Gambhir urges big KKR team effort with Russell missing

MUMBAI, India, CMC — Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir has conceded that replacing the banned Andre Russell will be a difficult task but has urged his side to rise above the West Indies all-rounder’s absence and see it as an opportunity to perform.

The 28-year-old Russell has in the last two season become essential to KKR’s title thrust but will sit out this year’s campaign after being recently slapped with a one-year ban by authorities in his native Jamaica for an anti-doping “whereabouts” violation.

Gambhir said Russell’s absence would create opportunities for other players to step up.

“There are two ways to look at such situations in life,” Gambhir said.

West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell … will miss the IPL season for KKR.

“Either we can see Russell’s absence as a challenge or look at it as an opportunity in bold letters. I as an individual, and KKR as a group, are looking it as an opportunity.”

Russell is a bold, attacking lower order batsman, a penetrative new-ball seamer and an excellent out-fielder, who has emerged in recent years as one of the most sought-after players in the Twenty20 format.

He flattered to deceive with the bat last season but picked up 15 wickets to help take KKR into the playoffs.

KKR have turned to all-rounders Colin de Grandhomme of New Zealand and Chris Woakes of England to rectify Russell’s absence but Gambhir said the approach needed to be team oriented.

“Maybe a combination of Manish Pandey’s batting and Ankit Rajput’s bowling can get us what Russell did,” he explained.

“Not only Woakes but the entire team can try to fill in for Russell and for that you don’t necessarily need an all-rounder. Maybe some other pair can do this.”

He added: “We are not on the back foot [because Russell is missing]. Russell was an important cog in our wheel not only on-field, but in the dressing room also.

“He is a great character to have. There are situations when players miss out. He will be missed in the dressing room. But we have to look ahead and work with what we have.”

The new IPL season opens Wednesday, with KKR set to play their first game on Friday against Gujarat Lions away in Rajkot.

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