Russell unopposed to passing up franchise cricket to represent West Indies
Andre Russell says he is willing to pass up some franchise league engagements to allow him to play for West Indies ahead of the Twenty20 (T20) World Cup next year.
The 35-year-old all-rounder, one of the most sought-after players in franchise cricket, last played for the West Indies during their disappointing T20 World Cup campaign in the United Arab Emirates and Oman in 2021.
Last summer, West Indies Lead Selector Desmond Haynes and former Head Coach Phil Simmons, in response to questions about absent elite players for series against Bangladesh, India and New Zealand, had noted that the lure of lucrative leagues at times creates a dilemma for the region’s best players.
Russell was among those overlooked from the squad to last year’s T20 World Cup qualifiers in Australia. The two-time former global T20 champions were embarrassingly eliminated.
With the Caribbean side set to face touring India in five T20 Internationals between August 3 and 13, the Jamaican, who is currently competing in the inaugural Major League Cricket (MLC) in the United States, argued that the upcoming series presents a window of opportunity.
“I am available. I want to be a part of the next World Cup so that would be something special to me if they can add me to the squad,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
“I am willing to play a couple of series to make myself available. I am not just going to turn up and say I want to play at the World Cup from nothing at all.
“I know how everything works; I know I have to sacrifice a couple leagues in order to play for West Indies. I am willing to do that and try to give them the best chance in the World Cup, and whatever I can contribute in whatever area, I am willing to do it,” Russell emphasised.
“There is an India series coming up that I would want to be a part of but no one has said anything to me and I am just minding my own business. I am just doing what I am doing — still training hard,” he added.
Russell, a hard-hitting batsman, has played 450 T20s, averaging 26.39 with an eye-popping strike rate of 167.42 and top score of 121 not out. As a pace bowler he has captured 397 wickets at an average of 25.47, economy rate of 8.58, and best figures of 5-15. He is also an outstanding fielder.
Since former West Indies skipper Daren Sammy was appointed white-ball coach in May he has expressed an interest in getting some of the elite regional players back into the fold.
Russell confirmed that the two have communicated.
“I have been trying to let these guys know… I’m still willing to put my body on the line for West Indies cricket but no one has really come to me and said anything to me upfront.
“We [Sammy and I] spoke earlier when he just got the job and he said that he wants to know what I am up to and what I am available for, [but] then everything stopped. I haven’t heard from him after that. Obviously, he was busy with the [50-over] squad at the [recent] World Cup qualifiers [in Zimbabwe] so I not going to jump to anything,” he reasoned.
Russell — who a week ago helped Surrey Kings to victory in the Dream 11 Jamaica T10 championship at Sabina Park in Kingston before jetting off to the US to join Los Angeles Knight Riders for their MLC T20 opener last Thursday — said his options remain open.
“Whichever franchise wants me to come to play for them, then I will definitely be available. Because when you don’t play for West Indies it’s a problem but when they don’t pick you, you stay home, you don’t go to play franchise cricket, then it is also a problem because they are not seeing that you are playing any cricket.
“So, we have to keep ourselves busy and intact in those leagues. When you look at it, it’s just a weird situation in terms of what to do and what to not do,” he told the Observer.
The 2024 T20 World Cup is to be co-hosted by Cricket West Indies and United States Cricket. (Jamaica Observer)