Andre Russell has been the X-factor for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL 2019. In the first two games against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab, the West Indies all-rounder showed his class by changing the game in the death overs with his power-hitting. The blueprint that Russell has followed in the first two games of the IPL has been simple – Take a few balls to settle down, target the best bowler in the length, forget the length, just see ball and hit ball. The plan worked against Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad. After being reprieved by Mohammed Shami courtesy a no-ball against Kings XI Punjab, Russell tore Andrew Tye apart and the onslaught made the difference.
Against Delhi Capitals at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Russell was confronted with a different situation. Kolkata Knight Riders were struggling at 64/5 after 10 overs and it needed a slight alteration in Russell’s blueprint of batting. Apart from the four above-mentioned factors, Russell had to gauge the situation and bail the side out. In normal circumstances, any batsman would have played cautiously and gotten his eye in. Not Russell. He added a new dimension to his batting, which was attack irrespective of the situation.
Russell showed his intentions by muscling Amit Mishra for a six over long off. Kolkata Knight Riders knew momentum was with them when the West Indies all-rounder decided to target Sandeep Lamichhane, the Nepal legspinner who had figures of 3-0-12-1 heading into his final over. After a boundary by Dinesh Karthik, Russell mauled Lamichhane over deep midwicket and another one straight down the ground for another massive six.
The match had swung decisively in Kolkata Knight Riders’ favour and Russell survived a scary moment when a beamer from Harshal Patel hit him flush on the left shoulder which required treatment. Harshal had inflicted some physical pain, but Russell decided to inflict some mental pain. A streaky inside-edge off Morris for a four to fine leg was followed with another huge six straight down the ground. Harshal came into the attack for the 16th over and on the last two balls, Russell blasted him straight down the ground, one 98 meters and one close to 100 meters to dent Delhi Capitals severely.
When Russell pulled Kagiso Rabada for a four to deep midwicket, Russell had notched a fifty off just 23 balls. It mirrored his earlier efforts in the IPL when he smashed a fifty off 19 balls against Chennai Super Kings in 2015 at the Eden Gardens and once again off 25 balls against Chennai Super Kings at the same venue and in the same year. After heaving a full ball to deep midwicket and squeezing a yorker to deep backward point, it seemed Russell would be unstoppable but his innings ended when he top-edged a short ball from Morris to be caught at long leg.
Russell’s display at the Feroz Shah Kotla unfurled a new side to his batting, which was calculated, brutal hitting and not just wild slogging. That is the power of Dre Russ in the IPL.