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IPL: Why is Sunil Narine losing his sheen

Sunil Narine- A big name in the cricket world. His performance seems to be declining after scrutinization of his suspected bowling action.

Last updated: 08.04.2019
Sunil Narine KKR | Sports Social Blog

Sunil Narine is one of the biggest revelations of the Indian Premier League. A T20 legend in his own right, Narine burst into the scene in the 2012 season when he was eventually bought by Kolkata Knight Riders after an intense bidding war with Mumbai Indians. He played a major role in Kolkata winning their first IPL trophy in 2012, returning with 24 wickets at an average of 13.50 and economy rate of 5.48. His stature grew in size in the next three years as he continued his dominance in the domestic T20 circuit, and even winning the World T20 with the West Indies in 2012. His flagship delivery, the knuckleball, had become the most scrutinized part of T20 cricket and yet, Narine’s execution left very little margin for error for the batsmen.

Narine's juggernaut came to a halt in October 2014 when his action was reported to be suspect during the now scrapped Champions League T20. The BCCI recommended him to get his action tested in any of the ICC test centers. Interestingly, the major issue with his action wasn’t the knuckleball, but it was the stock off-spin delivery in which he was straightening his elbow beyond the 15° threshold, only 7 wickets to his name at an average of 33.43 and an economy rate of 7.31. Narine had clearly lost his zip and effectiveness with the new action and his deliveries weren’t as threatening as they used to be. He was found out after years of being scrutinized, and batsmen had started picking him. His mystery was no longer an alien concept. His variations, like the knuckleball and the arm ball, weren’t reaping any rewards, but his undoing lies in the fact that his stock off-spin delivery had lost its charm. His minor fall in stature can be attributed to a combination of reasons. The life of mystery spinners is short-lived, as evidenced by numerous examples like Ajantha Mendis, Ravi Ashwin, and Saeed Ajmal. Batsmen, over time, learn to read the variations and pick the deliveries of the hand. Thus, the downfall of mystery spinners is somewhat imminent.  The onus is on the bowlers to evolve and adapt their game to survive. Thus, the subsequent fall in Narine’s performance after his action was found to be suspect may simply be a case of causation, but not of correlation.

Narine has still managed to remain a vital member of the Kolkata Knight Riders' setup. His newfound ability with the bat saw him being promoted to open the innings for Kolkata in 2017. He has notched up 3 half centuries since then, striking at over 170 runs per 100 deliveries. His bowling, meanwhile, has still been susceptible. Let’s take a look at his stats before and after the remodeling of his action :












Economy rate



Clearly, there’s a stark contrast between the two phases. Although his role as a player has evolved at KKR, he is still primarily a bowler who bats a bit and not the other way round. With age catching up with him, Narine will have to find a way to make his primary skill, that is bowling, a force to be reckoned with again if he wants to be around the T20 circuit for a few years more.

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