If Andre Russell is at his explosive best, Kolkata Knight Riders have few reasons to worry about.
The burly Jamaican looked a tad scratchy with the bat in most of the games this season and that did go on to hurt the Knight Riders. But on Monday at Eden Gardens, just when the Knights badly needed him to unleash those massive blows and be out there till the end, Russell (42 off 23 balls) stood up.
The 35-year-old KKR veteran flexed his muscle and brought about those trademark huge sixes that played a crucial role in his team’s five-wicket win over Punjab Kings.
Russell regaining his rhythm at the right time bodes really well for the Knights going into Thursday’s home encounter against a struggling Rajasthan Royals. Importantly, he has understood the need to try and read the bowlers’ mind and be prepared for the “bluffs” up their sleeves.
“It’s a part of the game where bowlers have their plans to bowl to me. We are not perfect, no human being is. So I know even though they have their plans, if they bowl a bit close to me, it’s in my zone. And if it’s a bit too wide, it’s a wide delivery.
“So I start at off-stump to try and counter that challenge. You can’t just stand there and expect every ball to be wide. Because these bowlers bluff at times and might bowl a straight delivery at the stumps.
“I remember last year I got bowled by Sam Curran behind because I was focused on every ball going across. Even though the bowler might set a field, as a batter, you can’t predict every ball to go away. You have to expect them to miss their yorkers and lengths,” Man of the Match Russell explained at the news conference on Monday night.
Rinku Singh (21 not out), too, was a vital cog in the Knights’ victory over Shikhar Dhawan-led Punjab. But that penultimate over where Russell tonked three maximums off Curran was critical.
Recalling what he was going through before that game-changing over, Russell said: “I was just thinking about geting three boundaries from that over.
“I was trying to make sure that we go into the last over requiring least number of runs as possible. I knew the left-arm seamer (Arshdeep Singh) is a very good death bowler. Two-three dot balls would put the pressure back on us.
“So I was definitely thinking about getting as many runs from that over.”
Keep it simple with Curran
Sam Curran. File photo
Calcutta: The tournament’s most expensive player might have been bogged down by the pressure of his price tag this IPL but Punjab Kings bowling coach Charl Langeveldt backed Sam Curran, calling the Englishman a “winner”.
Andre Russell roared back to form by smashing Curran for three sixes off four balls to turn the match in KKR’s favour on Monday.
But the South African coach said of Curran at the post-match news conference: “He’s a winner. You want to back him. He’s our senior bowler as well, you can have days like this.”
Curran, who became the most expensive player in the history of the IPL after being acquired by Punjab Kings for Rs 18.5 crore, leaked 20 runs in the penultimate over at the Eden to finish with 3-0-44-0. This season, he has just seven wickets from 11 matches with his economy at 10-plus.
“He’s one of those players who can come back and win us a game. It’s just about going back to the drawing board, keep it as simple as possible,” Langeveldt said.
Compatriot Kagiso Rabada has played just five matches this season as Punjab have preferred Nathan Ellis, and Langeveldt said it’s a no-brainer. “He’s been our go-to guy,” he added.