It has been a season of two halves for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and their batting coach David Hussey admitted that the COVID-induced hiatus turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the franchise. KKR thrashed the Rajasthan Royals (RR) by 86 runs in their final league game to all but seal the fourth playoffs spot.
KKR were languishing at the seventh spot – with 2 wins from 7 matches – when IPL 2021 was suspended in May. But their performances significantly changed ever since the tournament resumed in the UAE, where Eoin Morgan’s boys won 5 of their remaining 7 games.
David Hussey revealed that the four-and-a-half-month break gave them enough time to rejig, while heaping praise on head coach Brendon McCullum for instilling self-belief in each and every player.
“At the halfway mark, we weren’t playing the type of cricket that we wanted to play. We are all about playing entertaining brand of cricket, taking the game on with the bat – hitting four, sixes – and with the ball, hitting the stumps, taking wickets, and fielding exceptionally well, and providing an entertaining contest.
“So at the halfway mark, the break probably did us a world of good – we got to refresh, recharge our batteries, re-plan – and come to Abu Dhabi where we all met. And Abhishek Nayar did a great training session, all the boys got a lot of volume and got ready to go. I think with Brendon [McCullum], he’s so cool and so calm that he’s got this plan and this vision for this team to go forward and he believes in every player to play at their best.
“What he does, he makes everybody feel that they are the most important person in the team and Brendon should take a lot of credit for the way everybody’s playing here tonight. Great for him, because he’s been through a lot,” the former KKR player said in response to Sportskeeda’s question at the post-match press conference.
And the self-belief has been there to see in the way players have hit the ground running and played without any fear of failure. But no one personifies it more than opener Venkatesh Iyer. The 26-year-old Madhya Pradesh cricketer has made the maximum difference and impact since making his IPL debut in KKR’s first match since the resumption versus the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
“Andre Russell is just maybe a game away” – KKR batting coach
KKR were dealt a huge blow when Andre Russell pulled a hamstring and the star all-rounder has now missed four consecutive matches. There came a few hiccups along the way in terms of the balance – or rather imbalance – of the side. But after a few trial and errors, KKR have found in Shakib Al Hasan a suitable substitute.
But the team management will soon be posed with a selection headache as David Hussey confirmed that Andre Russell is on his road to recovery and will be back for the knockout stage.
“He had a fitness test yesterday, and I think he’s just maybe a game away. So I think he’d be pushing hard over the next few days to get back in for the final, which will be a huge boost not only for us but the competition. He’s world-class and he provides lots of entertainment,” Hussey added.
While defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) are mathematically still in contention for a playoffs spot - they have to beat the SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) tomorrow by a margin of 170-plus runs - it is safe to say that KKR will be taking on Virat Kohli’s RCB in the Eliminator in Sharjah on Monday (October 11).
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