Simon Katich, the Kolkata Knight Riders assistant coach, is confident that Sunil Narine has put behind him the issues he recently had with his bowling action. Narine was reported for a suspect action during the PSL last month, and while he was able to continue playing that tournament since he was only reported once, he will come into the IPL with a lot of eyes on him, given his long history of trouble with his action.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Katich said Narine had put plenty of work into his action since the PSL, and was in good shape to start in Knight Riders' season-opener against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday.
"Obviously there were some issues recently in the PSL where he was playing for Lahore [Qalandars], but he's since gone back to Trinidad and spent a lot of time with [spin-bowling consultant] Carl Crowe, working on his action," Katich said. "Carl's his coach, last few years he's been working with him since he first got reported. He's done a lot of hard work there, we're pretty confident with where he's at with the action at the moment, so hopefully we'll see him back out there on Sunday."
Narine was one of Knight Riders' standout players last season, not just with the ball. He played a key role as a pinch-hitter at the top of the order as well, ending the season with 224 runs at a strike rate of 172.30. Katich didn't rule out the possibility of Narine batting up the order this season as well.
"Last year, initially, he didn't open - we had Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn that opened, but then after game 2, when Chris Lynn hurt his shoulder, we had to rejig the team balance-wise," Katich said. "We felt that Sunny opening was going to give us an advantage with the balance of our team and also free him up to play a role at the top of the order, which he did a very, very good job of.
"He's primarily one of our main spinners, if not our number one spinner, but given the balance of our team, you never know where he's going to bat, so it all depends on what we feel the best combination is."
Ahead of this year's player auction, Knight Riders chose not to retain Gambhir, who captained them for seven seasons. He ended up going back to his hometown franchise Delhi Daredevils. Katich suggested his team had the resources to cope with Gambhir's absence, both as top-order anchor and captain.
"Obviously Gautam's a fantastic player, and made a lot of runs, lot of success here as captain. We feel that we have got some very good experience at the top of the order in that similar role that he played, where he'd bat through the innings," Katich said. "Obviously we've got Robin Uthappa back, and he's had a magnificent record in IPL, particularly here with KKR.
"He's probably in the top five all-time run-scorers in the IPL, so we feel we've already got a player like that at the top of the order, and you combine that with Lynn, and we feel that we've got a fair bit of experience at the top of the order. Obviously Chris has had injury concerns over the last couple of years, and we missed him a couple of times last year, but he seems to be fully fit at the moment and judging by his form in the practice games hopefully we're going to see some fireworks on Sunday."
Katich said Knight Riders had enough experienced players in their squad to help their new captain Dinesh Karthik settle into his job.
"First and foremost, his role will be to give guidance to this group, and I think he's got a lot of experienced players around him, particularly in our overseas group and also with guys like Robin and Piyush Chawla and these sorts of guys and Vinay [Kumar]," Katich said. "So in terms of the experience around him, he's going to get a lot of help there, and also it's our role as coaches to feed him with information, take the pressure off on gameday.
"So from that point of view, we just want him to go out there and to keep as well as he possibly can and continue that form he's shown for India recently. And he's a highly experienced player in the IPL. He's been playing for ten years, he's had a lot of success in this format, so from a captaincy point of view he's at the perfect stage of his career, at 32 years of age, to really grab the opportunity. He's done it for Tamil Nadu, had a fair bit of success there, and we see that as being a bonus for us."