While relishing the stunning exploits of star all-rounder Andre Russell in the tournament so far, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) coach Jacques Kallis is also being realistic about his expectations from the Jamaican. Kallis, one of the great all-rounders of the modern game himself, expects other players to step up once Russell’s “purple patch runs out.”
So far, in seven games, Russell has slammed 302 runs striking at a mind-boggling 212.67, and has in at least three of the seven games almost single-handedly taken his side to victory.
"Andre has been magnificent, I think he has really come on leaps and bounds since last year. He understands his role and his game a lot better now," Kallis told CricketNext. "He has worked hard on it. He can play different roles for us given that he is a very valuable cricketer. Hopefully, his form will continue in helping us to get to the playoffs and hopefully the trophy.
"I have always said that when it's your time and you are going through a purple patch, use it as long as you can and he has certainly done that," Kallis said. "When his purple patch runs out, hopefully someone else's purple patch will kick in and they will continue and go.
"We are hoping that Andre's purple patch goes for a long time but we are also realistic. Other guys have contributed along the way and will continue doing so. The nature of KKR is that we don't rely on one or two people. We are a team-based side and all eleven can win the game for us."
At the half-way mark in the competition, Kolkata are in a four-way tie in second spot on the points table with four wins and three losses. Back to back defeats against Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals have scuppered their momentum, and Kallis hopes that with two games at home coming up, they will return to winning ways.
"We have been pretty good so far," he said. "I think we are in a good space with both bat and ball and just need to continue doing what we have been doing and accept now and again you have a bad game.
"It has been a pretty good result so far. We've got a nice run of home games so hopefully we can capitalise on that start and take us to a really positive position on that table."
The scheduling also hasn't been quite to Kolkata's liking so far in the tournament. They played three games in five days between April 5 and April 9, all on the go, before turning out against Delhi at home on April 12.
With the taxing nature of the competition, the players have to find the right balance as to when to switch on and off. The only way to do that is to keep the body and more importantly, the mind in the right state, which is what the sole focus has been of late, according to the KKR coach.
"We have had quite a tough run in terms of schedule, we have had quite a lot of games after each other," said Kallis. "It is tough then especially with the travelling in between so when the guys do get some time off you need to get away from the game. An extra net session sometimes does worse rather than having a day off and get the body right and importantly the mind right.
"That will be the focus going forward to the rest of the tournament. Extra practice isn't going to make a difference but I think a day off can."
Kolkata have hit quite a few roadblocks in their journey this season, none more than at the start of the tournament when they lost three key pacers in Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi and Anrich Nortje to injuries. To lose a cream of their pace bowling unit even before the competition had begun can be a setback, but Kolkata have managed their resources quite well.
"Was sad to lose a couple of players upfront due to injury but you understand that does happen, it happens to most teams. Injuries are part and parcel of the sport," Kallis said. "As disappointing as it was, I think we have got an all-round side for it not to make a massive difference and hopefully we can continue doing what we have been doing and that is being consistent with both bat and ball."
Kolkata have brought in Australian pacer Matt Kelly into the side as replacement for South African speedster Nortje. Kelly, 25, has represented Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League and comes in with a solid reputation in the shortest format of the game.
"It was sad that we lost Nortje and we were looking for a like for like replacement and he (Kelly) is pretty much the closest that we can get," said Kallis. "He had a good Big Bash, he comes very highly recommended, so looking forward to seeing what he has got to offer for us. Hopefully he can play a good role for us helping us win the title this year. He certainly comes with a good reputation."
With the surfaces bound to get slower and lower as the tournament moves forward, spin will come into the game even more. In Kuldeep Yadav, Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla, Kolkata probably have some of the best names in the business and the trio will be expected to play a huge role, especially in the next two games at home where the Eden Gardens surface will in all likelihood assist them.
Spin has been KKR's strength right from the first season of the IPL and Kallis was hopeful it will once again be the difference this time around.
"Our spinners have always been important to us. Controlling that middle period, they've done a great job over the years and I am certainly seeing no different this year," said Kallis. "They have really bowled well for us and controlled a lot of games. That's going to become really important as the tournament wears on and perhaps the wickets where there will be a little bit more on offer for the spinners. They have got a vital role to play for us."