Sunil Narine a lion in his own den
West Indies' improved performances at home in ODIs, in the last year or so, has coincided with the emergence of Sunil Narine as their leading spinner in International cricket. By 2000, when the last of their feared breed of fast bowlers retired, and for much of the time since then, spinners were only in the West Indian squads to carry out the perfunctory role of the fifth bowler. Narine has changed all that. With 52 wickets from 31 matches, he has been their leading wicket-taker in ODIs since his debut in December 2011.
Narine has won three Man-of-the-Match awards since then, with two against New Zealand, and one against Australia. He also won the Man-of-the-Series award for his bowling performance against New Zealand in the aforementioned series - the first ODI Man-of-the-Series award by a specialist West Indian spinner since Lance Gibbs won in the Prudential Trophy in England in 1973. Narine earned the award by taking 13 wickets against New Zealand. This is the most a West Indian spinner has ever taken in a bilateral ODI series.
In home matches, Narine has provided the West Indies attack with much needed penetration. With Narine applying pressure at one end, the West Indian bowlers have been far more effective. In 13 ODI matches at home, their average, strike rate and economy have all improved significantly, as the table shows below.
|West Indies||Mat||Overs||Mdns||Runs||Wkts||BBI||Avg||Econ||SR||5 Wkt|
|Since Narine's debut||13||225.5||14||868||41||5/27||21.17||3.84||33.0||1|
|5-yr (before debut)||51||621.2||27||2,857||78||4/36||36.62||4.59||47.7||0|
Narine's performances against New Zealand in the bilateral ODI series at home was clearly his best. He captured 13 wickets at an average of 11.23 from five games against them. This included a five-wicket haul in the last game of the series at Basseterre. The first such haul by a West Indian spinner in almost ten years, and the best bowling returns by a West Indian spinner in ODIs.
Narine's contribution in the series against Australia was telling. West Indies managed to draw an ODI series at home against Australia for the first time since 1999. Narine's four-wicket haul in the second game of the series helped his team beat Australia for the first time in eight matches at home.
Statistically, Narine has clearly been the best spinner West Indies has produced. His average of 22.09 and economy of 3.96 are the best among West Indian spinners who have bowled at least 50 overs in ODIs. In home games, he is clearly ahead of the next best West Indian spinner in terms of bowling average. His average of 14.79 is much better than Jimmy Adams' 20.15, which is the second best.
Sunil Narine has also been the best spin bowler in ODIs, among all teams, in the West Indies. He has taken 29 wickets in 13 matches at an average of 14.79. His economy of 3.35 and strike rate of 26.4 are also the best among spinners who have played at least ten matches in the West Indies.
However, Narine loses some of his incisiveness in alien conditions. His average and strike rate come down to 31.30 (14.79 at home) and 42.2 (26.4 at home), respectively. His record against Australia - who are the only team he has played both home and away - shows that his effectiveness as an attacking bowler is greatly reduced in away matches. His strike rate doubles when he plays Australia in Australia, while his average goes up to 34.4, as opposed to a brilliant 14.5 when playing at home. He has managed to keep the Australian batsmen in check, though, with an economy of 4.0.
That he has been less lethal bowling in Australia than at home, can be seen by his performance against Australian batsmen who have played him both home and away. Matthew Wade has found Narine difficult irrespective of the conditions, while Shane Watson and George Bailey have negotiated him better in Australia.
|In Australia||In West Indies|
The West Indies tri-series will be the first time Narine bowls to Sri Lankan batsmen in ODIs, while his record against Indian batsmen, who are also featuring in the series, should give him confidence. He has taken five wickets against these Indian batsmen at an average of 17.4 and a strike rate of 26.8. Both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have been dismissed by Narine twice in three matches.
During this series, Narine will be bowling against some of the better players of spin bowling. Some notable performances will only enhance his reputation as a leading spinner in the ODIs, for the subcontinent batsmen will not be discouraged by the local pitches, which are similar to home. To Narine's advantage, he will be playing in conditions he has produced his best in.
Shiva Jayaraman is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo