IPL 2019: Russell calls for flexibility in KKR's batting order following narrow loss to RCB

Sudhir Gupta 20/04/2019
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Russell and Nitish Rana. Image - @KKRiders/Twitter.

Andre Russell feels that he can bat much higher up the order for Kolkata Knight Riders after his late assault on Friday was unable to prevent a 10-run defeat against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The loss was the fourth straight one for KKR in the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign and it left Dinesh Karthik’s men languishing in sixth spot in the table.

Chasing a daunting 214 for victory, Kolkata gave Bangalore a royal scare with Russell and Nitish Rana almost pulling off an improbable chase for the hosts at the Eden Gardens.

Russell struck 65 runs from just 25 deliveries with the help of nine sixes and two boundaries while Rana remained unbeaten on 85 (46) but the late arrival to the crease of the former played its part in KKR falling just short.

The Windies all-rounder only arrived at the crease at the end of the 12th over when Robin Uthappa became the fourth Kolkata wicket to fall. By the time Russell walked in to bat, the required rate for the hosts had already started shot up above 15 runs an over and that proved to be too big a mountain for even him to climb.

“Look, we were chasing 214 runs and weren’t in the best state when I went out to bat,” the KKR star man said after the narrow loss.

“When Nitish asked what I thought, I said ‘I bat one way – and that’s positive.’ But to go out there and chasing 14-15 per over, it’s not the best way you want to start as a batsman.

“I’m used to these situations, but why I say it’s a sweet and sour feeling is because we need to learn from this, as a team. We need to learn that we can get 214. And to lose by 10 runs, well, we were just two hits away.”

When asked if he should be batting higher up the order at No4, Russell replied, “I believe that.”

“Honestly, you have to sometimes be flexible as a team. When you look at the make-up of our team, I don’t mind going to bat at No4,” he added.

Russell and KKR will hope to reignite their campaign on Sunday when they take on last season’s runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad in an away clash.

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IPL 2019: KKR's power-hitting phenom Andre Russell destined for reign of terror

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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.

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IPL 2019 Fantasy: KL Rahul and Kagiso Rabada among top picks for Delhi Capitals vs KXIP

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Rahul is averaging nearly 65 with the bat. Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

The 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) season heads into match 37 with Delhi Capitals set to host Kings XI Punjab in the second game of Saturday’s double-header.

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.

BATSMAN

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.

BOWLER

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.

ALL-ROUNDER

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.

WICKETKEEPER

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

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