long as 56 balls in a T20

Sunil Narine for ninety-four minutes

On Tuesday, Sunil Narine spent 94 minutes at the crease. In a Twenty20 match, he had never batted for as long as 56 balls, and the statistics speak for themselves—there was chaos while he was at the crease. Even though T20 promotes big smashes over wicket preservation, Narine has likely been the only top-six batsman to do so throughout the years, at least in the Indian Premier League.

The classic pinch-hitter. the benchmark of gold.

There isn’t any specific build-up during his innings. He arrives and initiates the bat swing. There are various ways in which the swing might vary. It can be a drag, a slog, a swipe, or a hack at different moments. Additionally, he occasionally displays power drives and cuts throughout his innings. It is, in a sense, the application of the post-neo T20 batting theory, which is to attack every ball.

His batting ability is modest, but he has enough potential to be exciting. Hit or run. Nothing exists in the meantime. Though it seems easy in principle, no other club without a player has been able to duplicate that formula, and despite Narine’s long history of success at that position, very few teams have even attempted to dabble in the concept of a pinch-hitter.

It looks like a simple technique: swing against the pacers by opening up your stance, and against the spinners, use your long levers to swing as near to the ball’s pitch as you can. The range is mostly in the ‘V’ shape if it is timed correctly, but it can fly to the most erratic places if it is edged. The latter is particularly important since it can frequently yield results that are almost as good as hitting the ball straight down the field for him. It can also be more irritating for the opposition captains, who may find themselves at a loss for what to bowl and field.

Similar to what happened at Eden Gardens.

With Trent Boult and Avesh Khan’s pace and length, Narine didn’t have the most fluid of starts on a new pitch. Just four of the fifteen balls he encountered during the powerplay were middled by him, matching the number of mistimed shots he made. He suffered seven beatings. But he forced the Royals bowlers off their game plan as he started to settle in, hitting a six over mid wicket and smashing a boundary over the bowler’s head to end the powerplay.

Plans that are conventional don’t necessarily fail against Narine. Take the offspinner vs. left-handed batter hypothesis, for instance. That was originally worked out by R Ashwin, and on Tuesday it was reconfirmed for those with weaker recall. Throughout his career and in various forms, Ashwin would have faced numerous skilled left-handed hitters, but Narine has consistently outperformed him. He had destroyed Ashwin for sixty runs in a 22-ball face-off prior to this match, and he carried on with his rampage against the seasoned spinner once more. Narine had to walk out of his crease because Ashwin was taunting him beyond the off-stump line. but ineffective. He let up nine runs in wides, four of which were on the offside, as he continued to draw the line more and farther.

With the exception of a brief dalliance in the eighth over with the notion of unproductively switch-hitting Ashwin, Narine remained true to his abilities. He occasionally failed to cash in on full tosses, occasionally allowed the ball to pass, and occasionally even edged a few, but ultimately proved to be victorious against Ashwin once more, this time in a 17-ball face-off that saw 34 runs scored (not including the wides).

The straightforward strategy of grinding it out paid off for him and the Kolkata Knight Riders for three seasons between 2017 and 2019, as they were able to extend their batting order and take advantage of the powerplay. But Narine at the top became a problem when opponents found a way to hit his upper torso quickly from around the wicket. The southpaw was eating up more deliveries than his team could afford, so sending him to open was backfiring. Numerous candidates were considered to replace that position, but KKR had little success—Venkatesh Iyer and Rahmanullah Gurbaz aside—aside from their brief appearances.

Even on Tuesday, the Royals had begun their game against Narine with a similar tactic. Several other clubs have employed similar strategy this season, albeit without the intended outcome. Though R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal tried to outsmart Narine for eight of the ten overs, he was able to play to his strengths during the middle overs despite a shaky start against the pacers. Other than a few of overs from Sen, there wasn’t much to keep him from getting restless. Even in those two overs of Kuldeep, only one ball (at 129 kmph) was aimed at his body and squeezed him for room.

He was on a 49-ball century when Avesh Khan returned to use that strategy against him in the 17th over. Less than three overs remained in KKR’s innings by the time they could finally launch a stump-line yorker through Boult. Narine took care of the celebration and shot up to third place in this year’s IPL run-getters list, all of those runs at a strike rate of 187.75, while everyone else waited for players like Andre Russell and Rinku Singh to inflict the late damage.

The Royals all-rounder Rovman Powell praised his teammate West Indian’s innings but gave his bowlers some encouragement.

Powell said, “We had good plans against Sunil.” However, as was evident, bowlers on both sides had difficulty getting to the wicket. There is extremely little room for error on this wicket. Therefore, if your plans are not exact… As a bowler in T20 cricket, you occasionally need a little bit of luck. Particularly against our two elite spinners, Sunil took a chance and risked his arm. He defeated them both. Our bowling will be under pressure if you can defeat our elite spinners.”

Despite how well he has bowled all season, Narine has only taken seven wickets in six games. It’s interesting that he feels more a part of the Orange Cap.

After his innings, Narine said to the broadcaster, “(At the beginning of the season, if anyone had told me that I’d be in the race for the Orange cap), I would have taken it as a joke because I haven’t opened in such a long time or done much with the bat in the years past.” “Gautam Gambhir’s return provided me the confidence and the guarantee that I would bat first. It is your responsibility to simply go out there and attempt to get off to a good start. No matter what happens, you must press on since trying to face dot balls during a powerplay could backfire on you. So just go there and make an effort to start your team off strong.”

Given how quickly things were happening, it would make sense if Jos Buttler’s fighting century that day overshadowed and eventually left Narine’s adventures unnoticed. In the end, Narine’s century was one of the 20 IPL hundreds to come in a defeat. It isn’t particularly unique. Not even the fact that it’s not even the first century by a KKR batter on April 16 that has resulted in a defeat, which is incredibly explicit and redundant.

However, teams would be wise to remember that Narine poses a threat to the Royals, as she did during their scare. And it’s consistently proving to be one with the bat as well as the ball these days. To his credit, seven years after he showed off his devastating powerplay abilities, the opposition bowlers on teams with access to all the statistics and data are the ones lacking in plan, not him.