After coach Trevor Bayliss, Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir has come out in support of mystery spinner Sunil Narine, who was barred from bowling due to 'suspect' action in the final of the Champions League Twenty20 against Chennai Super Kings on Saturday.
Without Narine, the Kolkata attack lacked teeth and the IPL champions went down to the Super Kings by eight wickets despite scoring a solid 180 for six. Narine was reported twice in the course of the Champions League Twenty20 and according to tournament rules, the West Indian off-spinner was not allowed to bowl further.
However, Gambhir who has been lauded for using Narine smartly in a heavily batsman-dominated format, came out in support of his star wicket-taker and insisted he would continue to remain an integral part of the Kolkata team.
"Narine is, was and will always be an integral part of KKR and the entire squad will stand behind him and I hope he can come back as a stronger human being and can achieve much bigger heights than he has achieved in the past," Gambhir told ESPN Cricinfo.
Narine was also withdrawn from the West Indies' tour of India in a clear attempt to let him focus on taking his mind away from the controversy ahead of the World Cup. Had Narine been called in India, the West Indies' chances at the mega event early next year could have been seriously jolted. Saeed Ajmal of Pakistan and Sri Lanka's Sachithra Senanayake are already serving bans after being reported for incorrect actions.
Narine, according to some experts, was walking a tight rope when he did not pay heed to the first warning. His action was initially reported after KKR's victory over the Dolphins on September 29 and Gambhir admitted to being shocked.
"The only thing I can say at the moment is it's a tough time for him, but he's a strong character. I had a long chat with him after the game and I told him he needed to get this monkey off his back because he himself doesn't know if there's anything wrong with his action," Gambhir said.
"The good thing is now he will get to know whether there is actually a problem in his action. If there is any, he will try to sort that out and come back a stronger human being and a stronger character as well. He could take all that pressure and be a much better bowler as well."
These have been difficult times for off-spinners. Ajmal, Senanayake, Narine and Mohammad Hafeez are now all under the scanner. All of them are key to their team's success and will no doubt play crucial roles in the World Cup, irrespective of the nature of the pitches in Australia and New Zealand.