Kolkata: Hitting out at Sunil Narine’s critics, Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir on Saturday said the West Indies off-spinner was a quality bowler who has handled himself very well under tremendous pressure.
Narine returned impressive figures in a four-wicket haul when KKR bowled.
“I’ve always said he’s the leader of the attack. People can talk whatever they want to — I read somewhere that his ‘mystery was solved’ and things like that. All that matters is that he’s not a mystery bowler, for me he’s a quality bowler. Mystery will eventually get solved but a quality bowler will always do well under any circumstances,” Gambhir said at the post-match news conference at the Eden Gardens.
After the match between Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 22, the on-field officials reported a number of Narine’s deliveries as suspect as he underwent fresh tests immediately and was cleared to bowl all his deliveries expect the offbreak, which was deemed illegal.
On April 29, Narine underwent a re-test on his offbreak, which was banned by the BCCI, and was cleared on May 6 as he was immediately drafted in KKR’s match against Delhi Daredevils and conceded 30 runs without any wicket.
Narine had a quiet season so far with two wickets from six matches but his best this season came today against KXIP in his seventh match.
Saluting Narine’s fighting spirit, Gambhir said: “The kind of pressure he was in, the way he handled himself in the last one and half months is unbelievable.”
“The way he came back in this tournament especially in today’s game after whatever has happened shows the character and mental toughness of the person. Obviously it’s a great feel to get back your leader of the attack. I felt that it’s just the start of something special which he would do very soon.”
Having climbed atop the table, KKR (15 points from 12 matches) might have put one step into the playoffs but Gambhir said they’re focused won winning their remainder two matches in Mumbai.
“A champion side is one who does not think much about qualifying. They keep thinking about winning each and every game. We’ve got four days off now. We can go and relax and come May 14 at 8pm, we would be ready to take on Mumbai in Mumbai.”
Gambhir however indicated that the two-time defending champions were eyeing a top-two finish for an easy passage to the final.
“We’re still trying to win as many games as we can and finish top two. It’s all that matters. The business end of the tournament has just started. We just want to keep playing good cricket.”
Fielding was atrocious as KKR dropped as many as five catches but the captain backed his boys and blamed it on the high heat and humidity during the afternoon.
“It does not matter. It was one of those days when things did not go our way on the field. We’ve been working hard on our fielding. It’s not that the guys are not putting effort on the field. They’re trying their level best.
“This is such a format and things like this do happen. It was very hot out there in the afternoon. I’m not making any excuses. I expect them to give 100 per cents and they’re doing that. As human beings the mistakes bound to happen. A good side will always keep improving,” he said.
At 83/4 after 11 overs, KKR’s chase of 184 had been derailed but Gambhir said their batters did not give up and the wicket was sporting.
“With the firepower we have in our batting, we always felt if we played till the end we would chase the total.”
He further said people should stop calling the Eden Gardens a slow turner.
“We always felt it’s going to be a good wicket to bat second. It was a flat-flat wicket. People should now stop talking about the Eden track being slower and turner. It was a very good wicket to bat on. It gets better under lights.”