Be thick-skinned and follow your plans. Russellmania is all around this IPL, but the key to bowl to him is to not get psyched out, according to Chris Morris, who is all set to play his first IPL match of the season. He will be entrusted to bowl the death overs for Delhi Capitals, and at the death, on the opposite side, will be Andre Russell.
Russell has already won Kolkata Knight Riders two games with highly impactful innings, first helping hunt down the biggest target in the last three overs of any T20 match and then going berserk batting first to set up a rare batting-first win in Kolkata. In 36 balls in the middle, he has killed two contests. His strike rate this season is 269.44, he has hit a six every four balls to go with a four every fifth.
“Dre Russ is an absolute genius at hitting the cricket ball, it’s as simple as that,” Morris said. “End of the day, I think it has to be a case of he misses and I hit. I don’t want to give away too many tactics or anything. Like I said, Russ is an unbelievably good batter and he’s dangerous.
“I’ve always said to people I look like a duck… a duck swimming on the water is nice and calm but underneath their feet are kicking like this. I might look calm and collected, but inside my brain’s working overtime. You just trust your training. I’ve practised my whole life to bowl yorkers, I’ve practised my whole life to bowl bouncers, so basically I’ve got to trust my training and hopefully at the end of the day, he makes a mistake.”
“You’re going to get hit, you’re going to go for sixes. So whoever’s got the thickest skin is going to come out on top”
The larger plans wouldn’t change even against Russell, according to Morris.
“It’s all the same for me,” he said. “Playing against RCB, if you get the openers, you have AB [de Villiers] or Virat [Kohli] coming in. It doesn’t change, you’ve still got to hit your areas. The tactics might change for different field sets and stuff, but end of the day you’re bowling at the death so your mindset doesn’t change.
“You’re going to get hit, you’re going to go for sixes. So whoever’s got the thickest skin is going to come out on top. So as a fast bowler, when you’re at the game you know that one of your bowlers is going to get hit today, if not two of them going for 50-plus. The sooner you accept that, the better cricketer you’ll be. If it’s your day, make it count. If it’s not, something will come up tomorrow. You just crack on to your next one.”
It can be a tricky decision to make for a captain too. There might be a temptation to hold back your best bowlers because Russell is still in the dugout. But Morris suggested that such a ploy could be counter-productive.
“You always try to take wickets,” Morris said. “If you’re taking wickets, that slows down run rates. It’s pretty simple. You never ever try to keep a guy out there because you’re worried about a guy coming in. Your job is to take wickets, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
It still means the sooner Russell comes into bat, the better it is for the opposition. And it is the job of Russell’s team-mates to make sure they stick around so that Russell has the freedom to try to hit every ball for a six.
“His role is extremely important, he understands the impact value that he has from the team going from like 180 to 215, like the previous game,” Knight Riders’ Robin Uthappa said. “There’s an impact that he creates in those last four-five overs. It’s important for him to have that sense of freedom. It would be great for him to be in a situation where he has a batsman batting with him, so as to have the freedom to go out there and go after each ball that he faces. And he understands that as well.
“I think the fact that he led Jamaica Tallawahs in the CPL has given him a sense of responsibility towards the team and he looks at himself as a senior statesman in the group and wants to make every outing of his count. He understands the value he brings to the side.”