Quiz question: What did Rohit Sharma and Sohail Tanvir achieve in the World T20 in Bangladesh that no other player did? Answer: They were the only two batsmen to hit sixes - one each - off Sunil Narine's bowling in the entire tournament. Rohit's six came off the first legitimate delivery that Narine bowled in the tournament: the first ball of his opening over, the sixth of India's innings, was a front-foot no-ball, and the resultant free hit was a full toss that was smashed over long-off. After that inauspicious start to the competition - seven runs off one ball - Narine conceded only 85 more in the remaining 19.5 overs he bowled, an economy rate of 4.29. That's marginally higher than his career ODI economy rate of 4.19, and way better than what any other bowler managed in the tournament.
By the time a batsman had the audacity to hit him for another six, West Indies had already sealed their semi-final berth: when Tanvir deposited him over midwicket, Pakistan had slipped to 42 for 6 in the 12th over in chase of 167, and the match was as good as over. Mushfiqur Rahim and Glenn Maxwell hit Narine for fours in the tournament, but Mushfiqur's boundary came in another hopeless chase - Bangladesh were 51 for 4 in the 10th, chasing 172, while Maxwell's was a genuine edge that beat the fielder at slip. In the semi-final, Narine was the only West Indian bowler to not concede a four or a six.
His ability as a Test bowler remains iffy - despite having taken six in an innings in the last Test he played - while his last couple of years in ODIs have brought him modest returns: 32 wickets in 29 matches at an average of 35.62 and an economy rate of 4.49. However, in 20-over cricket Narine remains a formidable force, and batsmen still haven't figured out a way to score runs off him without taking undue risks.
Over the last three years, Narine has played 112 T20 matches - including internationals - and has done consistently well in almost all the tournaments he has played. The only one in which he has conceded more than a run a ball is the Big Bash League, where he has gone at 6.80 per over and taken only one wicket in 20 overs. Apart from that he has been outstanding in all tournaments, and has gone at less than 5.50 runs per over in the Caribbean T20, IPL and the Champions League.
* Excludes 10 matches for which ball-by-ball data wasn't available
In the 2014 World T20, Narine had an economy rate of 4.60. Among instances of bowlers bowling at least 18 overs in a World T20 - and there are 96 such - Narine's in this tournament is the only case of a bowler going for less than five runs an over. The next best is Shahid Afridi's economy rate of 5.32 in 2009, while there are two other performances from 2014 in the top five - R Ashwin (5.35) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (5.42).
With Samuel Badree the other trusted spinner in the line-up, West Indies had a fairly predictable way of using their two spinners: Badree mostly bowled upfront with the new ball, while Narine came in a little later, bowling in the middle and end overs. He bowled only three overs in the Powerplays, and all of those were the sixth over of the innings. The first of those three overs went for 10, against India when Rohit hit him for that six, but thereafter two Powerplay overs cost him only eight.
In the middle overs he was very economical, and even when he came back during the slog overs, he didn't go for too many. He bowled four times in the 16th over of the innings and conceded a mere 11 runs, while two overs in the 18th went at a run a ball.
Overall in the tournament, Narine conceded a grand total of two sixes and as many fours in his 20 overs, which is an average of one four or six every 30 balls. He didn't concede more than one four or six in any game, and didn't go for a boundary in the semi-final against Sri Lanka. The rate of 30 balls per boundary conceded was the best in the tournament, by far: with a cut-off of 15 overs bowled in the main stage of the competition, the next-best was Imran Tahir's 17.14 balls per four or six, with Sachithra Senanayake third with an average of 14.57.
Overall in his career, Narine has conceded a four or a six once every 11.54 balls, on average. With a 75-over cut-off in T20 internationals, only three bowlers - Daniel Vettori, Harbhajan Singh and Graeme Swann - have done better in this aspect.
Coming back to the 2014 World T20, Narine didn't just contribute by bowling his overs cheaply; his restrictive bowling also resulted in wickets falling at the other end when he was on. Narine himself took only six wickets in the tournament, but during the periods when he bowled, nine wickets fell at the other end. The other bowlers also went for plenty of runs, conceding 8.70 runs per over to Narine's 4.60, but they took more wickets, as the batsmen probably wanted to make up for Narine's quiet overs by attacking the bowler who bowled the next over. Badree took four of those nine wickets, including three in an over against Bangladesh. Andre Russell nabbed three, while Krishmar Santokie took two. Credit to the bowlers too for these dismissals, but chances are the one bowling at the other end had a role to play in at least some of those successes.
Narine and the 20-over format seem perfect for each other. Kolkata Knight Riders, his IPL franchise, will want that to continue at least a couple of months.