It is not often you will see Andre Russell willingly get off strike on the penultimate ball of a nerve-wracking chase. The big-hitting West Indian has often, over the years, single-handedly got the Kolkata Knight Riders over the line in matches.
On Monday, Rusell finally got going in the Indian Premier League season with 42 runs of 23 balls against the Punjab Kings at the Eden Gardens. However, with two balls to go and KKR at 178/6 chasing a target of 180, Russell willingly tried to get off strike on the second-last ball to bring Rinku Singh at the striker’s end. Russell was run out but Rinku Singh, the find of the IPL this season, took KKR to victory with a four off the last ball.
It is a testament to the confidence that Russell and KKR have in Rinku, player of the match Russell said in the post-match presentation.
“When you have Rinku at the other end, I’m not worried of taking a single. He said, ‘Russ, what if the ball beats you, should we go for it?’ I said, ‘Yes, sure!’ Because I have confidence in him and the angle coming into him as well is a little easier because the ball was tailing away from me. (Arshdeep) was nailing his yorkers wide. So I’m happy,” Russell said.
KKR began their chase of 179 strongly with Jason Roy (38 off 24) and captain Nitish Rana (51 off 38) keeping KKR abreast of the asking rate. When Rana was dismissed in the 16th over, KKR needed 51 runs but had Russell and Rinku in the middle.
The pair smashed four sixes and three fours in the next three overs as KKR needed just six runs off the last over. After Russell was run out, the Eden Gardens crowd began chanting ‘Rinku, Rinku’ and the man did not disappoint.
“I’m just telling him to keep the belief in himself because many players will never be able to do what you have done. You can do anything,” said Rana after the match.
“When he was batting, the entire crowd was chanting ‘Rinku, Rinku’. He has earned that this year. I get goosebumps. I have played here for six years now. Earlier the crowd used to chant ‘Russell, Russell’ and I used to feel good because Russell had done so many things. When the crowd is chanting for Rinku, it makes me very happy.”
Talking about the crowd showing its appreciation for Rinku, Russell said, “I get goosebumps seeing him doing what he’s doing now and I have company in the back end of this franchise. It’s not just me and pressure on me. If I get a single, I know what he can do. He’s been here for years and he’s worked his way to where he is right now and he still has so much more to give. Very disciplined guy, hard-working and he’s the funniest guy in the team. So you can’t have a dull moment around Rinku. I always try to be close to him in the changing room. I keep staring him down and he tries to be tough but we are good friends.”
Fifth-placed KKR next host the Rajasthan Royals on Thursday while seventh-placed PBKS travel to face the Delhi Capitals on Saturday.