Andre Russell is in the form of his life for the Kolkata Knight Riders and his IPL opponents can’t be blamed if they are a little intimidated.
After nine matches and eight innings in IPL 2019 Russell is striking at 220.46, his power seemingly able to override every surface, six hitting is his game and he has smashed 39 over the fence so far.
Russell credits Universe Boss Chris Gayle with changing his game by encouraging him to use a heavier bat to make the most of his power.
“Chris Gayle changed my life in terms of power hitting. I’ve learned a lot from him,” Russell said on BBC Radio 5’s Doosra podcast. “I used to use lighter bats, but when you make contact with a light bat, it doesn’t go anywhere. During the World Cup, he came to me and said, ‘Russ, you’re better than that. You can use bigger bats, you’re strong.’
“2016, when we won the [T20] World Cup in India, that year changed my life. That semi-final onwards, where I scored 48 (43) runs for West Indies. Now my bats are [bigger]. There’s a lot of mechanics behind my bats, I play around with them a lot.”
Russell also draws inspiration from the National Football League (NFL) and its power training programmes.
“I work out like NFL players. When I went to Dallas a few years ago, that kind of changed my life into seeing how professional athletes in different sport go about their game,” Russell said.
“These guys train hard, high intensity. Even if they weren’t doing heavy weights, they were doing a lot of repetition. That’s what I use: I don’t need to get big and bulky. If I get bulky, I will bowl slow and my arm speed will get slow while batting. You need to smart about how you train.
“I train hard. I work hard in the gym, like a beast. A lot of power work. Because the stronger you are, the easier you’re going to hit certain balls.”
When one thinks of the IPL, family might not be the first thing that comes to mind but Russell feels that the Knight Riders are his family. The franchise backed the West Indian blaster during his year long ban for a WADA whereabouts clause violation, retaining his contract.
Russell has almost single-handedly won matches for the Knight Riders this season and very nearly pulled of a miracle on Friday night in the narrow defeat to the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
“I owe all these performances to Kolkata,” he insisted. “When I got banned in 2017, I was depressed. I do not cry easily, but to see Venky Mysore [KKR CEO] take up the phone and say they were going to retain me through that time, water filled my eyes. They know me, that’s the thing about family. I owe these performances to them.”