Andre Russell, the West Indies all-rounder, has been in phenomenal batting form in the Indian Premier League 2019, accumulating 377 runs at 75.40 at a strike-rate of 220.46.
His team, Kolkata Knight Riders, fell short against Royal Challengers Bangalore by 10 runs on Friday, 19 April, but Russell remained in splendid touch, scoring a 25-ball 65 in the chase. The Jamaican was run out in the final over, which helped Bangalore to keep the hosts to 203/5 in a 214-run chase.
Russell is one of the biggest hitters of the cricket ball today, and his 39 sixes in the tournament this season are a testament to that. Second on the list is Russell's fellow Jamaican Chris Gayle, with 26 hits under his belt. Gayle, of course, is the pioneer of the T20 game: his 933 career sixes so far is over 300 more than anyone else has managed.
Gayle has had a huge influence on Russell's career, and a piece of advice the senior player gave him during the ICC World T20 2016 helped Russell morph into the power-hitter he is today.
"Chris Gayle changed my life in terms of power hitting. I've learned a lot from him," Russell said on BBC'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."
I owe all these performances to Kolkata
Russell revealed that watching National Football League players in the United States gave him a unique perspective on power training. He ended up developing smart training methods after observing them in Dallas, and now has a personalised gym plan.
"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," he 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."
Russell has been a star for Kolkata this season, taking them to victory singlehandedly on more than one occasion. The 30-year-old feels he owes such performances to Kolkata, after the support they extended towards him following the one-year ban he was handed in 2017 for a doping-code violation.
"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."
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