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The conversations of a ‘freak athlete’ or ‘gifted athlete’ have been a perennial part of basketball discussions. Shaq O’ Neal was considered the ‘most dominant athlete’ in his play days, as he would regularly slam dunk over an opponent, and the commentator in his idiosyncratic accent would buzz, “Postered!”
Lebron James is considered the most gifted NBA athlete ever, courtesy his impermissible pace and physicality at that stature and height. While Lebron is still going strong, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the ‘Greek Freak’, is rising to the fore, and claiming a seat on his throne.
However, in cricket, we have largely refrained from such discussions. But with us being regular residents of the social platforms, the ideas of boundaries diminishing and the language of the millennials being one integrated abomination against language itself, what could we do but adhere? Now, in cricketing terms, how would we define a ‘freak athlete’? Someone who’s freakish across the three departments: bowling, fielding and batting. A player who can consistently bowl quicker than 140 kph, the same player who is an absolute gun fielder, is quick across the outfield and has a rocket of a arm, and the very same player, with a willow in hand, could score a 20 ball 40. And muscles, yes. Visual intimidation is an attribute of the freaks. But most importantly, a freak does things others do not, a freak wins you games other cannot. We submit to you, Andre Russell.
Yesterday, in KKR’s opening game for this year’s IPL, Andre ‘The Freak’ Russell validated the claim. Russell walked in with the side three wickets down at 95. Dinesh Karthik, the skipper, was the last wicket. The fourth wicket fell at 118 halfway into the 16th over.
64 needed off 27 deliveries with two overs of Bhuvneshwar Kumar left. Bhuvneshwar bowled the 17th over and conceded just six. Just SIX.
53 needed off 18. Six of those were to be bowled by Bhuvi. But, six were to be also bowled by either Shakib or Vijay Shankar. Siddharth Kaul begins the 18 th over. Six. First ball of the over hurled over, you guessed it right, midwicket. Kaul running in for the second delivery. Six. Freakish. 19 runs came off the 18 th over.
34 runs were needed off 12 deliveries. Bhuvi was on his mark. Bhuvi runs in and delivers.
Four, through midwicket. Surely though, Russell cannot hit Bhuvi for 19 odd runs like Kaul.
Second ball. Six. Oh good God, it’s an exhibition. Surely though, Bhuvi will come back.
Third ball, Four. Fourteen off 3 balls. Against Bhuvi. At death. Freakish.
Fourth ball, a wide yorker, dot; smart from Bhuvi to keep it out of the arc.
Fifth ball, outside again, six. What! Not nineteen but twenty-one of the over.
Thirteen required of the last over. Shakib or Shankar. Spin or Medium pace. The birthday boy it is. Spin. A wide in an attempt to hit Russell’s pad.
Six, Shubman Gill. Dot. Six.
KKR win. A KKR victory out of nowhere. It’s the ‘freak athlete’ Andre Russell, winning games not many can.