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Saturday, May 15, 2021

IPL 2021: The geometry behind Andre Russell’s new bowling plan

What was Russell’s ploy against Mumbai Indians? Why are batsmen struggling to play Russell? How have people reacted to this latest piece of innovation from Russell?

Written by Vishal Menon , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 15, 2021 9:25:01 am
Andre Russell during KKR's match against Mumbai Indians (Twitter/KKR)

Andre Russell’s freakish spell of 5/15 from his two-over burst during the Kolkata Knight Riders’ league game against defending champions Mumbai Indians can be attributed to a smart, well chalked-out plan of bowling wide yorkers from around-the-wicket to right-handers. This ploy has only enhanced his reputation as a specialist death-overs bowler.

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What was Russell’s ploy against Mumbai Indians?

Russell has chosen to operate from around-the-wicket to Kieron Pollard, from where he’s resorted to bowling wide yorkers, aiming at the right-hander’s fifth or sixth stump. The standout feature was that while bowling from the corner of the crease, he’s rarely erred in line or length, hitting the blockhole on a consistent basis at speeds in excess of the 135kmph mark. Against left-handers, particularly Krunal Pandya, he has interspersed hard lengths with slower deliveries and some good old-fashioned short-pitched stuff.

Why are batsmen struggling to play Russell?

With two fielders stationed in the deep, bowling wide and full from around the wicket to right-handers creates an awkward angle. It’s simple geometry. When a ball is bowled diagonally across the pitch and is heading towards the second slip, it is difficult for the batsman to intersect the delivery path with his bat swing. In comparison, it is easier to get a ‘good connection’ in case the ball is coming straight at the batsman.

It takes some time getting adjusted to the trajectory that is full and far. It usually serves as a good ploy against in-form batsmen and big-hitters during the death overs, since it cuts down on their scoring options. Batsmen will find it difficult to shuffle across the line and hit it through leg-side. On the other hand, they will also not be able to drill it through covers because it will be a herculean task to get underneath a ball that’s bowled diagonally.

Pollard’s dismissal on Tuesday night was a classic example. To a full and wide delivery outside off-stump, he looked to shuffle across and hit it through covers. The angle resulted in a thick outside edge to wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik.

Andre Russell celebrates the wicket of Kieron Pollard of Mumbai Indians (PTI)

Is this the first instance where Russell has bowled from around the wicket in an IPL game?

No. In fact, during KKR’s season-opener against SRH, he had a lovely angle working for him from around the wicket. In that game, the 32-year-old had accounted for Vijay Shankar’s scalp. Two seasons ago, Russell had used this ploy, albeit, intermittently.

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How has KKR captain Eoin Morgan utilised him in the two IPL games this year?

Morgan has played it smart. He’s realised that Russell’s dodgy knees won’t be able to withstand four regular overs through the course of this season. So, he has decided to use him as an impact bowler — at the death. It’s a high-risk, high-reward option because margins in an IPL game are so fine. But in the two matches so far, he has lived up to his lofty reputation.

How have people reacted to this latest piece of innovation from Russell?

Former South African pacer Dale Steyn has heaped praise on the all-rounder’s cricketing smartness. “He is going to surprise us this year with the amount of wickets he’s going to take, if this is the job that we are going to see him doing for the KKR. Teams have to figure out a way to combat that, because he bowls in a way in which he is looking to take wickets and not just stop runs,” he said during a post-match show for Espncricinfo.

What are some of the other variations that Russell possesses?

He does possess a slew of slower deliveries. But it’s the tennis-ball-style bouncer, which Russell uses as a surprise weapon. Resultantly, batsmen facing him tend to hang back on their back foot. This is precisely when he double bluffs and slips in the dreaded yorker. These clever variations in length more than the changes in pace is what sets him apart as a reputed death overs specialist.

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