IPL 2023: Spotlight on Sunil Narine as KKR faces Punjab Kings

The architect of KKR's 2012 and 2014 IPL wins, Narine has struggled in two of his last three seasons


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Kolkata Knight Riders' Sunil Narine (centre) celebrates with teammates after taking a wicket. — AFP
Kolkata Knight Riders' Sunil Narine (centre) celebrates with teammates after taking a wicket. — AFP

Published: Sun 7 May 2023, 4:47 PM

A ‘Go To’ man in Kolkata Knight Riders for more than a decade, Sunil Narine will have to play out of his skin to justify his place in the playing eleven when his team faces Punjab Kings in a must-win Indian Premier League game in Kolkata on Monday.

The Trinidad, who has played 158 games spread across 12 seasons, has 159 wickets along with 1039 runs with four half-centuries after he worked on his batting once his action was deemed suspect and he lost fizz off the pitch.

Narine hasn’t been the same “mystery bowler”, who burst into the T20 franchise scene, for many seasons and he would be the first one to admit he has been lucky.

The architect of 2012 and 2014 IPL wins with 24 and 21 wickets during those two seasons, Narine has struggled in two of his last three seasons.

But KKR management has stuck with him.

However, with KKR staring at another round-robin exit with only four wins in 10 games, there is no room for error in the next four games.

The question is whether KKR can still afford to play the man, who only has seven scalps from 10 games with an economy rate of 8.76 and an aggregate of 14 runs from 8 innings with a strike rate of less than 80.

While KKR does need to take some tough selection calls, Punjab Kings is also in a spot of bother and the match is of equal importance for them.

Having been out-batted by Mumbai Indians in its last outing, the Shikhar Dhawan-led side may be a spot ahead of the eighth-placed KKR with a two-point lead but both the teams are staring at elimination.

More so in the case of the Nitish Rana-captained home side who faces a do-or-die situation in its last four matches this season.

Their think tank also must think beyond their two Caribbean stars — Narine and Andre Russell.

Russell, the Jamaican big-hitter, has scored only 166 runs.

However, he has made an impact as a bowler, giving the team vital breakthroughs in the middle overs — seven wickets at 20.14.

With three home matches left, and a tough away tie at Chennai Super Kings, KKR must exploit the conditions at Eden Gardens to keep its chances alive.

It was a perfect team effort for KKR against Sunrisers Hyderabad in its last match. The onus would be on the KKR batters to put together a superlative show, against a bowling unit that would be low on confidence after Mumbai Indians’ onslaught in its last match.

Boasting a sound bowling attack with Nathan Ellis, Sam Curran and Arshdeep Singh, Punjab Kings failed to defend 214/3 as MI cantered home with seven balls to spare.

As for batting, Liam Livingstone, Dhawan, and wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh Sharma have been its backbone as the KKR bowling attack would look to restrict the trio.


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