Don’t play Narine

Sunil Narine has been added to the West Indies squad for the final Test in place of the injured Kemar Roach. This has prompted a lot of excitement from some quarters, but I think it is misplaced.

Narine is, if not outright overrated, at least over-hyped. For all the suggestions that he is a brilliant mystery spinner with whom England will struggle, the reality is that he has only ever played one ODI series and that against a mediocre Australian batting line up on very helpful pitches. He has only played six first class matches and those are all in the West Indies. I don’t want to be unfairly cruel toward their first class system, but I think it is reasonable to suggest that those six matches were not a good approximation of Test matches. He has been picked purely on talent and whilst that is not a bad idea, it is not at all a justification for the hype surrounding him. He has got good turn and bounce when he has played, but again those have been on very helpful pitches. He has literally never played on a pitch that was not conducive to spin! He also has an Ajantha Mendis style ‘carrom ball’. To explain why one should not put too much stock in that, I surely need say no more than ‘Ajantha Mendis’.

Most of his hype seems to come from the IPL. I cannot count how many people have told me how he has befuddled international players in the IPL. It should go without saying that four overs with a white ball under floodlights on an Indian pitch are not even vaguely comparable to the conditions of a Test match.

The only decent argument for playing Narine is that Shillingford was very poor at Trent Bridge. He was quite possibly poor enough to be dropped and the West Indies have nothing, or at least little, to lose by trying out a young player. Whilst I can see the logic, it should be remembered that not only did Shillingford stay with his country for the home Tests against Australia, he took a Test ten-fer! Of course, he had the same help of opposition and pitch that Narine did in the ODIs, but surely that suggests that Shillingford is no worse a talent? One does not luck into a Test ten-fer. Shillingford played poorly at Trent Bridge, but he has done well enough in the past that it would be very harsh to drop him. More than anything else though, it sends the wrong message to the rest: Shillingford stayed with the team and did well for them, Narine left them to it in search of personal wealth. To drop the former for the latter would be to set a terrible example.

8 thoughts on “Don’t play Narine

  1. I have to say that I am excited that Narine is getting this chance, mainly because I am a Knight Riders fan. However, I think it is fair to say that Narine as at best untested and there is no guarantee that the success he has displayed in limited over cricket will translate to tests in England. This is an opportunity for Narine to prove his quality. We will just have to see how he does.


    1. This is a chance for him to prove himself, that is certainly true. My main concern is that he is not so good as to be picked, given the message that it would send.


  2. I’d say that you’re being unduly pessimistic about Narine. While some of the pitches in India are helpful, a lot are flat batting heavens, his figures in the IPL are truly extraordinary for that format. He turns the ball both ways, and gets good bounce, and even if conditions aren’t to his favour he’s very accurate so rarely goes for big runs.

    Also, he wasn’t central contracted and is yet to make his Test debut, so it’s very harsh to say he ‘abandoned’ his country for the IPL. If the West Indies had contracted him after the Australia ODI series they wouldn’t have had the problem. Who can really blame a young player for making the most of the opportunity?


    1. His IPL form is not at all relevant to his Test form. Flat pitch or no the conditions, dynamic and difficulty are worlds apart. There is absolutely no reason to look at he, or anyone else, succeeding in the IPL and assume it will carry over into the Tests.

      It was also made clear that he would be picked for the West Indies in the Test series if he made himself available. I can blame any player for choosing not to play Test cricket in favour of quick money, especially since there was time enough to do both.


      1. Most of the time IPL isn’t at all relevant to Test form, I agree, but in this case, Narine has been getting wickets not through defensive bowling, but by spinning the ball hard and subtle variations. It’s completley relevant. While the standard of West Indies first class cricket is low, and he hasn’t played many matches, he’s averaging 11.88 which is a ridiculous average.

        I’d like to see some proof he’d been told he would be picked if he made himself available. It seems an abnormally sensible position for the WICB to have taken.


      2. It’s not just about defensive versus attacking bowling, the entire set up is different. The field settings are different, changing the tactics. He only has to bowl four overs a match in the IPL, compared to the 20+ he will be expected to bowl in a Test match. If he happens to get hit around a bit in the IPL it’s not much of a problem, he can finish his four overs or someone else can bowl them, but either way it is not a sustained leak. He will be asked to consistently keep it tight in a Test match though and we don’t know if he is mentally tough enough to come back if he goes for a few early on. Picking him with a red ball in sunlight is a different matter to picking him with a white ball under floodlights. None of it is the same. None of it is comparable. If playing in a T20 could indicate Test form, Paul Collingwood would have been one of the best bowlers England had produced in recent times!

        There were discussions between Narine and the WICB before he made his decision ( and Gibson later talked about trying to assess how much his absence would hurt the Windies. If Narine was not going to be selected then there would have been no need for a discussion and Gibson et al could simply have said as much instead of talking about whether he would play in the IPL or not.


      3. I don’t see how any of that says that he would have been picked if he didn’t go to the IPL, he was being considered, but that doesn’t mean he is a certain pick. Leaving that aside, I really can’t begrudge him going to play the IPL given the money involved.

        I agree that obviously Test matches and T20 are hugely different, but he’s also proved his worth in 50 over international, and in First Class cricket, in every format he’s played in he’s been up the the challenge. I see no real argument against picking him for the Test team.


  3. I think it does say he was going to be selected, at the very least he was being very, very strongly considered. If nothing else he could have waited until the decision was made before going off, and indeed could have come back before the tour to England started to put himself in contention there. His contract was large enough that he could have still made a tidy sum only appearing in half the matches. But I honestly don’t care if it was all or nothing. I will always begrudge any player who chooses money, any money, over playing in a Test.

    He has not in any way proven himself in every format. He has played eight ODIs and a handful of first class matches, all on helpful pitches. That is not in any way proving himself in all formats, it is far too small a data size. I said all of that and more in the piece itself.


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