-iii)

True Economy Rate

  • True Economy Rate is a measure that contextualizes economy rate by comparing a bowler’s performance in a given over to the aggregate scoring rate for that over in that year.
  • Sunil Narine moves well clear as the best defensive bowler in T20 returning a True Economy Rate of -1.75 runs per over which means he concedes 1.75 runs fewer per over than we would expect based on the overs he has bowled in.

(Fig-iv)

Carrom Ball Percentage

  • Sunil Narine was a mystery spinner who could bowl carrom balls regularly and very effectively earlier in his career.
  • Until October 2014 more than half of Sunil Narine’s wickets in T20 came from carrom balls, returning an exceptional average of just 12.20 runs per wicket – no delivery in the history of T20 cricket until that point had been more effective. The combination of Sunil Narine’s relentless accuracy and mystery spin proved to be an overwhelming combination.
Delivery Economy Strike Rate Average Wickets
Carrom Ball 5.13 14.2 12.2 56%
Off Break 5.75 20.1 19.16 37%
Arm Ball 7.75 20 26 7%

Until October 2014

  • Sunil Narine was suspended in October 2014 for his bowling action. He attempted a return in 2015 which was ended by another suspension. Sunil Narine remodelled his bowling action and returned a very different bowler, focusing more on accuracy than spin.
  • The change in Sunil Narine’s bowling is clear to see: after being suspended for the first time he radically reduced the percentage of his deliveries that were carrom balls from around half to around one in four.
Sunil Narine Average Runs Per Wicket
Delivery 2011-2014 2015-Present
Carrom Ball 12.1 32.11
Off Break 19.16 24.01
Arm Ball 26 37.5

(Fig-v)

(Fig-vi)

True Economy Rate Post Suspension

Although his economy rate also rose after the suspension, it did so less dramatically and remained elite: since 2015 only Rashid Khan has a better True Economy Rate than Sunil Narine. Sunil Narine has managed to remain exceptionally effective at run-saving

(Fig-vii)

Strength

  • Sunil Narine has managed to be one of the best spinners in T20 history by maintaining the foundation of his method: high speeds and short lengths.
  • Since remodelling his action his speed has been slightly down on before but the core tenets of his approach, namely speed and length, remained unchanged.
  • As we can see in the table his average speed has not changed that much post-suspension.
  • His Short balls percentage have not changed that much post the suspension.
Pre and Post Suspension
Period Average Speed Short Balls %
2011-2014 93.96 70%
2015-Present 90.89 68%

Batting

  • Sunil Narine’s greatness does not only lie in his bowling, but he has been a splendid pinch hitter on the top for his teams.
  • On New Years Day in 2017 Sunil Narine was promoted to the top of the order by the Melbourne Renegades. The tactic worked: Sunil Narine scored 21 off 13 balls and got the Renegades’ innings off to a flying start.
  • Sunil Narine’s brief foray as an opener for the Renegades was enough to persuade Kolkata Knight Riders to deploy him there in the 2017 IPL where he eventually formed an iconic partnership with Chris Lynn.

(Fig-viii)

Pinch-Hitter

  • Pinch-hitting, the tactic of promoting a lower-order batsman up the order to bat aggressively, has been in the game for a number of years now. However, Sunil Narine is comfortably the most successful exponent of the tactic in cricket history.
  • He is exceptionally aggressive so doesn’t waste balls, and his power enables him to clear the in-field and find the boundary. Sunil Narine’s scoring zones – unusually straight – also make him particularly difficult to set fields to in the Powerplay with captains typically placing their two boundary-riders square of the wicket.
  • Among T20 players to have scored more than 1000 runs in the Powerplay only Luke Ronchi has scored faster than Sunil Narine in the phase and no one has been dismissed at a faster rate. Sunil Narine is here for a good time, not a long time.

(Fig-ix)

Strike Rate vs Spin

  • Sunil Narine is more than just a regulation Powerplay hitter though.
  • He is particularly adept at scoring rapidly against spin which has elevated his value in the Powerplay even further. As T20 has matured the percentage of overs bowled by spinners in the first six overs has steadily increased because the batsmen who typically bat there are often far stronger against pace. Sunil Narine’s aptitude against spin and his deployment as a pinch-hitter has made him a fielding captain’s nightmare
  • The rise of Sunil Narine the pinch-hitter, coinciding with the slight dip in his bowling when he remodeled his action has been central to Sunil Narine maintaining his status as one of T20’s most valuable players.

(Fig-x)

CONCLUSION

Sunil Narine’s mystery still remains unravelled in Twenty20, Sunil Narine makes things confusing. When he suddenly produces one that goes away from the batsman, it confounds many of a batsman since the ball is released from the front of his hand. He bowls his normal off-breaks with a scrambled seam. Life is indeed extraordinarily difficult for the opposition batsmen, especially when they want to belt him out of the park. In that context, even without his stock ball, he is supremely difficult to get away with. He keeps it flat and does not try to mix things any more than necessary. He attempts ambitious turn only on genuinely helpful pitches.

Sunil Narine’s high-arm bowling action is deceptive for batsmen, and with all the variations he possesses, he more often than not succeeds in bamboozling batsmen. It has been quite a while since Sunil Narine spun his web for the first time on Indian soil. Since then, Indian Premier League teams have gone over the footage of his bowling in painstaking detail, trying to unravel the exact twitch of the magical fingers that makes the ball turn this way or that.

His legacy, although etched in what will certainly be remarkable records – will be greater than numbers and more profound. Off the pitch, his prioritization of T20, alongside Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, has blazed a trail for a generation of freelance players. Sunil Narine and Pollard, unlike Gayle and Bravo, made their names entirely on the T20 circuit. On the pitch, both with ball and bat, Sunil Narine’s method as much as his output will endure.

Sunil Narine’s astonishing T20 career is not yet done but his status as a pioneer and a legend is beyond doubt.

I am Vaibhav Mehta, an aspiring Cricket Performance Analyst. I 'd like my career to revolve around cricket, which I fondly call as 'THE LOVE OF MY LIFE'. Academically, I love Statistics, Mathematics and Data Analysis. I have been an avid lover of cricket since I was 8 and I have played cricket at District level.

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