West Indies in Bangladesh 2012-13 November 28, 2012

Mystery alone won't work for Narine in Tests

Sunil Narine was met with a definite plan by Bangladesh. Three wickets at 114.33 later, he is having to instruct himself into becoming a bowler who has more dimensions and not just the mystery

There was nothing mysterious about West Indies offspinner Sunil Narine's returns of 3 for 343 in the two-Test series against Bangladesh. He was met with a definite plan by the home batsmen, and most of it was based on attack. He was hardly given time to settle down into a rhythm and let his mystery dictate terms during most of his spells in the series.

The starts of his spells were given an early setback with a charge and a boundary, or a string of boundaries sent him out of the attack. Three wickets at 114.33 later, Narine is having to instruct himself into becoming a bowler who has more dimensions and not just the mystery.

West Indies captain Darren Sammy and coach Ottis Gibson have been staunch in defending Narine but are aware of the challenges that face a bowler who has entered the team as the main spinner with little experience in the longer format. Gibson would like him to be a lot more accurate while at the same time believing that he needs more time in the middle.

"The key, whether there is mystery or not, is to be accurate with whatever you deliver," Gibson told ESPNcricinfo. "Shakib Al Hasan tied us down with accuracy though the ball wasn't spinning massively. It made batsmen work hard for runs. That is something Sunny [Narine] has to learn and he will over time because he works very hard on his cricket.

"The greatest skill you have is accuracy because you have to know how to tie the batsmen down. The mystery will always be there, but you back it up with accuracy. Then you are a weapon."

Bangladesh understood Narine's inexperience. Their tactic against Narine was born out of the threat he poses with his finger-work. His ability to spin the ball both ways with the same wrist position is part of his mystery. Shakib, his Kolkata Knight Riders teammate, could have picked up his tricks while bowling together in the nets. Shakib definitely had a big say in the mode of attack against Narine.

Had they let Narine settle down, Bangladesh would have been in more trouble as they had been already succumbing to West Indies' pace and their own flamboyance. Narine took three wickets in his fifth spell after Bangladesh had lost six wickets in the first innings of the first Test. He went wicketless in the second innings. Narine also had no success in the second Test, a game in which the West Indies attack dominated Bangladesh. He gave 91 runs off 19 overs in the first innings as Bangladesh took comfort in seeing him come on after the quick bowlers troubled them. The ineffectual performance resulted in Sammy using Narine sparingly in the second innings - nine overs, which went for 48.

"The Bangladesh players have gone after him a bit," Gibson said. "It's not a massive concern but it is obviously something we keep an eye on. We are not really concerned at this stage.

"I think he's got a unique sort of action. His mystery is with his fingers. He has to continue to believe in that because this is what got him here. The learning for him is how to take Test wickets."

And to learn how to do so, Narine has to go back to his roots and play first-class cricket for Trinidad & Tobago which begins in February next year. "He hasn't played lot of first-class cricket either, so that's some place he'd have to go back and play some games, find out what it's like to take wickets in first-class cricket and the patience you need to play in Test cricket," Gibson said.

Narine is very much like Veerasammy Permaul at this stage of his career, according to Gibson. The left-arm spinner took eight wickets at 31 apiece in the first two Tests of his career. Narine is merely five Tests old. But he has to carry the added tag of being the main spinner, one that has stuck to him because of his reputation as a deadly Twenty20 bowler.

"He's new to international cricket, especially the Test format," Gibson said. "He's played a lot more white-ball cricket than he has red-ball. He got picked for his exploits with the white ball. He came into the team as the main spinner. [Veerasammy] Permaul was making his way in the game, so was Sunny. He's a young kid, only playing his fifth Test match."

Sammy is quite sure Narine will bounce back, as early as the ODI series against Bangladesh. He believes the pressure of scoring runs quickly plays into the hands of Narine, who has more wicket-taking deliveries than the orthodox slow bowlers. "I am not worried about his form going into one-day cricket because I know that's where he is made his name, in one-day internationals and Twenty20s," Sammy said. "He's at his best when there's scoreboard pressure. I know he is a very good spinner in limited-overs cricket, so hopefully he could improve in the Test arena."

Ajantha Mendis has found it hard to adapt to the longest format, especially building spell after spell with accuracy, and hasn't figured in a Test since May 2011. Narine could take lessons from Mendis' career. Bags of wickets in the Twenty20 leagues have brought Narine fame but as Bangladesh have shown and seen, mystery can be conquered in a short time but accuracy has to be mastered.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2012, 11:59 GMT

    Narine is NOT a test bowler. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.It seems that sammy and Gibson and the WI selector is blind to the fact. They are trying destroy his reputation and confidence as they did to Bishoo and Shillingford you are more suited and geared for TEST.He is a very good 1 day and T20 player, so let me specialized in this area where he is strong.

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2012, 4:53 GMT

    please left out sunil narine from test squad...west indies is doing a wrong thing again and again...pick shilingford and bishoo for tests and u still will have deonarine...pick peramaul,badree or narine for odis and t20s please...

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2012, 3:06 GMT

    Surely the selectors should have figured out before this that Narine is best used in the shorter forms of the game. Why are they trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? He's perfect for T20, and an a spinner in ODI's when the opposition need to score runs quickly. Other than that he's better left out. WI now have an excellent pace attack for tests in Roach, Best and Edwards. Plenty of all rounders to handle the spin requirements in tests (Gayle, Sammy, Samuels). For some reason the selectors seem to think that they have to use all the same guys in all formats, which is madness! Also, I don't understand how both Shillingford and Bishoo have been tossed away. Is this a "rotation" strategy, like the one the England team are using? Then say so!

  • Jack on November 29, 2012, 2:49 GMT

    Narine bowled 4 faster balls every 2 overs. This is a huge mistake in test cricket for a spinner. Many of these faster balls were short of a length and were put away for boundaries. Three of the faster balls should have been slower balls with flight variation. This is the error he needs to work on in Test cricket. More 4 - day games will give him this experience.

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2012, 1:08 GMT

    Where is Davendra Bishoo?a leg spinner is always more effective in test cricket than an offspinner .

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2012, 0:04 GMT

    Remember our last test series when Narine opted to play 20/20 instead. Well most people got on WICB's case for not securing Narine's services for that series. Now that we has struggled people are saying he should not have been selected for the test matches. Too many Monday morning quarterbacks it seems.

  • Earl on November 28, 2012, 23:46 GMT

    Marine is suffering from the short sightedness of West indies selectors.He should not of been rushed when we have proven spinner.Shillingford and Benn have proved that they are test bowlers who can bowl on wickets that favor batsmen.These two have been discarded along with Bishoo.W,I have lots of capable players who will not get a chance to prove their worth due to selectors who are incompetent.Why rush Roach back to play against Bangladesh when we have a series against Australia in january.Good to see Holder given a chance,but what about Johnson.he would give another look as he is left- handed and a good bowler.Rampaul should be give a rest as he is also prone to injuries.We have to get smarter with our selections.

  • Derek on November 28, 2012, 20:15 GMT

    @Biplob those are my sentiments. Sunil lacks patience and lets the odd ball get to him. The mark of a good bowler is how you respond after a ball ball has been dispatched or given the treatment it deserves. Too often he becomes visibly tense which either means he oversteps or grips the ball too tight. Too much is expected from him especially with Benn, Bishoo and Shillingford discarded without being told what they need to do to be reconsidered. I do not agree with IPL/T20 bit he was would not be considered anything if it was not for his T&T performances in the IPL. He can make a handsome living away from TEST cricket in the UK, AUS, SA and IND that is not bad for a PROFESSIONAL memories do not put food on the table.

  • Nathaniel on November 28, 2012, 18:59 GMT

    Why is it we're ready to discard someone as soon as they're not as successful as we expected. Narine has played a lot of the short version of the game and has been darned good. Keep him on and he'll soon adapt to the longer version of the game. I agree with the suggestion of a spin coach for our bowlers. Is Lance Gibbs available? I think the shorter version of the game is messing up a lot of cricketers. Bangladesh showed a lot of this effect. Players lapsed into their one day mode and didn't show the patience required in test cricket. It will be wise for us to have two teams: one for test and another for the shorter version of the game. For me test cricket will always be the ultimate test in how good a cricketing side is. I'd rather WI win test matches and is ranked #1 here than to do so in 50 overs or T20. Let the World Cup and T20 World tournament take care of the shorter version. While I'm elated that WI won the T20 World Cup I'd rather see them rated #1 in test cricket.

  • Mohamed on November 28, 2012, 17:17 GMT

    Where is Devendra Bishoo? Bishoo carried the main load (he bowled more overs than anyone else) in his 1st 4 series and was named emerging player of the year in 2011. Yet, after only 2 not so good matches, he was dropped. Mind you, several catches off him in teh last series were dropped including a couple by D. Sammy. Gibson and by extension Sammy, has a facination and fixation on looking at T/20 success as indication of how the player will perform at the Test level and that type of thinking is recipe for disaster. Narine and Powell do not have the temperament for Test cricket. They may have some day, but not now. Bishoo should be in the test squad and I know that it's not 1st class cricket, but Bishoo has been scoring a fair amount of runs in local cricket in Guyana, includin a century a month or so ago. Thank you. Breado.

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