The franchise does not lack talented stars. Their ranks boast explosive Indian batsmen like Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana and Dinesh Karthik, as well as proven international match-winners such as Eoin Morgan, Pat Cummins, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell.
Yet the team continue to struggle and, with just one win in four wins in IPL 2021, they are placed at #7 in the points table currently.
It’s still early in the tournament but KKR could certainly make better use of the players at their disposal. Morgan has, for example, used Andre Russell smartly by getting him to bowl at the death overs, as that has tended to be an area of concern for this KKR team.
But there are questions about how Morgan and the management utilized Russell's batting ability so far in the IPL 2021? With so much batting talent on their side, here are 3 reasons why KKR should bat Andre Russell up the order.
1) Andre Russell can take advantage of the powerplay overs
Among the most fearsome and destructive hitters of the cricket ball, Andre Russell hasn’t been at his potent best since IPL 2020. Yes, he has had a couple of instances where he has almost single-handedly won matches for KKR but there has been far too little to create enough impact for Morgan’s men.
117 runs in ten innings in IPL 2020 are poor returns for someone who can destroy even the best bowling attacks regularly. One of the main reasons for the decline in Andre Russell’s returns as a batsman could be the position in the batting order he is sent into bat. Coming in at #6 or #7 hardly leaves him with any balls to face and make an impact.
KKR should consider pushing Russell to #3 in the remaining games of IPL 2021. He is someone who enjoys the ball coming onto the bat and, if he comes in the powerplay overs, he could cause severe damage. This season, he has shown glimpses of his true potential in the 22-ball 54 albeit in a losing cause against CSK.
With Morgan, Karthik, Narine, Shakib, Tripathi and Cummins also among KKR's batting options, they must allow the batting order to revolve around Russell. That would allow players like Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik to play the finisher’s role.
If Andre Russell can face 30-40 balls consistently, KKR can bounce back into the competition this year.
2) Batting up the order would allow Andre Russell to get more batting time
It was a breath of fresh air to see Andre Russell takedown CSK’s bowlers in a stroke-filled 22-ball 54. But the question that was running through many fans' minds was: Could ‘Dre Russ’ have come in to bat earlier?
The West Indies star came in at #6 and left many questioning the tactics of Morgan & co., as they were chasing a gigantic target of 220.
Generally, the batsmen who can create the biggest impact come in early. Take, for example, KL Rahul (221 runs in 5 games at a SR of 133.13) for Punjab Kings, David Warner (130 runs in 4 games) and Jonny Bairstow (171 runs in 4 games at a SR of 132.06) for SRH. It’s the case of giving your best batsmen the most batting time.
If KKR can consistently send Andre Russell in at #3 or #4, it will allow him to settle and get familiarized with the pitch conditions and the bowlers. Most importantly, it then allows players like Gill, Rana and Tripathi to continue playing in their free-flowing manner, knowing that they have ‘Dre Russ’ at the other end.
Russell is certainly someone who can cause the most fear in the opposition bowlers, and it would only be right to give him some time to settle in before he gets cracking and displays his full range as a batsman.
3) An early move would mean a more stable middle order for KKR
One critical aspect of KKR’s struggles this season so far has been their ineffective bowling, apart from Varun Chakravarthy (4 wickets at an economy of 8.6), the big names, barring Russell fifer, haven’t delivered.
But what’s even more worrying is the lack of stability and clarity of roles identified for their middle order.
With Morgan at the helm, one would have thought that this element would have taken care of itself knowing how he manages the batsmen for England. The instability has impacted KKR, but it's something that can be sorted quickly.
By pushing Andre Russell up the order, the management would allow Morgan & Karthik to come in a little later as that has been their preference. Allowing either Narine or Shakib to play at #5 in a floater role and letting Russell set the tone of the innings along with openers Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana could do the trick for KKR.
Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik are two world-class batsmen who thrive under pressure and are best suited to play the role of finishers. The shuffle in the batting order by bringing Andre Russell higher up will provide exactly what KKR has been missing: a clearer role definition for their batsmen.