In the fast lane of round-the-year cricket, an all-rounder is possibly the most difficult role to land. But Andre Russell has pulled it off with distinction. Neither limp with the ball nor cold with the bat, he is one of those athletes who can be trusted to man the cover boundary or catch whatever comes his way.
Once a wicketkeeper in his junior days, Russell also doesn’t forget to mention the positives taken from a lost match or the chilled out environment where he can drink, dance and party, sometimes with the team co-owner, irrespective of the result.
The results have been good for Russell in the past two months --- first with the World T20 and now taking Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to the top of the IPL table with the bat and ball in two successive matches. For all the success, the margin of error for Russell is smaller compared to his teammates. Either coming in to bat with five overs left or opening the bowling and finishing it, he doesn’t have the luxury of time.
Russell doesn’t mind the pressure. “I don’t have a problem batting the last five overs once the runs are on the board. That would give me the confidence to go from ball one, try and get as much as possible for my team. At the end of the day, I would appreciate if I get more time to bat, but so be it. I’m happy being part of this team,” he said after bowling KKR to a narrow win against Kings XI Punjab in Kolkata on Wednesday.
While the spectators can get a measure of the distance Russell hits a ball beyond the boundary, the speed gun reveals that the Jamaican can also touch 145 km/hr with the ball. Russell feels his quest to become a genuine all-rounder is helped by playing in different leagues around the world and also learning a thing or two from Jacques Kallis and Wasim Akram at KKR.
“It helps me widen my knowledge of batting and bowling. There are lot of guys I look up to, key players that give me the confidence to perform the way I am at the moment. Once people know that I can hit sixes and fours and then bowl fast and get wickets, I love to do that,” he said.
Russell’s biggest comfort though stems from the fact that he is possibly the only overseas player in KKR assured of playing every game regardless of his performance. “If I was in a situation where I have to play and do well in order to play the next game, maybe I would worry and wouldn’t perform the way I perform. I know I am going to play the next game. It doesn’t matter if I get runs, I get wickets. That gives me the confidence to go out and do my thing. I give my captain, coach and the staff that thumbs up for having that confidence in me,” he said.
The highest wicket-taker now, man of the match with the bat in their previous win, it seems Russell can only be brought down by a yorker. Trust the Jamaican though to get up and finish the job at hand, be it with the bat or the ball.
“I’m an all-rounder. My job is very hard so I don’t have a problem batting till the end and coming to bowl first over of the innings and then the last over. A part of my legacy that I want to leave behind, I want to set the bar as high as possible. So I love these challenges,” said Russell.