Every year, the Indian Premier League throws up its share of stars and superstars. For a few, those 15 minutes of fame are the only ones they experience on a big stage. For others - such as Shane Watson in 2008 - it can be the launchpad to even bigger and better performances worldwide. Amongst the top performers in IPL 2012, there is one man who seems destined to become a household name for years to come. Sunil Narine generally prefers to let the ball do the talking, but he did make an exception for Wisden India, speaking on a range of topics, including his so far unreadable bowling.
Let's start with the obvious question. You were in contention for a Test spot for the West Indies but you chose to come and play the IPL. Was it a difficult choice? What was behind the final decision?
I mean for one thing, if you think about the allotted amount that they are paying for me, it's quite high, and I have family to think about. I talked to the selectors and they were pretty okay with me coming to India and playing. It was good that I had their backing.
So there was no problem with the selectors or with Darren Sammy (West Indies captain) and Ottis Gibson (coach)?
No, they were all happy for me.
There have been a lot of issues with players and the West Indies Cricket Board. Are you happy with the way they are running the game in the Caribbean?
I wouldn't want to comment much on that.
Can you tell me something about your early years? Who noticed you and mentored you?
In my early years, there was a coach called Sammy, from Trinidad. He used to give me the opportunity to do anything I wanted. He pushed me a lot at youth level, and that's why I am where I am now.
And when did you first get noticed? Did the Champions League Twenty20 in 2011 play a big part?
In the West Indies, it was the Caribbean Twenty20 tournament two years ago. That probably got me to the notice of the West Indies selectors, and then the Champions League last year was a bigger picture for me. So yes, the Champions League brought me more recognition.
Earlier, you had to go to the Western Australian Cricket Academy to get your action corrected. Can you talk me through that? What happened?
It wasn't that much, it was a good learning experience. Even though I had gone to correct my action, we used to talk plenty about cricket. So that's how I took it - I didn't take it as a test, I took it as a learning experience so that I'd be more motivated to do it.
What changes did they want you to make in your action?
There weren't really many changes. My action hasn't changed much from then.
Staying with your action, when you are running in, it appears as if the grip will be easily visible to the batsman, and yet nobody seems to be able to read you. You hold the ball up so whoever's batting should be able to make out how you're holding it, but nobody has...
I wouldn't really want to talk too much about my grip... but what I can say is I try to delay it a little bit (holding the ball the way it will be released). So it will be harder for the batsman, and hopefully I can continue doing a little more with the ball and be hard to play for a long time.
Do you rely on variations, or more on sticking to a consistent line and length?
It depends on the batsman.
How do you plan a batsman's dismissal?
I look at his strengths and weaknesses. For example, against Rajasthan Royals, the plan was to bowl to (Owais) Shah a little bit closer and not give him any room. And hopefully he makes his mistake. When West Indies were playing Australia in the ODIs, the plan against Matthew Wade was to bowl close and spin the ball away, because he doesn't really like it. So, it was just to bowl close and then try to move one a little wider for the drive.
Narine was incredibly successful against Wade in the five-match ODI series between West Indies and Australia in March 2012. He bowled to Wade in four of the ODIs, and off the 20 balls Wade faced off his bowling, he was dismissed thrice, and could score just two runs.
I know you once took all ten wickets in an innings at a younger level. What's been your most memorable bowling spell so far?
That would probably be my most memorable one. It was a trial match to be selected for the Trinidad senior team in 2009. I still can't believe I got all ten wickets. That got me noticed in Trinidad.
What do you work on in order to deceive a batsman?
Well, I don't really ensure that they don't see my hand. I just do my normal action and hopefully they don't see it. It's not that I try to deceive them. It's just that that's the way I bowl and they are not picking it up. Hopefully, in time to come it will continue, or I will have to probably hide the ball when running in to bowl!
You must have played your share of matches on pitches that are completely batting-friendly. What's your game plan on those types of pitches?
I vary my pace and my lengths according to which batsman I'm bowling to. Not all days will be the same, so I just try to bowl as good as I can. Hopefully I can continue having success, and when I don't I can rebound to as good as I have done earlier. I don't think I bowled very well in my first match for KKR, but coming back and helping my team win was a good achievement.
You're playing in a team with people from all sorts of backgrounds. How difficult or easy was it to adjust to the environment?
I don't think it's that hard, because I must say the managers and teammates are very helpful. They are very cool and it's not hard to adjust when you are welcomed. So I must thank KKR for welcoming me into their team. I've been made very comfortable and at home, so it's not much of an adjustment that I had to make.
When you were growing up, or even now, which format do you consider to be the ultimate format of the game? Is it Tests?
Yes, as a youngster coming up the ranks, my dream was to play Test cricket and it's still my dream. So hopefully, I'll get a chance one day and I can play Test cricket for a lot of days to come.
Do you think Tests are under threat right now?
No I wouldn't say that, because there are a lot of cricketers who want to play Test cricket. I think Test cricket is still very alive; it's just that more people come to watch Twenty20 cricket. But I don't think Test cricket will ever die out.
So you don't think Twenty20 cricket or the IPL in particular, is going to harm Test cricket?
I don't think so because I think they are trying to make room so that it won't clash or harm anybody. I think that's something they are working on, so we will see how it goes in the future.
You have shared the dressing room with several colourful characters whether with West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago or KKR - Any interesting anecdotes to share which an ordinary fan would not know?
I am more the quiet type in the dressing room. Bravo, Pollard and those guys are more colourful. So I don't really have any anecdotes!
Saurabh Somani is Assistant Editor, Wisden India