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IPL 2024: Narine transcends Lucknow’s short-ball ploy to continue rollicking season as KKR opener

Lucknow Super Giants had a plan in place for Kolkata Knight Riders’ in-form opener Sunil Narine. As revealed by LSG head coach Justin Langer, on the eve of the game, they had done the homework to counter the marauding left-hander, who has been enjoying a second wind with the bat in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024.

LSG’s idea was simple. Cramp Narine for room and attack him with the short ball, a well-known chink in the West Indian’s armour. 

“We had a plan of bowling bouncers and yorkers at him [Narine]. We wanted to mix it up and not be predictable,” said LSG’s lead pacer Naveen-ul-Haq at the post-match press conference on Sunday.

In their defence, LSG pacers stuck to the plan, often forcing wild hoicks and play-and-misses from Narine with some well-directed short stuff.

But Narine’s marauding form with the bat held its own as he refused to be balked by LSG’s aggressive ploy aimed at him. The 35-year-old waded into everything that was thrown at him as he scored his fourth fifty of the season – a 39-ball 81 – to put KKR on course for a massive win.

As many as 81.48 per cent of Narine’s runs on Sunday came in boundaries, with seven of them clearing the Ekana fence. Four of those sixes came off pull shots, indicating his intention to fight fire with fire.

“We bowled to the plan. He [Narine] played quite a brilliant innings, to be honest. It wasn’t like he was slogging or anything. He was properly middling it. That has been the case right from the start of this season. He is a batter in form and everything is going his way,” Naveen said.

Narine’s resurgence with the bat has been the cornerstone of KKR’s barnstorming IPL campaign. His return to the top order – the West Indian had a couple of successful seasons up top in 2017 and 2018 – has also helped the Shreyas Iyer-led side in batting deeper and quicker. 

“I think the most important thing is starting well. Support staff have been backing me. It’s been working for me, hope it works for the rest of the tournament. It’s about picking what you want to do on that particular day with your strengths, you have to be smarter. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Narine after he was awarded the Player of the match against LSG. 

Luckily for the KKR faithful, Narine’s approach has worked more often than not this season. The KKR opener is currently third in the Orange Cap race with 461 runs while holding the best strike rate in the top 10 run-getters this season.

Amidst all the carnage he has unleashed with the bat this season, Narine has also continued to be irrepressible with the ball.

The right-arm spinner has accounted for 14 wickets at an incredible economy of 6.61. On Sunday, he put in another miserly shift with the ball, tallying figures of one for 22.

Among bowlers to have taken at least 10 IPL wickets this season, only Mumbai Indians pacer Jasprit Bumrah has a better economy rate than Narine. 

Narine’s simultaneous influence with the bat and the ball this season is close to unparalleled in the history of IPL.

Only Shane Watson has scored more runs and taken more wickets than Narine in a single IPL campaign.

The Aussie all-rounder’s title-winning campaign in 2008 with Rajasthan Royals saw him amass 472 runs and 17 wickets. 

With KKR looking well on course for a playoffs finish, Narine has ample time to dismantle Watson’s record and possibly push it to a realm of the implausible. 

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