DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, CMC – All-rounder Andre Russell has dismissed claims about his lack of commitment to West Indies cricket, and has again reiterated his desire to represent the Caribbean side in the limited overs format.
The 29-year-old was one of four Windies players, along with Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine, who was criticised after opting out of selection for the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe starting next month.
However, Russell said he had explained to Cricket West Indies officials that having just spent a year away from the game serving an anti-doping whereabouts ban, it was important he first worked his way into match readiness.
“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 the India-based 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.”
He continued: “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.”
In announcing the squad for the March 4-25 qualifiers, chief selector Courtney Browne seemed to take umbrage with the quartet’s decision not to stand for selection stating, “[they] indicated that they were unavailable to help us qualify as their priority was playing in the Pakistan Super League.”
Russell, one of the most sought after players in the international Twenty20 circuit, will turn out for Islamabad United in the PSL which bowls off Thursday.
He will also feature for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League starting April, and praised the franchise’s imput in his return to competitive cricket.
“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,” the Jamaican explained.
“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 (West Indies selectors) approached me, then I would say yeah, I am ready for it (playing qualifiers).”
Russell, however, stressed that his focus at the international level would be in the limited overs format as his dodgy knee would continue to make Test cricket difficult.
And as a sign of his commitment, Russell said he had already made himself available for the West Indies A tour of England later this year.
“From the six games I’ve played in Super50, I don’t see any change in my knee,” he noted.
“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 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 pick me fine. I don’t have a problem using that platform before getting back into the senior team.”
Russell has scored 985 runs and taken 64 wickets in 51 One-Day Internationals and also played 43 T20Is.