The impressive Kolkata Knight Riders bowling attack, that wiped out the Delhi Daredevils batting line-up for a mediocre total in their first Indian Premier League (IPL) game this season, on Sunday (April 10), is about to add more muscle to its arsenal.

Sunil Narine, the much-loved and hotly-debated mystery spinner from Trinidad, and the Kolkata Knight Riders’ bowling mainstay since 2012, had to miss the first match of the IPL due to the demise of his father Shahid early this month. Shahid, a diehard Sunil Gavaskar fan, had named Narine after the legendary India opener. Narine will be joining the team in Kolkata where the hosts are gearing up to face Mumbai Indians at home on Wednesday.

While losing his father has been the biggest setback in Narine’s life, his cricketing cup of woes had been overflowing over the last few months. He was, once again, no-balled by the umpires for bowling with a suspect action in a One-day International between the West Indies and Sri Lanka in Pallekele last November. Narine was subsequently banned after the game. That’s when his struggles began.

Narine’s been an asset for Kolkata Knight Riders and has played crucial roles in both their title wins (2012, 2014). The franchise, owned by actor Shahrukh Khan, has backed Narine right from the time he was called in Sri Lanka.

“Whatever happens, we decided to back him 100%,” says KKR CEO Venky Mysore, looking back at the spinner’s struggles. “He’s not an inexpensive cricketer. Any other franchise would’ve wanted to release him and save that money or invest in someone else. But that was never going to be our philosophy. That’s not who we are,” Mysore added.

Kolkata Knight Riders got Leicester-based biomechanist Carl Crowe into the picture in their quest to help Narine remodel his action. Carl, an off-spinner himself during his playing days, was asked to fly down to Trinidad – where Shahrukh Khan runs his Caribbean Premier League (CPL) franchise – on an all-expenses paid trip to begin work with the bowler. And then began a work assignment lasting close to a month that would eventually help the Trinidadian bounce back from a zone where all hopes had evaporated.

“I flew to Trinidad with all my equipment. It wasn’t just going to be an action-correction exercise. It was a test of getting things done in a manner where the bowler’s confidence had to be restored as much as the skill. It wasn’t about the arm and the action. It was about his body, his mind and his cricket,” Carl toldĀ TOI from the UK on Saturday .

Kolkata Knight Riders had decided they would pay for all of Narine’s expenses.

“I worked with Narine for close to three weeks. A little more maybe. The idea was to let him be, just make him feel comfortable with what he wanted to do, while keeping in mind what was permissible and how things could be explored,” Carl said.

In the end, it all worked out. A confident Narine appeared for a retest at the International Cricket Council-approved Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai on March 28 where his action was found to be legal.

He’s now been cleared to play in international and domestic cricket. While that is good news for KKR, the other teams in the IPL would be a worried lot.


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