'Nowhere near 100%' but Andre Russell is doing his bit to get Kolkata Knight Riders into the playoffs
"If he gets hot tonight, who knows what could happen in the coming games if we're to progress" - Brendon McCullum
Andre Russell remains optimistic that he will be fit to bowl in the IPL playoffs should the Kolkata Knight Riders make it there, after returning from a "grade two, grade three" hamstring tear in two weeks to hit 25 off 11 balls in a crucial win against the Rajasthan Royals.
Russell had missed the Knight Riders' last four games because of the injury, which he said should have kept him out for up to eight weeks, but returned to play his part in a 60-run victory, which left his side with a shot to reach the playoffs.
"I have a grade two, grade three hamstring tear and I'm just privileged to actually be back running around," Russell told Star Sports, the official broadcaster. "When I looked at the scan, it was very ugly: that type of result, normally, would be six to eight weeks out.
"But with my therapist, the KKR physio and doctor and everyone rallying around me, doing all the rehab and strengthening, I'm happy to be back tonight."
He is a proven, world-class international T20 player. By his own admission, he hasn't set the tournament on fire this season, but look: if he gets hot tonight, then who knows what could happen in the coming games if we're to progress?Brendon McCullum
Brendon McCullum, the Knight Riders' head coach, said in a pitchside interview during the first innings of the Sunday game that Russell was "nowhere near" fully fit, but he was selected despite the fact that he was unable to bowl because of how important the game was.
"With the danger that he possesses and the presence that he's got, in a must-win game, he's a big player for us," McCullum said. "He was desperate to get out there: he's nowhere near 100% fit, but if he gets hot for half an hour then we're going to post a really big score. Your best players, you try to get [them] out there to win you the most important games.
"He is a proven, world-class international T20 player. By his own admission, he hasn't set the tournament on fire this season, but look: if he gets hot tonight, then who knows what could happen in the coming games if we're to progress?"
While Russell, the IPL's most valuable player in 2019, has made only 117 runs in nine innings this season, he has chipped in with some important contributions with the ball - in particular at the death, where his yorkers have proved particularly useful. Russell said that he had bowled a few "walk up and bowl" deliveries before Sunday night's match, but was reluctant to aggravate the injury.
"It felt good [before the game] but sometimes with hamstring injuries - I've had them a few times now - when it's feeling good, that's when it's healing, and I don't really want to disturb the healing process," he said. "We have a good bowling thing going on right now. I think with my yorkers at the back end, the team will definitely benefit from that, but for now, I'm just going to keep taking it one day at a time."