KKR and KXIP rely on their Jamaican big-hitters to continue winning form

Gayle and Russell have been the two big Caribbean influences that shaped the fortune of the two teams, so far.

KKR is on top, with a better net run-rate.   -  AFP

The form and efficacy, of the two of the most prolific batsmen in the ongoing IPL – Chris Gayle and Andre Russell - will be drawing the attention, as the current leader Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) comes up against visiting Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), at the Eden Gardens, on Saturday afternoon.

Gayle and Russell have been the two big Caribbean influences that shaped the fortune of the two teams, so far. It is likely to be another big test of their hitting ability, as the two teams meet. Both sides have six points from three wins each, but KKR, which has played a match more, is on top, with a better net run-rate.

 

Gayle, who started his IPL career with KKR, in 2008, before flourishing with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), since joining it in 2011, has made a grand return to form. After no one picked him, in the first two rounds of this season’s auctions, in January, the Punjab franchise finally got Gayle in the fold. The 38-year-old Jamaican left-hander, has justified his inclusion, hitting a 63 (against Chennai Super Kings), before scoring the first century of the ongoing tournament, an unbeaten 104, against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). In his two knocks, the hurricane hitter has amassed 15 sixes to be in the second spot, behind compatriot Russell. The Jamaican all-rounder is, currently, on top of the list, with 19 sixes, which have come in four innings.

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The Caribbean influence has been a predominant factor for many of the sides, in the tournament. “The volume of T20 leagues they play across the globe, all around the year, is making them highly specialised in this format of the game… They have got physical attributes, the power... The guys like (Kieron) Pollard, Russell and Gayle are physically strong guys, as even their mishits go over the boundary,” Heath Streak, KKR’s bowling coach, came up with the reason behind the success of the Caribbean cricketers, in T20.

While Russell stood out with his performance with the bat, alongside Nitish Rana, KKR also has been leaning on the effectiveness of its spin triumvirate — the off-spinner from Trinidad and Tobago, Sunil Narine, ‘chinaman’ bowler Kuldeep Yadav and the leg-spinner Piyush Chawla.

The KXIP line-up is also quite interesting, with captain R. Ashwin heading the bowling attack, with Australian pacer Andrew Tye and the young Afghanistan off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The batting, apart from Gayle, has the likes of Aaron Finch, K.L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal.