If you disregarded every ball Andre Russell faced this season that didn’t sail over the ropes, he’d still rank 13th in the run-scoring charts.
How can that be? Well, 234 of his 377 runs scored in the 2019 Indian Premier League have come purely in sixes. That’s a staggering 62 per cent. Factor in the 23 boundaries he’s hit as well and that figure rises to a phenomenal 92 per cent.
Running between the wickets is great and all, but when you can stand and deliver like Russell, why bother?
As it is, the West Indies all-rounder is the fourth-highest scoring batsman in the ongoing IPL campaign, just one run short of third-placed Virat Kohli. The fact that he predominantly operates as a power-hitter in the lower order makes his numbers particularly impressive. His average of 75.40 is the highest in the top 10 and a frightening strike rate of 220.46 is by far the most superior.
That’s precisely why it’s not ludicrous to suggest that Pawan Negi’s fielding on Friday might so easily have cost Royal Challengers Bangalore only their second win of the campaign.
In fairness to Negi, it’s hardly his fault. This is not in reference to another in a long series of dropped catches and misfields for RCB this season – indeed Marcus Stoinis added to that catalogue early on when he dropped Chris Lynn in the slips off Dale Steyn’s innings-opening delivery.
No, this is about a catch that was taken successfully, one which dismissed a faltering Robin Uthappa and brought a real threat in Russell to the crease.
Chasing 214, Kolkata Knight Riders found themselves reeling at 33/3 after five overs. It makes sense that Uthappa, along with Nitish Rana would decide to steady the ship but a steep and ever-climbing required run-rate meant that was a luxury they could scarcely afford.
The following five or six overs were excruciating for the home support as the pair poked and prodded their way through proceedings. While Rana belatedly switched gears and accelerated his own innings, Uthappa continued to struggle and Negi’s catch mercifully ended his misery with nine runs to show from the 20 balls he faced.
Another over or two with Uthappa in the middle might’ve put the game beyond even Russell and that further opens up the debate over ‘tactical’ dropped catches in T20 cricket.
As it were, Russell stepped in with 49 deliveries left and 135 runs required. It was an impossible scenario but with Russell in full flow and supported superbly by Rana, it quickly became RCB who were somehow staring down the barrel of an eighth defeat.
The Jamaican bludgeoned a panicking bowling attack for nine sixes and two boundaries on his way to 65 off 25 balls. What’s truly terrifying of the man’s ability is that his innings had a sense of routine about it while the three crucial dot balls Stoinis managed against him in the 19th over were deemed miraculous instead.
In the end, KKR fell just short of what would’ve been an extraordinary innings revival, one that may have eclipsed their successful chase against RCB at the start of the season when Russell played an unbeaten 48 off 13 deliveries.
His ruthless batting at Eden Gardens nevertheless redefined the parameters of may be classed as ‘impossible’ in T20 cricket – so long as he’s at the crease.
Chris Gayle has long been regarded as the most devastatingly explosive batsmen in IPL history and he’s been no slouch this season either. But if Russell can maintain his current form, there’s every chance he dethrones his compatriot and begins his own reign of terror.
As fans, watching the action is not the only thing to look forward to – IPL fantasy games mean you have the opportunity to get involved as well.
As the IPL’s official partner, Dream11 runs a daily contest for each game apart from the default format which is conducted per round.
Here, we focus on helping you navigate your way through the former.
Chris Gayle – Kings XI Punjab (10.5 credits)
One of the major reasons for Kings XI’s encouraging campaign so far has been the form of West Indies veteran Chris Gayle who is on course to better his 2018 tally of 368 runs by some distance.
The explosive Jamaican has already mustered 352 runs in the ongoing campaign at an average greater than 50 along with an impressive strike-rate of 155.
192 of those runs have come in Gayle’s three most recent outings and it is clear to see that the left-hander is a man in form.
26 sixes have already flowed from the opener’s blade this season and expect a few more of them to come at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
Most Man of the Match awards in IPL— JSK (@imjsk27) April 13, 2019
21 - Chris Gayle
19 - AB de Villiers
16 - Rohit Sharma
16 - Yusuf Pathan
16 - MS Dhoni
15 - David Warner#KXIPvRCB
Kagiso Rabada – Delhi Capitals (9.5 credits)
No matter what the circumstances and conditions on offer, Kagiso Rabada has managed to conjure up wickets with a remarkable rate of consistency in what is turning out to be the best-ever IPL campaign for the South African.
The young pacer has been outstanding in both the powerplays and in the death overs for Delhi this season with his bowling making the difference on several occasions.
Rabada was slightly expensive in his last outing but still managed to pick up two wickets which have taken his season tally to 19 in nine matches.
The runaway leading wicket-taker of the 2019 edition is picking up a wicket every 14 deliveries with his current strike-rate and that alone is enough reason to pick up in the Fantasy line up.
Ravichandran Ashwin – Kings XI Punjab (9 credits)
While he might not have made many fans with his ‘Mankad’ dismissal of Jos Buttler, there is no denying that Ravi Ashwin has left no stone unturned in his quest to take KXIP to the play-offs after the disappointment of the 2018 edition.
The Punjab skipper has been excellent both tactically and individually where he has chipped in with some vital contributions with both ball and bat.
The off-spinner has got limited opportunities with the bat but he has made it count big time with a strike-rate of 250.
With the ball, Ashwin has made full use of his enormous IPL experience and has contributed with 11 wickets which have come at a decent economy-rate of 7.44.
The pitch at Delhi has played slow all season and Ashwin can expect some decent purchase on the surface.
KL Rahul – Kings XI Punjab (10.5 credits)
While both KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant are excellent candidates for the wicketkeeping gloves, our nod goes to the man who made the cut for India’s 2019 World Cup squad.
Rahul’s World Cup call up is no surprise with the form the KXIP opener has shown in the ongoing IPL campaign. A prolific return of a ton and four half-centuries already in nine innings is nothing short of sensational with the right-hander on course to match his 2018 displays.
There has been a notable increase in the maturity in Rahul’s batting this season and the KXIP man has managed to adapt himself well to different situations.
Averaging nearly 65 with the bat, Rahul is an automatic pick for the wicketkeeper’s slot even though it is likely that Nicholas Pooran could take the gloves on Saturday.
CAPTAIN – KL Rahul
VICE CAPTAIN – Kagiso Rabada
The England all-rounder defended 24 runs off the final over under extreme pressure despite Andre Russell and Nitish Rana threatening to pull of a miraculous win for KKR to lead RCB to only their second win of the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) season.
The win just about keeps Bangalore’s slim hopes of making the play-offs alive and it arrived on the back of a fine batting display from Moeen and Kohli.
After a slow start by RCB’s batsmen at the Eden Gardens, Moeen changed the complexion of the game with his second consecutive fifty in the competition which came at an electric pace.
The left-hander struck six sixes and five boundaries in a 28-ball stay which saw him collect 66 runs before Kohli’s fifth-ever IPL ton helped Bangalore post a commanding 213-4.
“Our communication around the second time (strategic timeout) was to get about 175,” said a visibly relieved Kohli after his side’s tense win.
“A bit of luck went our way, and we never thought we would get 200 plus. Moeen took the momentum from them and landed it back in our lap. He said, ‘I’m going to go now’ and I just asked him to go for it.
“He targetted the smaller boundaries and gave us some momentum in those two to three overs.”
The RCB and India skipper also lauded the contribution of Dale Steyn on his RCB return after a gap of nine years. The South African pacer’s early spell with the new ball proved to be crucial with his two wickets inside the first five overs allowing Bangalore to tighten the screws until the 10th over mark.
“The ball travels quickly, and the pitch is hard, and Russell is hitting the ball as well as anyone I know has. But Steyn used his experience well, and that allowed (Navdeep) Saini to also follow up. Picking up wickets is crucial, and we did that today,” explained Kohli.
The win helped RCB join Rajasthan Royals on four points although they remain in bottom-spot after nine games. For Kolkata, it was the fourth straight loss and it leaves them languishing in sixth-spot with four wins from their nine games.