Mystery decision by the mystery spinner
Follow the Trace - Oral Tracey
The decision of West Indies off-spinner Sunil Narine to withdraw from the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup is as mysterious as the variation of deliveries he uses to bamboozle batsmen around the world.
Narine was called by umpires for a suspect bowling action during the Champions League T20 tournament in September last year. The fact that he was called while representing his Indian Premier League team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, means he has not yet been called in international cricket, which rules out the imminent danger of his being suspended if he were to be called again.
The wily mystery spinner opted at the time to stay in Trinidad & Tobago and do remedial work on his bowling action, but was out in full force after four months playing in the just- concluded regional Super50 tournament, helping his native Trinidad & Tobago to the title, including picking up a career best six wickets for nine runs in the final against Guyana.
Within days of that triumph, news came that Narine had withdrawn from the West Indies World Cup squad. The reason given is that he was not comfortable with his progress and needs to do more remedial work on his bowling action.
This is absolutely surprising, to say the least, since Narine was not called by the umpires during five games played in the regional tournament. He seemed to be in the form of his life and, of course, the event at hand is indeed the prestigious ICC Cricket World Cup, which is arguably the biggest international cricket stage, which comes around once every four years.
The worst-case scenario for Narine, if he decided to make the trip to Australia and New Zealand, would be that he gets called in the tournament, which would then become his first of two allowable calls in international cricket, before the possibility of suspension. That, to my mind, was a risk well worth taking in pursuit of World Cup glory.
Interestingly, Narine's withdrawal comes in the midst of the still-swirling controversy resulting from the exclusion of his fellow Trinidadians, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, in the wake of that now-infamous aborted tour of India.
Is it then far-fetched to ponder a connection between Narine's decision and that contentious and still-evolving scenario?
What is in absolutely no doubt is that Narine's action may serve to unveil another conspicuous index of the diminishing level of commitment of the modern Caribbean players to West Indies cricket.
Players of the status of Narine, Dwayne Bravo, Pollard, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith and André Russell are all big stars in the now-lucrative T20 open market.
These players simply do not need West Indies cricket to make a more than decent living.
This reality is reflected in what appears to be their general nonchalant attitude towards issues concerning the very institution of West Indies cricket, officialdom of West Indies cricket, and sadly, the fans of West Indies cricket.
Narine himself and Gayle have both refused to sign retainer contracts with the West Indies Cricket Board, choosing instead to exercise the option to play for the regional team, not when they are required, but when it is convenient for them to play.
END OF THE GLORY DAYS
Long gone are the days when the elite cricketers of the region would drop all they are doing and rally to the call, to do battle for the West Indies in international competitions such as the ICC Cricket World Cup.
This glaring lack of commitment is reflected in the level of pathetic performances we continue to get from these same players, if and when they decide to don the colours of the West Indies.
All things considered, I suspect that much more meticulous thoughts went into Narine's decision not to play in the World Cup than was initially suspected.
In the back of his mind, indeed at the forefront of his mind, could have been his several lucrative T20 franchise deals that may be put at risk if he were to go to the World Cup, get called for suspect bowling action again, and pick up a suspension.
Under those circumstances, it might have been quite understandable from a personal perspective for Narine to pull out of the World Cup, hence not much of a mystery decision.