Kolkata Knight Riders were handed a double blow on Sunday when the Eoin Morgan-led side didn’t just lose the match to Chennai Super Kings in a last-ball thriller but also saw their star all-rounder Andre Russell injured himself while saving a boundary in Match 38 of IPL 2021 in Abu Dhabi.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for KKR, who have brought themselves back in the top-four run with two landslide wins over heavyweights Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The 33-year-old appeared to have suffered a hamstring injury while trying to save a boundary during CSK’s run chase in the 17th over. KKR mentor David Hussey said it’s too early to tell how grave the injury is and is keeping his finger crossed.
“He said he felt something pop in his leg, his hamstring. We’ve got the best medical staff in the business so they’ll tend to him and hopefully, it’s nothing too serious, because he’s a key part of our team,” said team mentor David Hussey during a virtual press conference. “He’s been playing very, very nicely with the bat, the ball, and in the field. So hopefully nothing too serious and he can come back and light the competition up like we know Andre Russell can do.”
Despite KKR’s optimism, Russell’s history of injuries gives the franchise’s fans every reason to feel worried. Russell, who is also part of the West Indies squad for the T20 World Cup, has suffered from a raft of injuries over the past few seasons and underwent knee surgery following the West Indies disastrous ICC ODI World Cup in England in June 2019.
As far as performance this IPL is concerned, the Jamaican’s batting has been a concern and has only batted once in the last three games to score a 15-ball 20 in the last game. Russell, however, did prove his mettle with the ball while his 3/9 spell against Royal Challengers Bangalore was the highlight.
Given his importance, it won’t be wrong to assume that KKR won’t risk the player in their next match scheduled on Tuesday against Delhi Capitals in Sharjah. If captain Morgan wants to make a change without altering the line-up much, then Aussie fast bowling all-rounder Ben Cutting seems to be the obvious viable choice to replace the burly West Indies cricketer.
However, Cutting’s lack of match practice, his last assignment being the Pakistan Super League back in March, meant not much confidence augurs from his inclusion and is not exactly a like-for-like replacement. His form at the PSL wasn’t encouraging enough as the lower-order batsman — mostly batting at 6 — scored just 49 runs in the last five innings while playing 37 deliveries. He also picked a solitary wicket during the period.
This leaves KKR with Bangladesh spin bowling all-rounder Shakib Al-Hasan, who comes to the second phase of IPL after the T20 series against New Zealand and Australia at home. While Hasan did perform with the ball with 12 wickets in nine games while scoring 184 runs at an average of 20.44. His top score during the two series was 36 while going beyond 20 on three further occasions.
If Morgan wishes not to go ahead with Cutting or Hasan, then further cutting and chopping will be needed in the line-up to accomodate one of the backup pacers in Tim Southee, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi in the line-up. However, this is what the experts won’t advise as it will further expose KKR’s batting deficiencies.