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Indian Premier League 2019

Andre Russell – redefining T20 batsmanship, one six at a time

by Rishad D'Souza 4 minute read
Image credit – AFP

At the end of 17 overs in their IPL 2019 clash, Royal Challengers Bangalore were in cruise control, with Kolkata Knight Riders needing 53 runs to win from 18 deliveries – 13 legal deliveries later, Bangalore had succumbed to a five-wicket loss, courtesy of Andre Russell.

The big Jamaican flexed all his muscles as he cleared boundaries with utmost ease. His 13-ball stay featured seven sixes and a four as he blitzed to an incredulous unbeaten 48.

So fascinating was the knock that one might be tempted to brush it off as an anomaly, but Russell is increasingly threatening to make this form of batsmanship the gold-standard. He had dished out similar treatment to a more robust Sunrisers Hyderabad attack to help conquer an identical equation of 53 from the last 18 balls.

In four matches this season, Russsell has faced 77 deliveries from which he has scored 207 runs at an average of 103.50 while striking at a ridiculous 268.83. There have been 22 sixes off his bat, which amounts to an astounding rate of one maximum every 3.5 deliveries. He has also struck 12 fours.

Russell’s countryman Chris Gayle has been at the forefront of establishing the benchmark in T20 batting. In a prolific career spanning 374 matches across T20 leagues the world over, Gayle has cleared the ropes 917 times – a truly phenomenal record.

But Russell’s heroics are defying T20 conventions. David Warner and Jonny Bairstow – the two leading run-makers this IPL – have both struck at a rate of over 160 – typically considered an above-par figure. Yet, Russell’s scoring has been 60 percent faster than them.

It might still be soon to call Russell’s performances revolutionary, but it must be acknowledged that he’s laying the groundwork for what could spark a seismic change in batsmen’s attitudes.

Having just wreaked mayhem, one would have expected Russell to be over the moon in the moments after the match. Instead, he appeared calm and collected, almost as if to suggest he has already calibrated his self-expectations with these heightened standards. “I’m always confident,” he said in the post-match presentation.

“When I went out [Dinesh Karthik] was saying we need a few balls to see what the ball is doing, but I was watching on the telly from upstairs, so I knew what the wicket was doing. I wasn’t thinking about, ‘okay, I’m going to play this way or that way’. Just one mindset because we needed 60-odd runs when I went in.”

In an attempt to bowl yorkers to contain him, the RCB bowlers delivered a few low full tosses, which can be difficult to get under. Russell dealt with them expertly though, using his bottom-hand strength to produce elevation and distance from awkward angles. Such was the level of skill behind those shots, even Russell was at a loss of words when asked to explain how he did it.

“When I’m hitting those balls, I do short-hand jabs, because if the ball is coming fast you can’t extend your arm. If you extend your arm, you might get it high on the bat and stuff like that, so I do short-hand jab,” he said. “I can’t explain it, I only can show it in the middle.”

Russell has married natural strength with complex skill to redefine the scope of T20 batsmanship.

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