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Andre Russell: KKR MVP

Andre Russell: KKR MVP

Andre Russell : A complete Modern Day Cricketer

This Jamaican is certainly the MVP of T20 at this time if one goes by his performance. His T20 record speaks volumes of his capabilities. A total 2909 runs from 203 games at a more than acceptable strike rate of 165.56 in addition to his 180 wickets. Russell can hit hard with the bat and can trouble the batsman and then bounce him out as well. Russell’s rise in the shorter format has been phenomenal.

Russell’s first shot at the IPL was pretty disappointing. He was bought by Delhi Daredevils in 2012 for $450,000. He played seven matches in the next two seasons for mere 58 runs and a wicket. He was released from the squad before Kolkata Knight Riders picked him up in the 2014 auction for his base price of INR 60 lakhs. The franchise had invested in someone who had the potential but needed to be furnished.

With the Knight Riders, he played just two matches in first season for them. However, things changed dramatically for him in the Champions League in 2014. His side was up against Chennai Super Kings and their ship was sinking in a chase of 158. Russell walked in, hammered a 25-ball 58 and helped his team cross the line with three wickets in hand.

From emerging as the Most Valuable Player in the IPL last year, he has become a regular in leagues like Big Bash, Ram Slam T20, Pakistan Super League and the Caribbean Premier league and the all rounder has come a long way.

Russell’s job in the Knight Riders setup is to get the team those extra 10-15 runs and bowl the crucial overs at the beginning and at the death. It surely can’t be easy to justify the faith put in him by the team management match after match. It’s the kind of role only the best in the business are assigned, and it’s a role Russell does as well as anyone in cricket.

“I know my job is not easy. I know my job is very hard,” he said after his performance against Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday (May 4). “My job is to come and bat in the end and then come and bowl the first over. As a youngster, I want to leave behind a legacy. I want to set the bar as high as possible. I enjoy these challenges. I enjoy bowling when I know I can really win it for the team. I enjoy the pressure and just want to go from strength to strength.

“Playing in a lot of different parts of the world has a lot to do with my cricket. Being around [Jacques] Kallis or Wasim Akram, they teach me a few things about bowling. It has helped me widen my knowledge both when it comes to batting and bowling. Even a lot of guys in the team, I look up to. Once people know that I can hit fours and sixes and then bowl fast and get wickets, they’ll like me. I love to put a smile on the fan’s face.”

The Knight Riders don’t believe in chopping and changing a lot, proof of that is their opening pair. While the teams are struggling to find a settled opening pair, the two-time IPL champions haven’t changed their openers, Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, since 2014. They believe in nurturing the player. They made an investment in Russell two years ago and are now reaping the rewards for it. It has also helped Russell grow as a player as well.

“Being comfortable and knowing that I will play the next game, gives me a big confidence boost,” Russell acknowledged. “If I was in a situation where I knew that I have to do well to play the next game, then I would worry about my game and won’t perform the way I have. If I know that I’m going to play the next game, it doesn’t matter if I score runs or not, take wickets or not. It gives me a lot of confidence. I want to thank the coaching staff for having the confidence in me.”

From being an erratic bowler to becoming someone who is trusted to bowl the crucial overs. From pulling off stunners on the field to flaying bowlers at will – Russell clearly has made the shorter format his own and it won’t be surprising if he does leave a strong legacy when he decides to call it a day.

For now, he’s happy to play his part and put the smiles on the faces of the fans with his funky hairstyles and flamboyant play.

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