Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have lost four back-to-back matches in the tournament so far with its last defeat coming against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Sunday (April 23). The team has so far won only 2 matches and is at the eight place on the points table.
The blame for KKR’s shoddy performance goes to some of the top players of the team who have completely failed this year. And the name of Andre Russell is at the top.
Russell’s poor performance this season: The Caribbean allrounder has faced criticism this season for being unimpressive with the bat. At Rs 16 crore, Russell is KKR’s most expensive player, getting even more than captain Shreyas Iyer, who is being paid Rs 12.25 crore by the franchise. But his performance has not been up to the mark.
In 7 matches so far, Russell has managed to score just 107 runs at a strike-rate of 140.79. Apart from the first match against Punjab, where Russell made 35 off 19 balls, he has been silent with the bat.
In a game against Delhi Capitals, when KKR was struggling at a score of 110, Russell was finding it difficult to hit big shots and was instead taking singles and letting a bowler like Umesh Yadav to face Delhi’s top pacer Anrich Nortje.
Russell couldn’t give a push to the score and ended up with 38 off 31 balls, something which is considered way below his standard.
Similarly, last night, in the game against CSK, Russell departed after making 9 off 6 balls. At a time, when the team needed a smashing knock from him, Russell was struggling to bat.
In all the seven matches, Russell has not even once been able to make an impact as a player. In fact, Shardul Thakur has been performing the role of a finisher, instead of Russell.
Fitness issues affecting bowling: Though Russell hasn't bowled much due to his fitness issues this season, in the five overs he has bowled, he took 3 wickets against Hyderabad on April 14. Rusell completed a fine spell of 22 runs in 2.1 overs with 3 wickets. But he got injured after 2 overs and was sent out of the field and Shardul Thakur had to complete his over.
In fact, his poor fitness has remained a big concern for KKR this season as he often gets injured while bowling. In the next few matches, Russell didn't bowl to prevent any future chances of injuries.
What’s the reason for Russell’spoor show this season? One of the biggest reasons for the dismal performance of the lower middle order batter has also been KKR’s inconsistent opening pair.
The team has tried the combinations of Sunil Narine and N Jagadeesan, Litton Das and Jason Roy, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and N Jagadeesan, but none has worked.
This led to Russell coming in to bat at number seven or number eight, when he has just 15-20 balls left to play. This doesn’t give Russell time to settle down. And with the current form he is in, performing the role of a finisher at number seven or eight has been mighty difficult for him.
All the other power hitters in IPL 2023 like Faf du Plessis (RCB), Jos Buttler (RR), Devon Conway (CSK) Kyle Mayers (LSG), Glenn Maxwell (RCB) feature in the top order and they succeed because they get ample balls to play.
With the absence of players like Shreyas Iyer and Pat Cummins, KKR cannot afford to bench Andre Russell, as he has been a key player of KKR in last few years.
The yorker issue: Apart from his batting position, his discomfort in playing the yorkers is something which is going against him. This is probably a loophole which all the teams have started exploiting off late against Russell. Bowlers of the other teams have reportedly been instructed to keep the ball at the shoes of Russell, a spot where he finds it difficult to loft the ball.
What’s next for KKR? With just seven matches left, KKR needs to win at least five out of these to qualify for the playoffs. Even if KKR loses one game after this, its chances of qualifying will go way down.
KKR will next play RCB on April 26 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.