"Andre Russell now is our Chris Gayle, is our Brian Lara, in the T20 format. He's the best in the world" - Dwayne Bravo recently told the Trinidad-based radio station I955 FM.
West Indian veteran Bravo was full of praise for his team-mate and fellow allrounder Andre Russell and you will need some mind-boggling statistics and points to counter his statement. Russell, aka Dre Russ, is truly a mercenary when it comes to the T20 format. He might have been slightly below-par in the limited T20Is he has played for West Indies but when it comes to franchise-based T20 leagues, the Jamaican cricketer is the best commodity going around.
There aren't many batsmen who can compete with Russell when it comes to his brutish power-hitting, and apart from chipping in with his fast bowling, he is also a gun fielder. The 31-year-old is a proven match-winner and a captain's dream when it comes to the shortest format of the game. He has been playing various T20 leagues around the globe for quite some time now but it's in the Indian Premier League where Russell has established quite a name for himself. He was acquired by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014 and since then has played many match-winning knocks for the team.
One of those innings came on this day against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy in IPL 2019. Russell smashed 48* off just 13 balls and helped his team chase down the 206-run target. Here, we look at some of Russell's most impactful performances in the IPL.
66(36) v Kings XI Punjab, 2015
Chasing 156, Kolkata lost five wickets for 60 runs with medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma doing most of the damage with his swing bowling. Kolkata still needed almost 100 runs when Russell walked out to bat in the middle. He had Yusuf Pathan at the other end who was struggling a bit at the start. Meanwhile, Russell didn't take any time to get going and started attacking as soon as he took guard. He slammed Mitchell Johnson and Thisara Perera for a couple of boundaries before hammering Axar Patel for 19 runs in one over. He got the required run-rate down in no time and smoked nine fours and two sixes in his maiden IPL fifty. He was dismissed with just one run needed but Russell had already made a statement and gave everyone a glimpse of what they were about to witness in the coming years.
55*(32) v Chennai Super Kings, 2015
Kolkata spinners Brad Hogg and Piyush Chawla picked wickets at regular intervals and restricted Chennai to 165/9 in their 20 overs. In reply, Robin Uthappa got Kolkata off to a solid start but kept losing partners one after the other. They were reduced to 57/3 and that didn't allow Uthappa to bat freely. However, it all turned once Russell arrived at the crease. The big-hitting all-rounder went after Ravindra Jadeja and Bravo and took some pressure off Uthappa's shoulders. He didn't allow any bowler to settle in and with 48 needed from the final five overs, Russell smacked Jadeja for a 4 and 6 before tonking Bravo for consecutive sixes to bring the equation down to 19 off 18. Ronit More and Mohit Sharma took the match to the final over but Russell held his nerves and sealed the deal with a boundary, and a delivery to spare.
49*(25) v Rajasthan Royals, 2018
An Eliminator against Rajasthan, the stage was set for Russell to deliver big and the allrounder didn't disappoint. K Gowtham and Jofra Archer had Kolkata on the mat after reducing them to 51/4 at the end of eight overs. Shubman Gill and skipper Dinesh Karthik put Kolkata back on track but they still needed a rapid finish and that's where Russell came into play. He got off the mark with a maximum over long-on and didn't look back from thereon. He was ruthless in the final four overs, helping Kolkata manage 53 runs. The likes of Jaydev Unadkat, Ben Laughlin and Archer looked clueless against Russell who struck three fours and five sixes in his innings to propel Kolkata to 169/7, which they later defended and set up a date with Sunrisers Hyderabad for the second qualifier.
49*(19) v Sunrisers Hyderabad, 2019
Playing their first match of the 2019 edition, Kolkata couldn't have asked for a better start. After their bowlers leaked 181 runs, with Hyderabad's top-three firing on all cylinders, Nitish Rana and Uthappa added 80 runs for the second wicket and laid a good platform for the middle-order. They scored at a decent rate but it was still not enough as the required run-rate kept getting higher and higher. Kolkata lost Rana in the 16th over, and needed 53 from the final three overs. Russell had no other option but to swing at every delivery and it paid off. He smashed Siddarth Kaul for 6, 6 and 4 to gather 19 runs from his over and then Bhuvneshwar Kumar for 21 runs in the penultimate over, leaving 13 to get from the final six deliveries. It was Gill who put the finishing touch by hitting two sixes but it was Russell who made an improbable task possible.
48*(13) v Royal Challengers Bangalore, 2019
13 deliveries, seven sixes, Dre Russ went crazy on April 5, 2019 at the Chinnaswamy. Chasing 206, Kolkata required 66 from the final four overs and had Karthik and Russell at the crease. Karthik managed a 4 and 6 in the 17th over but got out in the final delivery of Navdeep Saini's over. The onus was once again on Russell to do the unthinkable - 54 off 18 - and he did it again and this time with five deliveries to spare. 95.8 percent of his runs came via boundaries and it was Mohammed Siraj, Marcus Stoinis and Tim Southee who all felt the wrath of Russell's willow. Siraj conceded a six off a high full-toss - his second in the match - and was taken out of the attack. Stoinis took over and Russell greeted him with back-to-back sixes. With still 30 needed off 12, Dre Russ whacked Southee for 6, 6, 6, 4 and 6 and left everyone in disbelief, and impressed.
80*(40) v Mumbai Indians, 2019
Having lost six matches on the trot, Russell stated "we have a good team but that's making bad decisions" in the press conference, mostly talking about his batting position. Kolkata openers Gill and Chris Lynn got their team off to a superb start by adding 96 runs inside 10 overs. Russell was promoted to No. 3 and it was time to walk the talk, and boy he did that in some fashion. He didn't look at his best and was once on 6 off 12, before cutting loose. He hit Rahul Chahar for consecutive sixes and then just went crazy on the Mumbai bowlers. He smashed Hardik Pandya for three sixes in an over and even showed no mercy to Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga. After struggling at the start, Russell slammed 74 in his last 28 balls. Kolkata finished on 232/2, which they later defended despite Pandya's 34-ball 91.