T2021 W/C: Narine shows what WI will miss as post-CPL lessons continue in IPL play-offs

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It would not be accurate to say that West Indies off-spinner Sunil Narine almost single-handedly put the Kolkata Knight Riders into the IPL semi-final on Monday.

Why? Because accuracy requires that we say ‘former West Indies off-spinner Sunil Narine’.

Photo: Kolkata Knight Riders spinner Sunil Narine appeals for a wicket during the IPL Eliminator against the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on 11 October 2021.
(Copyright Rahul Gulati / Sportzpics for IPL)

Mr Roger Harper and his selection panel were well aware that, without being certified fit, no player would be eligible for selection for the 2021 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. And despite his participation in the CPL and the recent The Hundred tournament in England, they deemed it fitting, we have to assume, not to so remind the TKR/KKR player.

Several of the 12-member sole selector panel Wired868 put together in the lead-up to the selection meeting have been agonising over the omission of the stand-out T20 spinner. The members of Harper’s panel don’t seem to have lost any sleep over it.

Maybe they will now. After Narine’s Monday performance.

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His 4/21 and 26 off 15 balls earned him the Man-of-the-Match award and several other of the awards on offer. But the devil is in the details: he scored his runs batting at number 5, having come to the wicket at the end of the 11th over with his team needing 60 runs off 54 balls.

Photo: Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Sunil Narine hits for six runs during the IPL Eliminator against the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on 11 October 2021.
(Copyright Rahul Gulati / Sportzpics for IPL)

His first three balls were dispatched over the boundary for sixes.

Earlier, once the house-on-fire opening partnership had been broken by Ferguson, Narine took over. He broke the back of the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s batting, claiming all of numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5.

And 3, 4 and 5 wickets were Virat Kohli, bowled, AB de Villiers, bowled, and Glenn Maxwell, caught by Lockie Ferguson trying to force the pace.

In the seven group matches played in the UAE after the resumption of the IPL, Narine had taken 7 wickets in 28 overs and scored 24 runs off 14 balls in three innings.

It would have been nice for skipper Kieron Pollard to have him to call on between October 17 and November 14.

Harper and co seem not to have been convinced of that.

Photo: Kolkata Knight Riders spinner Sunil Narine in action against the Royal Challengers Bangalore during IPL 2021 action at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on 11 October 2021.
(Copyright Rahul Gulati / Sportzpics for IPL)

However, they were—are?—quite convinced that it would be a cardinal sin— they were, they said explicitly, quite convinced but not that it would be a sin—to go to the World Cup without the unspecified ‘value’ that Chris Gayle brings to the team.

No one with any real interest in the issue needs to be reminded of the Universe Boss’ unflattering CPL 2021 performances for the eventual winners, St Kitts and Nevis Patriots. And one only needs reminding of the protracted dip—forgive the euphemism—in his form if one missed self-confessed Gaylophile Roneil Walcott’s insightful, candid but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to justify his inclusion in his two-part contribution on the issue Wired868 carried last week.

I’d love for the veteran left-hander with all the impressive batting records to make me eat my words, Walcott writes, and uncork at least two punishing vintage innings at the T20 World Cup.

Wouldn’t we all? Ent?

So bear with me a moment while I lament the kind of nostalgic self-indulgence attested to in the conclusion of Walcott’s Part Two and the ‘Bravo reflects on World Cup good times’ on the Sunday Express Sport masthead page on the weekend.

Photo: West Indies batsman Chris Gayle powers another leg-side boundary during his 48-ball century against England at the 2016 T20 World Cup.
(Copyright Getty)

Nostalgia is fine, I think, for those who lived through the emotional highs of the 1975 and 1979 victories and who know in our heart of hearts that those days are NEVER—ask Curtly Ambrose—coming back.

But with the start of the T20 World Cup mere days away, what we need now is the hard, cold, clear-eyed, objective analysis evidenced in all of Part One and in the first half of Part Two, not the soppy sentimentality offered at the end of Part Two and in the Sunday Express.

Of such sentimental stuff are former champions made!

If you want to lay claim to the title of true champion, you have to have the cojones to say loud and clear for all and sundry to hear, as India have done with MS Dhoni, we absolutely need your expertise in the dressing room but your successors, not you, will take it out on to the field.

And, mind you, on Sunday, Dhoni’s 18 off 6 balls showed that, where the willow meets the leather, that expertise is still active and available.

Photo: Chennai Super Kings 40-year-old skipper MS Dhoni in action against the Delhi Capitals during the 2021 IPL season.
(Copyright IPLT20.com)

I have spent the last 24 hours scouring the news sites looking for a single call for the 40-year-old to be included in the 19-member Indian squad. In vain!

We have not forgotten 1983, such silence says. Nor have we forgotten 2011. But what have those two years got to do with our quest for another title in 2021?

Of such hard-headed stuff are would-be champions made!

Let me end for today with two pieces of West Indies news, one good, one less so: KKR did not, the commentators were quick to note, field their best XI. Missing from Eoin Morgan’s line-up was West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell.

How dare they drop DreRuss, you ask?

They did not. In an early October group game against Chennai Super Kings, DreRuss dropped to his knees on the boundary after a failed attempt to stop a four. He had earlier dropped to his knees in mid-over at the end of his follow-through. And retired prematurely to the pavilion to receive medical attention on his hamstring.

Photo: West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell on the go, his preferred mode..
(Copyright CWI Media)

He has not played since, not because—ha!—the 33-year-old is being saved for the World Cup but simply because he is—as he so often is—well under 100 percent!

The almost 38-year-old Dwayne Bravo, playing the percentages towards the end of the CPL, has had no recurrence of the hamstring trouble that kept him out of several of the Patriots’ group games after they had won five on the trot.

In Sunday’s game, he was not needed to contribute with the bat. With the ball, he was not his usual irresistible self, capturing only 1 for 31 in his three overs. But, as usual, he gave his all in the field.

So as the last two IPL games come off, many West Indian prayers are likely to go heavenwards. Before the start of the World Cup next week, they will all ask, may we have a definitive end to this game of see-saw.

When one goes up, please don’t let the other go down.


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About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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