SPORTS

Skerritt — “West Indies Cricket Is Not At War With Andre Russell.”

Cricket West Indies President Ricky Skerritt has made it clear that Andre Russell has his full support and will not suffer the wrath of selectors for opting out of the recent T20I series in New Zealand.

The 32-year-old Jamaica and Windies allrounder has been heavily criticized by pundits and fans alike for ignoring the offer to play for the Windies.

He also incurred a bit of tongue lashing from former fast bowler Sir Curtly Ambrose for declining the offer.

“Because he wants to clear his head for a while to get his mind together, I have no problem with that because cricket is a high-pressure game. So, if you want to clear your head for a while, take your mind off cricket. I have no issues with that, but if you are going to reject playing for your nation, your country, and then two weeks later, you’re playing for somebody else, that to me is a no-no,” Ambrose said.

“Where is the commitment? That tells me that you don’t want to play for the West Indies. If that is the case, just say so,” Ambrose declared.

However, Russell sought to clear the air in a recent report on Sportsmax Zone, and he explained why he ended up playing in Sri Lanka while the West Indies were losing their series 2-0 in New Zealand.

He argued that he didn’t want to be in another bubble so soon after the IPL and more so since he has not been performing well.

“I changed my stance. I changed my technique. I changed my trigger movement, all of these things I changed just to score runs in IPL, and nothing was going my way. The pressure was real,” Russell said.

“Playing cricket in a bubble and you’re not performing; it can really take a toll.”

Russell disclosed that he had communicated to both Harper and West Indies’ white-ball captain Kieron Pollard that he wanted to clear his “headspace” as it was “messed up.”

He referred to moving between biosecure bubbles, as a “prisonlike” environment.

However, Russell said, he later changed his mind after speaking with Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul. They informed him that after the initial 14-day quarantine in New Zealand, the restrictions would have been relaxed.

He subsequently reached out to the selectors, but by then, it was too late.

Russell posited that playing for the West Indies “comes first” to him.

Skerritt has chimed into the hullabaloo over what many deemed as Russell’s betrayal of the Windies by stating that selectors will not “punish” Russell.

“I have made it clear that West Indies cricket is not at war with Andre Russell.

“Andre Russell has a family to feed. He has whatever his own needs are, and I don’t question what his needs are.”

The Windies president said Russell had the right to ply his trade as he deemed fit.

 “I must, however, be cognizant of the fact that Mr. Russell spent two years out of cricket and I’m sure that at his age, he has every right to pursue whatever financial rewards he can as a brand and as a(n) extremely outstanding athlete,” Skerrit said.

Skerritt also said once Russell meets the established criteria, the selectors cannot victimize or discriminate against him.

“Now, will Mr. Russell meet all the criteria for selection going down the road? Only the selectors could decide [that], but they will not punish him by not picking him.

“If they are not picking him, it is because they have decided that he is not the right person for the team on that particular occasion. But because he turned down the opportunity [to play in New Zealand T20Is] on this occasion, it does not mean he will not be available or not allowed to play for us again in the future, at least as long I am president. I would fight that battle very, very vigorously.”

Skerritt said the Windies team is selected on merit, and Russell cannot be ignored once he meets the set criteria.

“The selection policy is documented. It is very clear on what the selectors have as criteria for selecting players for representing the West Indies. But one of the things that is also very clear as a matter of policy is that we do not use the selection route to punish players or be vindictive against any player as in the past, which was scary, to say the least.”

In August 2019, Russell withdrew from the T20Is against India and instead participated in the Global T20 Canada tournament. However, CWI chief executive Johnny Grave opined at the time that playing in Global T20 Canada was part of Russell’s rehab after the allrounder had ejected out of the 2019 World Cup due to a knee injury.

Nigel Bell, Readers Bureau, Contributor

Edited by Jesus Chan

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