Sunil Phillip Narine has been the chief architect of Kolkata Knight Riders's successful campaign so far in this year's IPL.
The Trinidadian has hardly come in for punishment in the 12 matches he has played — not even by a handful of world class batsmen.
On a surface that afforded some turn and bounce at the Wankhede Stadium, Narine was instrumental in the downfall of four Mumbai Indians batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma. As a consequence, Harbhajan Singh's team hurtled to defeat by a big margin.
This edition of the IPL has been spectacular: AB de Villiers has given ample evidence of the possibilities of batsmen of “360 degree-calibre” emerging in the longer forms of the game, and Steve Smith has provided a glimpse of how young cricketers will field and catch in the coming years.
Narine has done his bit with mesmerising off breaks and its allied variations while trying to convince purists that off-spinners need not bowl with an action similar to Erappali Prasanna in order to hoodwink batsmen.
Clearly Narine has been the cynosure of all eyes whenever Gautam Gambhir has tossed the ball to him. The batsmen have been befuddled, and they have not shown the courage to risk taking chances against him.
With 21 wickets in 12 matches, Narine is the owner of the purple cap on a superior average of 11.81, as against Lasith Malinga's 21 at 13.18 and Morne Morkel's 21 at 18.86.
Narine, who turns 24 a day before the final at Chennai, will take the centre stage during KKR's last league match against Pune Warriors India at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium here on Saturday.
Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin and Lance Gibbs are the greatest spinners to have represented West Indies in international cricket.
Gibbs took 309 Test wickets and Ramadhin 158, and thereafter the off-spinners with the highest number of wickets are Carl Hooper (114) and Chris Gayle (72). Many others have come and gone, but Narine offers hope that he will have a long stint.
While acknowledging Narine's success, the PW captain Sourav Ganguly said: “He will be sorted and worked out. Batsmen will get time and overs to work him out in one-day internationals and Test matches. They have to play shots off almost every ball in Twenty20. Ajanta Mendis was sorted out. I am sure Narine too will be, over time.”
Warriors trained and practised at the Poona Club on Friday. “I am going to play. Michael Clarke is available. We have lost 11 matches and KKR has won nine, but it does not mean anything in Twenty20. We can still win the match tomorrow and finish on a good note,” said Ganguly.
KKR's aim is to be among the top two in the points table.
“It would be difficult to play with high intensity for Pune, but they would like to motivate themselves and finish the league on a winning note, and that's the danger.
“We would like to know the conditions here, win and be prepared for the play offs here,” said Bayliss.