Wrestlemania 35 is over, but there is no stopping Russellmania in IPL 2019. For a minimum of 100 runs scored this season, Andre Russell has the highest strike-rate (269), most sixes (22) and the best balls per boundary rate (2.3).
All told, Russell has shellacked 207 runs off a mere 77 balls in four innings this season. In fact, his career T20 strike-rate of 169.44 is the second best in the world.
He is a monster among men in T20 cricket. How else would you explain such incredible numbers in a fickle format? How else would you explain a 40-ball hundred and a hat-trick on captaincy debut?
Chennai Super Kings have lost just one of their last 16 matches at Chepauk, but now they run into Russell. Does he have any weakness at all?
Since 2015, Russell has struck at over 180 against all types of bowling except legspinners in the IPL. Against legspinners, Russell has managed only 101 runs off 79 balls while being dismissed four times in this period.
Super Kings have a gun legspinner in Imran Tahir to exploit this possible weakness on a tired Chepauk track. Moreover, Tahir has an outstanding head-to-head record against Russell in T20s, having dismissed him three times in 19 balls while conceding only 13 runs.
Perhaps, it makes sense for Super Kings to hold back Tahir and reserve him for Russell. With or without dew, Tahir has been very difficult to put away at Chepauk. On a dew-slicked pitch against Rajasthan Royals, he returned 2 for 23, including the prize scalp of Jos Buttler to save the day for Super Kings. Then, against Kings XI Punjab, he tossed the ball up further, daring the batsmen to clear the long leg-side boundary. They simply couldn't.
Russell can clear any boundary, but Tahir, too, has been there and done that in various T20 leagues around the world.
Russell prefers pace on the ball, but he isn't as fluent as out-and-out quicks like Kagiso Rabada. The South African nailed Russell with a yorker in the Super Over at Feroz Shah Kotla, and kept executing the yorker to perfection against Delhi Capitals and stunned Kolkata Knight Riders.
Kings XI's Mohammed Shami, too, nailed Russell with a yorker, but was denied a wicket as the side had only three men inside the circle.
Had Lungi Ngidi, Rabada's protege at South Africa, been fit, Super Kings could have attempted to similarly rattle Russell with yorkers.
They have now drafted in Scott Kuggeleijn, who pounds the deck back home in New Zealand and is adept at generating extra bounce. On his IPL debut against Kings XI, he had to work against his strengths and get the cutters to grip on a slow surface.
However, against Russell there's a case for Kuggeleijn to stick to his strengths: operate from around the wicket, and aim to rush him for pace and bounce if the pitch is quicker than the ones dished out for the first three games in Chennai.
Since 2015 in the IPL, Russell has scored only nine against 17 yorkers or bouncers from around the wicket while being dismissed twice.
Kuggeleijn, though, is just one IPL game old and might crack under pressure against one of the fiercest strikers in the world. Tahir appears to be Super Kings' best bet against Russell, and this contest could shape the top-of-the-table clash at Chepauk.
With stats inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman