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IPL 2019: How to crack the Andre Russell code

Andre Russell
Andre Russell

Andre Russell has wreaked havoc in this season of the IPL, scoring 312 runs from just eight matches at an almost unbelievable average of 78.00 and a strike rate of 213.69. The Jamaican all-rounder has taken his team to victory from almost unwinnable situations and is pushing the envelope as far as T20 cricket is concerned.

He is the true definition of what you call the most valuable player. Apart from making handy contributions with the ball, Russell wins you matches from strange situations with the bat and clobbers almost every bowler out of the park. Even balls which you call 'good' are nonchalantly dismissed 90 metres back over midwicket.

Neither the bouncer, nor the yorker or the cutter seems to work against him. As ball after ball sails over the boundary rope, all the opposition captain can do is to scratch his head and look around for the elusive solution.

A sensational IPL 2019

Russell smashed a breathtaking 19-ball 49 during Kolkata’s season opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Eden Gardens on 24 April. He then doubled up with a 13-ball 48 on Friday, 1 April, against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, slamming seven sixes and one four.

"We keep putting him (Russell) in tough situations and he keeps lifting his game. He is just too good. It is unbelievable and entertaining for us. He keeps doing it. He is a billion dollar man for KKR," teammate Chris Lynn said after the match against RCB.

In doing so, he has also undermined the concept of a safe score. Even if the team has to chase 250 or 75 runs are to be made in the last three overs, if Russell is in the zone, you stand a chance.

Not only has he tormented the bowlers while chasing, he has also played a massive role in setting up targets, against Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Capitals. While his 17-ball 48 helped KKR romp home to a comfortable 28-run win against the Kings XI, his 28-ball 62 against the Capitals allowed the Knight Riders to post a decent total on the board.

In the match against Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday, 9 April, Russell showcased a lesser seen side of his, notching up a calculated 50 off 44 balls as batters around him kept tumbling.

"You can’t see inside and say Russell is nervous. I am looking confident. I am looking in the bowler’s eyes and letting them know I am at the crease,” says Andre Russell; the words of a true West Indian.

Russell's phenomenal ability to find the boundary is unparalleled. Nobody who has faced 1000+ balls since he debuted can match his boundary percentage of 24.27 per cent. 

The noticeable chinks

But, even the best in the business have a weakness or two. The need is just to zero down on it and exploit it in the best way possible. After going through a slew of numbers and inning graphs, the conclusion is that his effectivity reduces considerably against balls pitched close to the offside tramline.

His tendency to plant his feet and hit from a solid base cuts down his options when the ball isn’t in his arc. So, for instance, if you bowl wide yorkers and pack the off-side field, you have a chance to succeed. His strike rate on balls pitched wide reduces to 145.95 as opposed to his average T20 strike rate of 169.01.

Secondly and more obviously, he has a weakness against spinners, specifically leg spinners and mystery spinners, like most big-hitters.

"He has some problems facing a turning ball. If the ball is turning, then he has a weakness. He does not take chances against spinners. He’s a terror for pacers," teammate and leading international wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav notes.

Russell scores at 10.86 rpo against pace and at 8.60 rpo against spin. However, he survives for an average of 14.6 balls against pace vis-à-vis 18.5 balls against spin.

His returns against leg spin are poorer. Russell scores at 8.56 rpo against leg-spin as compared to 12.23 rpo against all other bowlers in T20s.

So, the mantras are quite clear then, to survive the wrath of Dre Russ - yorker length, well outside off stump if you are a pacer; better still, a bit of loop, flight and mixing it up if you're a spinner.