Shane Shillingford is bowling for the West Indies in this Test.
Shillingford has that same pushing-back-at-an-imaginary-person-trying-to-hug-him that Harbhajan Singh does. He gets good bounce. Has a first-class bowling average of 25. Experience over many years of cricket. Has a ten-wicket haul in Test Cricket. Will one day have a stand named after him.
He’s not Sunil Narine.
Sunil Narine has never played a Test, but will probably make more money out of cricket over the previous few weeks than Shillingford ever will. Right now more people are clicking on Narine’s ESPNcricinfo profile, the one that shows his Mohawk well as he smiles cheekily, than have probably ever looked up Shillingford’s profile (which is him looking rather uncomfortable and like he was taken by surprise).
Shillingford was overlooked for the first Test for a debutante; there is not an attack in world cricket that would overlook Sunil Narine right now.
Shillingford is a workhorse, there’s no magic, mystery or mayhem about him. That doesn’t mean he isn’t good. But he’s good as in handy, not good as in Narine.
Narine has tricks that Shillingford will be able to talk about, but probably never replicate. But it isn’t just the tricks that Narine has, his magical mystery ball is amazing, but his normal offspinning delivery is at the moment the best spinning stock ball in world cricket. It bites, and bounces. And even when his carom ball (which if you can pick it, does very little at all) does get worked out, Narine will still be world class.
The best spin bowlers use tricks to confuse batsman who can’t pick it from the hand and embarrass the tail, but it’s the stock ball that you need if you want to be a Warne, Murali or Kumble. Narine is a long way from joining this company, and while his stock ball is far better than that of the last mystery phenom, Mendis, once people pick your trick ball, that’s when it really gets tough for bowlers.
Shillingford’s stock ball is okay. It’s certainly not horrible, and when he’s on a helpful surface he can bowl for an amazing amount of hours and take quite a few wickets. On a surface like this, against a team who is willing to attack him, he looks a bit out of his depth.
In this Test so far, Shillingford is going at 4.7 an over. In the 2012 IPL so far, Narine has so far gone for 5.2 an over.
Today Narine will be watched by close to a billion people, Shillingford by only million or so. One playing for his country. One playing for his financial future.
I hope Narine plays a blinder for Kolkata Knight Riders, wins the IPL and sets up his entire future in one night. But more than that I hope as soon as humanly possible he plays for his region in a Test match.
West Indies have more than a few well-meaning workhorses who are helping them put in slightly improved performances, now they need some magic. And right now, that’s Narine.