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Let’s see if Andre Russell can win it for Kolkata Knight Riders against Sunrisers Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will not be favourites at Eden Gardens in the virtual Indian Premier League (IPL 2018) semifinal vs Sunrisers Hyderabad. SRH’s bowling has been their biggest strength.

cricket Updated: May 25, 2018 09:29 IST
Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir
Hindustan Times
IPL 2018,Indian Premier League,Andre Russel
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) all-rounder Andre Russell played a stellar role in their victory over Rajasthan Royals in the IPL 2018 Qualifier, but he may not get the same freedom to play facing the strong Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) bowling attack. (AFP)

“One of the first tricks to win at Eden Gardens is to get the crowd on your side.” This was a pearl passed on to me by a stalwart when I took over Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). I was nervous as I was stepping into the ‘Dada’ shoes of Sourav Ganguly. The tip helped. I am not one of those theatrical types who can play to the crowd. Hence I relied on performance, transparency and a bit of bhadralok (gentleman) approach. I can say with some confidence that when I left KKR, Eden was almost 90 per cent purple.

Dinesh Karthik has smartly picked up the thread. He, too, has done well in nurturing the Eden crowd. True to his personality, DK has not been your flashy, in-your-face modern day cricketer. Instead, he has smiled consistently, kept it simple, hasn’t chopped and changed too much.

READ MORE | IPL 2018: Bowling constant, batting the X-factor as KKR face SRH challenge

The combination of DK’s devoted South Indian son-in-law looks and good numbers on the points table has kept Eden crowd loyal. Along the way, he has also given a damn about Shane Warne’s complaints about his seven-minute overs in the last game against Rajasthan Royals. What Warne called “annoying” on his twitter feed, I see as gamesmanship by KKR. Well done, KKR!

For Wednesday’s win, my Man of the Match was DK. At times, captaincy gets ignored as it doesn’t get reflected on the scoreboard. While Rajasthan’s flirtations with batting order must have helped KKR but DK was on top of his game. His field settings to Sanju Samson and Ajinkya Rahane were superlative. That passage gave KKR the game.

READ MORE | IPL 2018: Heath Streak compares Prasidh Krishna to Jasprit Bumrah

During one of the after-match parties in 2016, my dear friend Andre Russell wanted me to dance. Honestly, I can’t shake a leg to save my life. I told the big man you win me the next game and I shall do break dance for you. He said, “I will skipper, you wait.” Well, he was Man of the Match in our next game against RCB. Russell kept his word but I’d leave you guessing if I kept mine or not. The way he played on Wednesday, he may still be continuing his promise to KKR fans.

But Russell may not get the same freedom against Sunrisers Hyderabad. It is a tribute to a culture setup by coach Tom Moody and his team that they haven’t missed David Warner at all.

READ MORE | Did Virat Kohli aggravate his injury by playing IPL

For me, Siddharth Kaul’s contribution as a bowler has stood out. He has 19 wickets at an economy of 8 per over, which is incredible. Besides, there is not even a hint of ego in him as he plays support to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan. I see a slight edge for Hyderabad in Friday’s game purely on their bowling prowess although they will be playing on a relatively smaller ground in Kolkata which can be difficult to defend.

Hyderabad may have an edge but I am in the purple camp. I promise this time I will break dance if Russell wins the game for KKR.

First Published: May 25, 2018 09:10 IST