Andre Russell interview: All-rounder rubbishes claims he turned his back on West Indies by opting out of World Cup qualifiers

Russell told Firstpost: "I've seen the comments bashing me, saying that I am not interested in playing for West Indies and (had) turned my back on the team. I would never do that."

Colin Benjamin, Feb 21, 2018 13:48:20 IST

Andre Russell hopes to return to the West Indies team later this year and has credited the side for "making me who I am".

Russell also expressed his gratitudes for the support he received from various franchise teams during his ban, after he made an impressive return to competitive cricket in the ongoing domestic 50 overs competition in the West Indies. He revealed that Kolkata Knight Riders contacted him within weeks of the start of the ban to secure his signing upon his return.

Andre Russell interview: All-rounder rubbishes claims he turned his back on West Indies by opting out of World Cup qualifiers

File photo of Andre Russell. AFP

Following the announcement of the Windies squad for the World Cup qualifiers, with controversial statements from chairman of selectors Courtney Browne and Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Dave Cameron's inflammatory remarks that the Trinidad and Tobago trio of Kieron Pollard, Darren Bravo and Sunil Narine would not play for the Windies again, all players except Darren Bravo responded strongly.

Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) president Azim Bassarath criticised Cameron and West Indies Players Associations (WIPA) president Wavell Hinds clarified the position of the players' association.

Both Cameron and Browne have been silent since.

However, Russell was spared Cameron's vitriol. "I think he (Russell) has presented a reasonably good case for the amount of 50 overs cricket at this point in time. While he will play the Super50, he will not play the qualifiers but we believe he should be available for Cricket West Indies going forward," said Cameron.

"I've seen the comments bashing me, saying that I am not interested in playing for West Indies and (had) turned my back on the team. I would never do that. West Indies made me who I am at this moment and I'm not going to burn my bridges," Russell told Firstpost.

"I had reached out to the president, coach, directors, captain and I explained to them this is going to be the situation. Because I've been out of cricket for 14 months and to be coming back in at a crucial point when West Indies need to qualify for a World Cup... I didn't want to hinder someone else who would be more match-ready and disadvantage the team," Russell explained.

"So all suggestions out there that I purposely didn't want to play for West Indies is not true.

"I told them (board) that further down in (the) year I would love to be back in (the) team in that colour and have that badge over my heart."

The Jamaican all-rounder elaborated further how Kolkata Knight Riders have been assisting him from a fitness perspective in Super50.

In the final of his six games for Jamaica Scorpions in the Super50 on 14 February, before leaving for Dubai to join with his Pakistan Super League (PSL) team, Islamabad United, Russell slammed an unbeaten 108 versus Kent to help his side win, when they were 57/5 at one stage in the run chase.

"However I feel good to know that having been out for so long, I am still a top priority to the Caribbean (side). It means a lot, but at the end of the day I am a fair person and I want to start off slow.

"These Super50 games I've played - it was good that KKR remained part of my comeback process and sent a sports therapist to assist me in the tournament to make sure I was in top physical condition and I thank them for that.

"These are sort of things going on behind the scenes. If I was playing some competitive cricket before the squad-selection, when they (selectors) approached me, then I would say yeah, I am ready for it (playing qualifiers)."

Similar to other cricketers in the past such as Shane Warne and Herschelle Gibbs who got year-long bans from international cricket, Russell highlighted how KKR and other T20 league teams expressed interest and extended assurance that he was firmly in their plans for 2018, This was the key in keeping him motivated.

"After I got banned last year, maybe a week after, KKR reached out and we negotiated that I would be signed this year on return. It was basically them doing their part to help ease my mind during the ban, saying that you (Russell) are out of cricket, but don't worry about it, we have got your back", said Russell.

He added: "Dhaka Dynamites and a few other teams reached out and gave confirmation I would be signed this year; so this all kept me focused.

"Overall it was a mental thing. I've always been a mentally strong person. Once I put my mind to something I'm going to get it done.

"So, I guess it was easier for me that way - not to sulk, lose shape, but keep myself in good condition and get out of bed sometimes to put in the work - despite knowing I'm just practising but can't play cricket.

"With six months to go, I started counting down and viewed it as a long pre-season, because when the time was up, I wanted to be in the best shape and fully cricket-ready," he recounted.

Russell confirmed that he had convinced himself to play in the Windies A tour to England later this year.

He also mentioned that he still felt his well-publicised knee problems similar to those of Lasith Malinga that made him decline playing Test cricket, most likely won't allow him to ever play the longest format.

"From the six games I've played in Super50, I don't see any change in my knee.

"In the year-out I have done work on my knees, trying to get stronger in my legs but it may be something I may have to retire with.

"Test cricket I think will be too much,. Right now I just want to make sure I can handle white-ball cricket. So I won't say (that) I'm not interested in Tests, but that's one to re-evaluate in the future.

"Yes, I made myself available for A team tour to England, if they (selectors) pick me fine. I don't have a problem using that platform before getting back into the senior team."

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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2018 13:48:20 IST

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