Andre Russell could well be Brendon McCullum's "Michael Jordan of T20 cricket", but to the Kolkata Knight Riders management, Sunil Narine "is not that far behind in terms of his all-round capabilities", as franchise CEO Venky Mysore put it.
"A lot of people keep thinking about Andre Russell as the best allrounder, which he is. Our coach [McCullum], I borrowed a line from him, when he said that 'Andre Russell is the Michael Jordan of T20 cricket'," Mysore said in an interview on The RK Show. "But, at the same time, you look at Sunil Narine's stats, a lot of people might be pleasantly surprised as to how… he is not that far behind in terms of his all-round capabilities and how he has contributed to KKR and what he does - with the bat; we know what he does with the ball. So those two have been absolutely brilliant."
Narine has been with Knight Riders since 2012, and while he had played starring roles with the ball in the first few years of his stay with the franchise - including in the two title runs in 2012 and 2014 - he has reinvented himself as an allrounder in more recent times, scoring quick runs at the top of the order: Since the 2017 edition of the IPL, he has scored 224, 357 and 143, at strikes rates of 172.30, 189.89 and 166.27 respectively.
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As for Russell, here are some incredible numbers: in 2019, he scored 1080 runs at a strike rate of 182.12 across all T20s. No other batsman with 500 runs in the year scored at such a quick rate. Of those 1080 runs, 510 came in the IPL, at a strike rate of 204.81. In the last five overs of games in the tournament, Russell scored 351 runs from 141 balls at a strike rate of 248.90. Only AB de Villiers had a higher strike rate, but he played only 55 deliveries in that period. On two occasions, Russell singlehandedly scored more than 50 runs in the last three overs to help Knight Riders get over the line.
Russell and Narine are currently playing in the CPL, for Jamaica Tallawahs and Trinbago Knight Riders respectively. Russell started slowly before impressing with the bat in a losing cause against Guyana Amazon Warriors, while Narine has been on song in his three matches so far, with quick knocks of 50 and 53 in his first two outings, to go with four wickets.
Along with the established stars, a list that includes the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Pat Cummins, Eoin Morgan, Shubman Gill, Kuldeep Yadav and others, Mysore is also hoping that fans get to watch a lot of Kamlesh Nagarkoti, one of the stars of India's victorious campaign at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup who the franchise bought for big bucks at the 2018 IPL auction. Nagarkoti, however, hasn't had a chance to show off in front of the IPL audiences yet, with injuries keeping him out of both the 2018 and 2019 IPLs.
"The one guy we are totally looking forward to seeing in action is Kamlesh Nagarkoti," Mysore said. "He is an unbelievable young kid, a fantastic kid, I literally feel like he is one of my kids - he's that age, and he has that same emotion towards me, I think.
"The way he bowls, the pace at which he bowls, and he can bat, he can really bat. Rahul Dravid had told me once that he is one of the best fielders going around in India. And that he could compete with the likes of (Ravindra) Jadeja, which is a big statement coming from someone like Rahul Dravid. So, we couldn't be more excited to see him in action."
The IPL will be played in its entirely in the UAE this year. Back in 2014, when Knight Riders won the title for the second time, the first 20 games were played in the UAE because of the general elections in India. Mysore is hoping that that works as a good-luck charm for his franchise this time too.
"Everyone is really chomping at the bits to go, so let's hope that… I don't want to say too much right now, but in 2014 we started our campaign in UAE, and it was a successful year for us," Mysore pointed out. "Let's hope that Abu Dhabi brings us the same type of… it was a lucky charm last time around, let's hope that's the case."