Narine's IPL hinges on Chennai retest
West Indies offspinner Sunil Narine will have to get his bowling action cleared at the ICC-accredited centre in Chennai in order for him to play for Kolkata Knight Riders in the upcoming IPL.
BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya informed the same to Knight Riders chief executive Venky Mysore on Thursday after Mysore dashed to Kolkata for a meeting. The franchise had lodged an official protest with Dalmiya last week after Narine was asked by the BCCI to travel to Chennai despite submitting a clearance report issued by the testing centre at University of Loughborough, another ICC accredited centre, in early March.
Narine was called twice in successive matches during last year's Champions League Twenty20 in September, and had to get a clearance from one of the ICC accredited centres according to tournament rules. He subsequently went to Loughborough in early March to undergo various tests, and got a positive nod from the experts.
But once the report from the Loughborough centre was submitted for review and clearance from the sub-committee dealing with corrective actions, the BCCI wrote back to Knight Riders saying Narine would have to undergo another round of tests at the Sri Ramachandra University centre, the first ICC accredited centre in the subcontinent, which opened last October. It meant the BCCI was effectively cancelling the Loughborough report.
Knight Riders questioned why the BCCI would not accept the report from the Loughborough centre if the ICC accredited centres all over the world followed the same apparatus, procedures and tests, and asked why a second report was required. When they received no specific reason, the team's management sought the intervention of Dalmiya.
However, Dalmiya said that the BCCI was only going by the rule book. "I cannot do anything out of fear or favour. I cannot change a set of rules already in place for one person. What I can do is assure justice is done. That is what I told them (KKR)," Dalmiya told ESPNCricinfo.
One BCCI insider said the board was not discrediting the Loughborough report, but merely making their own assessment to be entirely convinced. "It is just a safeguard," he said. "And that is only good for a high-profile player like him. In case he gets called in the first match he plays, then it is not good for him. Not good for the team. Not good for the tournament."
He also stressed that being tested in Chennai did not mean Narine's action would continue to be clean. "The umpires could still call him, but we just want to be doubly sure. Will we deprive our own tournament of (missing out on) star value?"
The official insisted the BCCI was only following the stated policy which indicated that a bowler once called, would need to report to the Chennai centre. He said he could not understand why Knight Riders were so "apprehensive" about sending Narine to Chennai.
It is reliably understood that a few months ago, the BCCI wrote to Knight Riders that Narine could go to any ICC accredited centre with a caveat saying that in the unlikely event and for valid reasons, if the committee required him to come to Chennai, he should be ready.
So the BCCI gave their approval, but it was conditional. Having followed the BCCI rules, Mysore asked Dalmiya what exactly those "valid reasons" were, and questioned the concerns of the committee. The other argument was that the BCCI had never made it mandatory for Narine to only report to the Chennai centre and nowhere else. Dalmiya did not have any explanation, and said that going forward, any bowler found with a suspect action will have to report only to the Chennai centre.
Knight Riders' anguish is understandable considering Narine remains their most coveted player, having been their Player of the Tournament in the two years they won the title, in 2012 and 2014. The franchise failed to understand how Narine, at the time the No.2 bowler in the ICC's T20 and ODI rankings, was called despite having bowled with the same action throughout his career.
The BCCI, though, insisted they were not targeting any particular player. "If someone appears once, that does not mean he is immune from being called in future. What we have told them is there will no harassment of any kind," Dalmiya said.
When the umpires called Narine for the first time during the Champions League last year, three deliveries were reported suspect - all three were the quicker balls - in Knight Riders' final group match against Dolphins. But in the semi-finals, against Hobart Hurricanes, all 24 deliveries of Narine's spell were called suspect by the on-field umpires.
Consequently, Narine missed out of being part of the India tour and informed the WICB about handling the rehabilitation process on his own. Having played no competitive cricket since then, it came as a surprise when Narine was picked by Clive Lloyd's selection panel in West Indies' World Cup squad on January 11. Two weeks later, on January 25, Narine clocked his best bowling performance in List-A cricket, picking 6 for 9 to help Trinidad & Tobago to the NAGICO 50-over title with a victory against Guyana.
However, two days later, Narine withdrew from the World Cup squad. He did not want to rush back, and instead focused on remodeling his action, working with a very small group of coaches including former Pakistan offspinner Saqlain Mushtaq.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo