When the 30-year-old walked out to bat against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday (April 5), most odds were stacked against him. Kolkata Knight Riders needed 67 runs to win in 26 balls. He had a sluggish Dinesh Karthik at the other end whose timing on the day seemed off. The surface also seemed a bit two-paced. The equation further boiled down to 53 in 18 balls - somewhat similar to what Kolkata needed in their first encounter against Sunrisers Hyderabad when Russell went ballistic. Surely lightning couldn't strike twice?
It can when Russell is around.
The Jamaican was on 1 off 4 balls. His next nine scoring shots - 6,6,6,1,6,6,6,4,6. Kolkata needed 53 runs to win off 3 overs, they reached there in 2.1, thanks to Russell's belligerent assault as he finished on 48* in 13 balls. But what is Russell's mindset when approaching such a towering required rate? The answer - hit as many sixes as he can.
"Honestly, the thought process was just to hit as many sixes as possible. Sixes will bring down the run-rate, will bring down the runs. That's all my mindset," said Russell in an interview with teammate Carlos Brathwaite for iplt20.com after the game.
"I was telling DK (Dinesh Karthik) that once we wait for the fast bowlers in the backend, I know they are going to miss their length, pressure is going to be on, small ground, good wicket, so at the end of the day, we'll do it. But, the mindset was just simple. Try and hit as many sixes as possible."
Russell attributed his success to the behind the scenes work put in at practice, further elaborating that even at nets he creates such scenarios where he might need to go after the bowling right from the outset.
"It is the hard work behind the scenes, the hard work at the nets. I practice just for these moments," said Russell. "From ball 1 at the practice sessions I start hitting everything because I know sometimes I am going to be in these situations where I go out we will be needing 13 runs per over and tonight, I did not even notice what was going on in the scoreboard."
So far in this year's IPL, Russell has amassed 207 runs from 77 balls at a strike-rate of 268.8 and an average of 103.50. He has often come in to bat with the required rate soaring but each time has managed to do the job for his side. Russell knows that there will be times when he might not strike the ball as cleanly which is why he insists that he is trying to make the most of his purple patch.
"This is the highest level of T20 franchise cricket and you have to be at your best. Once I step across the rope, I try and do my best at all times," Russell told KKR media. "If it doesn't work, then you can't do anything but when you are in the zone, just don't stop, keep going and that is what I have been doing. When I wake up in the morning, I know it is another opportunity for me to make myself better and try and outdo what I have done before.
"I make sure I remain calm. There is going to come a time when you are going to struggle. At the end of the day, I make sure I keep this momentum going. I don't take it for granted, its a totally new game and you have got to approach each game differently."
First Published: April 6, 2019, 9:41 AM IST