West Indies and Jamaican all-rounder, Andre Russell, has insisted his first priority is to West Indies cricket, in the light of recent suggestions doubting his commitment to the regional team.
The 31-year-old cricketer recently took part in the Sri Lanka Premier League (LPL), which coincided with the Windies tour of New Zealand. Russell had been invited to tour New Zealand but turned down the offer after telling chief of selectors Roger Harper he needed time to clear his head. The power hitter then really set tongues wagging when he chose to instead appear at the LPL, causing some, including West Indies great Curtly Ambrose, to question his commitment to international cricket.
“When he [Harper] reached out to me, I told the chairman that my headspace is not clear. I changed my stance, I changed my technique, I changed my trigger movement, all these things I changed just to score runs in IPL and nothing was going my way. The pressure was real. I’m a tough player, and I didn’t know I could actually feel what happened during this year’s IPL. And I just wanted everything to go quickly behind me,”
Russell said in an interview with Jamaican sports television station SportsMax.
“He [Harper] reached out to me a couple of days after when I’d played two games after that. We won one of them, we lost one, I struggled in both games. At the end of the day, you can see the eyes in the team, you can feel the energy. And as a big player, with the team depending on you and all of that, it’s pressure. So I was saying no, I can’t go to New Zealand like this – I need to at least take a break from cricket, get out the bubble after IPL, go [to] Dubai, go out, just loosen myself a bit and clear my head,” he added.
The big-hitting batsman then revealed that after a talk with some of his teammates, who explained that quarantine protocols in New Zealand were less restrictive, he had changed his mind but the team had already made another selection.
“I reached out to him and said: ‘Sir, I know that a week or two weeks ago I said that I’m not available, [but] I’m available. I want to go around my Caribbean guys. I know I would maybe be better off in that space. They speak my language, I don’t have to be worried about whatever, and if I fail, they’re going to know that Andre Russell was trying his best’. The chairman reached out to me and said; ‘sorry Andre, we already went ahead, we made a decision.’ And he said best wishes or something for the rest of the IPL. I said okay, I understand.”
According to Russel, the LPL offer came after. The player went on to re-iterate his commitment to the regional set-up.
“Playing for West Indies comes first for me, and the energy and effort that I put out playing for West Indies, I wouldn’t do it playing anywhere else. Sometimes people don’t understand what a player like myself goes through with niggles and all of those things. But they’re just going to judge, and it’s easy for them to judge,” he said.