Why sending Dinesh Karthik in over Andre Russell is almost always a mistake
Andre Russell walked in with four overs remaining in the match against Rajasthan Royals and hasn’t yet had the time to create an impact, writes Rohit Sankar.
Five matches into the 2021 IPL season and Kolkata Knight Riders have just one win and lie at the bottom of the points table. Even with all their top-order woes, their usage of Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell has been puzzling and has contributed to their mess. In four of the five matches, Karthik has come in to bat ahead of Russell, when the West Indian should arguably be entering.
Andre Russell’s entry point
15.2, 15.2, 13.4, 5.2 and 15.2
In 2019, this could easily have been Russell’s runs per over with the bat. In 2021, these are his points of entry to the crease for KKR this season. Take out the one game where the situation (31-5 v CSK) forced him to come in the powerplay and he has walked in to bat with fewer than 30 balls left in the innings on three of four occasions.
When Russell is your biggest chance to change the course of a game, irrespective of whether the team had a slow start, a collapse or a strong start, there is no logical reason to hold him back for those last few overs when he is likely to face 20 balls or fewer.
The leg-spin threat
Dinesh Karthik has been walking in ahead of Russell consistently, including two out of the three games at Chennai. Was it because Karthik is more familiar with the Chepauk wicket? It still makes no sense. Here’s why.
Since 2018 in the IPL, Karthik has been dismissed nine times in the middle overs by leg-spinners, averaging 17.7 against them while striking at 112.8. Russell, on the other hand, has an average of 68.5 and a strike-rate of 142.7 against leggies with just two dismissals in three seasons in this phase.
Almost all teams use this phase to attack with leg-spinners and by bringing in Karthik ahead of Russell, the former skipper is thrown in against a match-up he struggles against. Factor this in. Since IPL 2020, Karthik, across domestic competitions, has been dismissed seven times by leg-spinners from 28 balls – dismissal every four balls on an average.
Impact on opposition’s planning
Russell is unarguably the biggest threat in the KKR batting line-up. Teams attack with their best bowlers, often also their death bowlers, when these kind of batsmen walk in. If Russell is sent in ahead of Karthik the moment a wicket falls in the second half of the innings (after over 10), the opposition is likely to use up an over of their best bowler to tackle the West Indian.
This not only leaves the opposition with one fewer over for their best pacer in the death, but also makes Karthik, walking in behind Russell ideally, more likely to make an impact. Karthik is a terrific death overs batsman. Between overs 17-20, Karthik strikes at a rate of 200 since IPL 2019 with a boundary every 3.3 balls on an average. Russell is better at this stage, but there’s a better upside if he stays on for that long from the middle overs. On the contrary, the downside isn’t that heavy if he is dismissed early doing so because there’s Karthik in this line-up.
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