IPL 2023: Andre Russell – the big brother in the KKR camp
Dre-Russ, who has had an ordinary season with the bat in what has been a blow-hot-blow-cold season for the Knights this year, eventually revelled in his shinning armour
It’s not for nothing that the Kolkata Knight Riders fans have a special place for Andre Russell along with Sunil Narine in their hearts – notwithstanding their waning powers in recent years.
There have been a glittering array of overseas professionals who have enriched the history of IPL, but very few have enjoyed cult status like this Caribbean pair with their franchise. This type of bonding takes a long time to build - like with Dwayne Bravo for Chennai Super Kings, Kieron Pollard for Mumbai Indians or the incomparable AB de Villiers with the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Dre-Russ, who has had an ordinary season with the bat in what has been a blow-hot-blow-cold season for the Knights this year, eventually revelled in his shinning armour — bringing out from muscle memory three invaluable sixes in the 19th over against Sam Curran — to carve a five-wicket win against Punjab Kings at the Eden on Monday night. A 42 off 23 deliveries may pale in comparison with some of the manic hitting one is used to in recent times, but Russell the team man was satisfied to help his franchise live for another day.
‘’It had been a big team effort,’’ said the soft-spoken Russell at the press conference — naming spinners Varun Chakravarthy, Suyash Sharma, skipper Nitish Rana and of course Rinku Singh, KKR’s new saviour.
For a journeyman in the world of franchise cricket like Russell, the sense of involvement that he had shown for KKR is something that money can’t often buy. Only in their last home game against Gujarat Titans, the Jamaican had completed 100 matches for the franchise and was quick to point out the backing he had received from the management when he was down and out — be it a ban for violation of a doping code or a knee injury in 2019.
‘’When I got banned in 2017, I was depressed. I do not cry easily, but to see Venky Mysore (KKR CEO) take up the phone and say they were going to retain me through that time, water filled my eyes. They know me, that’s the thing about family. I owe this performance to them,’’ an emotional Russell had said after one of his memorable knocks during a prolific 2019 season.
The sight of a sulking Russell, sitting at the steps to the dressing room after failing to take his team over the line, has not been uncommon over the years — something which speaks volumes about the man. The ongoing season had hardly seen him in his explosive self (a modest 208 from 11 matches with Monday’s 42 as his highest score), but he remains at the core of the team’s think tank.
It’s still anybody’s guess if KKR can actually make it to the playoffs (they are now in the fifth spot with 10 points in a mid-table logjam), but one of their biggest takeaways from this season is the emergence of Rinku Singh. Waxing eloquent about their new finisher, Russell said: ‘’I get goosebumps at the way he is batting. He is very calm and has a simple technique. We get along extremely well and he can be an extremely funny guy — he is like my brother.’’
It’s not only Rinku, as Russell is the big brother that this entire KKR unit loves to have around!
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