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Russell’s fitness a concern

RCB bank on Steyn, Saini
KKR captain Dinesh Karthik at the Eden on Thursday.
KKR captain Dinesh Karthik at the Eden on Thursday.

A Staff Reporter   |   Calcutta   |   Published 18.04.19, 09:41 PM

Long before Virat Kohli and the other Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) players had made their way into Eden Gardens, an unassuming young man had managed to sneak into the lower tier of the Club House.

Tintu Behera from Behrampore had waited patiently to catch a glimpse of the India and RCB captain. With his idol’s face and shirt number tattooed all over his body, he wanted to take a close look at Kohli.


As he emerged from the Eden turf after nets late on Thursday afternoon, Kohli stopped for a moment after noticing the 28-year-old in the motley gathering. A meaningful smile crossed his lips before he trudged back to the dressing room.

But the day was made for Tintu, who has spent several thousands to tattoo his favourite player’s image on his body.

So, Friday will be about divided loyalties at the Eden: Kohli on one side and home franchise Kolkata Knight Riders on the other.

While a victory for the Royal Challengers will provide the much-needed boost to their dipping fortunes, Dinesh Karthik and Co. will hope for a win to climb up in the standings after having dropped to sixth position due to three consecutive defeats.

More importantly for the Knights, it is the fitness of Andre Russell that is a cause for worry. The Jamaican star injured his left shoulder during practice on Wednesday and didn’t turn up for the match-eve session.

The Knight Riders captain, though, made it clear that Russell was in their plans for Friday’s match. “He’d got a preliminary X-ray done yesterday (Wednesday) and it’s not even been 24 hours… By tomorrow we’ll get a better idea as to how he’s feeling,” Karthik said.

The visitors will also be keeping an eye on Russell’s availability. The scars of the Chinnaswamy must be fresh in their memories after Russell had initiated a turnaround with a 13-ball 48 not out that singed their hopes.

Bowling coach Ashish Nehra, however, tried to put up a brave front. “As a cricketer, I would like to see him playing and our bowlers doing well against him and getting him out. Fans also want to see good cricket. It’s not for Russell to hit big sixes every time,” Nehra said.

In case Russell fails to recover in time, Carlos Brathwaite is likely to take his place in the XI. Russell’s absence will surely be felt as the hosts try to overcome the pitfalls of batting first.

The Knight Riders, for the record, have failed to defend totals on every occasion and won while chasing targets. Karthik appeared to offer a pragmatic view on the issue.

“See, I think you have to understand that a lot of the games that were won have all come batting second. The phenomenon has been set in such a way that most targets that have been set have been achieved.

“Having said that, I’m not going to shy away from the fact that we can definitely bat a little better and ball a little better as well,”Karthik explained.

The Royal Challengers, on the other hand, will be encouraged by the inclusion of Dale Steyn. The fast bowler’s presence will provide them the extra yard of pace that will be much needed on the hard Eden wicket.

In the company of Navdeep Saini, they will be able to provide a good challenge to the Knight Riders.

The Royal Challengers’ batting hasn’t been much of a problem, though, with the likes of Kohli and AB de Villiers being in good touch. De Villiers didn’t come for practice on Thursday, but if the pair get going, it will be tough for the hosts to wrest control. The atmosphere and the occasion might just spur them on.

But one Andre Russell can alter all equations. No doubt Karthik and Co. will spend the night fretting over his fitness.

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