Fielder Russell a bonus for KKR as IPL final looms

With Abhishek's catch and Tripathi's run out, Dre-Russ displayed his athleticism on the field swinging the match Kolkata's way
Andre Russell (Photo | IPL)
Andre Russell (Photo | IPL)

AHMEDABAD: Kolkata Knight Riders' pacer Mitchell Starc might have walked away with all praise and deservedly so given his deadly opening spell against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL Qualifier 1 at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Tuesday night. But there were others who should be credited for the thumping victory as the two-time champions made it to the final for the fourth time in 17 years.

Be it their opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz or batters Venkatesh Iyer and Shreyas Iyer or Andre Russell - the fielder and the bowler. Starc had sent back Travis Head in the first over after SRH opted to bat but Abhishek Sharma's threat was still looming over KKR as it was the latter who punctured Punjab Kings bowling attack the other day to guide team to safety while chasing 200 plus target in Hyderabad. Unperturbed with the early departure of his opening partner, Abhishek tried to go aerial the next over, the second of the innings bowled by Vaibhav Arora but could not middle it properly. Russell at covers leaped and managed to get both hands at the ball, plucking it out of the thin air. The celebration said it all.

Speaking to the IPL website after the match, the West Indies all-rounder said, "You know starting the tournament this is what we set out for, there is no big set out, celebrations and emotions as we know the work is not complete. When a batter like him (Abhishek) hits a ball to you and gives you a chance, you can't give him a second chance because we all know how dangerous he is."

Dre-Russ, as he is fondly called, joined the Kolkata franchise in 2014 playing only two matches for the team in their title-winning campaign. Since then he has grown in stature with the outfit as he has now represented four of the Knight Riders owned franchises in various leagues across the globe. A destructive batter having an ability to hit the ball with incredible power apart from consistently bowling at 140 kmph, Russell is the most sought after all-rounder especially in T20 leagues. Given his prowess with the bat and ball, his athleticism on the field garners less attention.

Andre Russell (Photo | IPL)
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However, Tuesday was the day when the 36-year-old from Kingston, Jamaica decided to remind the cricketing world of his fielding brilliance. After Abhishek's dismissal, Rahul Tripathi led SRH's revival adding 62 runs off just 36 balls with Heinrich Klaasen for the fifth wicket. The South African got out thereafter but Tripathi was still around threatening to guide his team to a competitive total. It was then Russell made a brilliant stop on the field to get him out.

Abdul Samad cut a length ball outside off from Sunil Narine to the left of Russell at backward point. The fielder dived to his left, got both hands to it, made the stop and fired in the throw to the keeper even before he got up. Looking for a single, Tripathi realised the ball had been stopped but he was too late by then and left stranded halfway even as Samad ran past him.

The wicket turned the tide in Kolkata's favour as Hyderabad could add only 38 runs to their score thereafter to get bowled out for a modest 159 in 19.3 overs. And who else can do it better than Kolkata's own Russell as he got SRH skipper Cummins caught behind to wrap up the innings. "You know, me putting a full stretch drive whatever. I planned to throw my body around tonight. So even before we walked out I said to the guys let's leave everything on the field tonight, let's have no regrets like I could have dived, I could have bowled a different delivery there or I could have hit a ball there or whatever. I making that statement, I have to show it as well. So me running around, throwing my body around, dived, got my hands to the ball, quick reaction and the set batter which was Tripathi getting him out. I think that was the game changer," he said while talking about Tripathi's run out.

So far this season, Russell has scored 222 runs with an unbeaten 64 being his highest total. His strike rate of 185 is the second best for the team after Ramandeep Singh while 16 wickets from 13 innings is joint-third on the list of leading wicket takers.

When they take the field at Chepauk on coming Sunday, KKR will not only hope Russell the all-rounder to come good both with bat and ball but also throw himself around on the field to double his impact as he did against Hyderabad. 2014 was the season when KKR last won an IPL title with newcomer Russell too in the squad. But he hardly contributed to the triumph. This time, he might script his own story by becoming the architect of the win.

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