Andre Russell, who has been Kolkata Knight Riders’ top performer in the 12th season of the IPL, has taken the bowling attacks to the cleaners, hitting the big sixes at will and with ease. @BCCI

While his 25-ball 65-run heroics were not enough to help Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) cross the finish line against the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Eden Gardens on Friday, Andre Russell has been KKR’s top performer in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019.

The Jamaican has taken the bowling attacks to the cleaners, hitting sixes at will and with ease. So much so that he is currently sitting at top of the list of players with most sixes in this season of the IPL, with as many as 39 sixes against his name from nine matches and scoring at the strike rate of 220.46.

Russell credited Chris Gayle for “changing his life in terms of power hitting”. While the allrounder is one of the most feared power hitters in the world, it is Gayle who has been bossing the game, in terms of power-hitting, for a while. The left-hander is one of the most sought after T20 cricketers across the globe.

Russell said that a tip from Gayle during the ICC World T20 2016, which West Indies won, that powered the right-hander where he is now.

“Chris Gayle changed my life in terms of power hitting. I’ve learned a lot from him,” Russell told BBC‘s Doosra podcast.

“I used to use lighter bats, but when you make contact with a light bat, it doesn’t go anywhere. During the World Cup, he came to me and said, ‘Russ, you’re better than that. You can use bigger bats, you’re strong.’

Russell said that his innings in the semifinals (against India) of the ICC World TO 2016 changed his life. The West Indian scored 43 off 20 balls as his side beat the hosts and then went on to beat England in the final to lift the trophy for the second time.

“2016, when we won the (T20) World Cup in India, that year changed my life. That semi-final onwards, where I scored 48 (43) runs for West Indies.

“Now my bats are (bigger). There’s a lot of mechanics behind my bats, I play around with them a lot.”

However, change of bats is not the only aspect that improved Russell’s big-hitting. Russell said that his trip to Dallas, where he witnessed how the National Football League (NFL) players trained, changed his approach towards the drills he used.

“I work out like NFL players. When I went to Dallas a few years ago, that kind of changed my life into seeing how professional athletes in different sport go about their game,” said Russell.

“These guys train hard, high intensity. Even if they weren’t doing heavy weights, they were doing a lot of repetition. That’s what I use: I don’t need to get big and bulky. If I get bulky, I will bowl slow and my arm speed will get slow while batting. You need to be smart about how you train,” he added.

There was a time in 2017 he did not feature in the IPL after being banned for a year for a doping code violation. However, Russell, said that KKR put their faith in him and retained him and hence, he says he “owed these performances to Kolkata”.

“When I got banned in 2017, I was depressed. I do not cry easily, but to see Venky Mysore [KKR CEO] take up the phone and say they were going to retain me through that time, water filled my eyes. They know me, that’s the thing about family. I owe these performances to them,” concluded Russell.