Windies looking mainly to Russell’s batting, says Reifer

Andre Russell

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Andre Russell will be utilised as a batting all-rounder at the upcoming ICC World Cup in England, and interim head coach Floyd Reifer says there is a plan to manage the player’s workload during the six-week tournament.

The Jamaican is widely regarded as a game-changer with his explosive batting and sharp pace bowling but chronic knee problems in recent years have raised serious doubt over his ability to complete 10 overs in One-Day Internationals.

Pointing to Russell’s current batting form in the Indian Premier League, interim head coach Floyd Reifer, said the 30-year-old’s batting would be the key for West Indies during the May 30 to July 14 showpiece.

“Look at the guys’ form in the IPL, he’s been scoring a lot of runs [and] we’ll be using him as a batting all-rounder in the World Cup,” Reifer said here Wednesday, following the announcement of the 15-man squad.

“He’s shown that he has tremendous striking ability – look at his stats in the IPL, he’s been doing very, very well. So we’re going to be using him as a batting all-rounder.

“Obviously in terms of the games we play, we’ve got to manage him well, we’ve got to manage his injuries. In between the games we have three to four days rest so we’ll be managing that process as we go on from game to game.”

Russell last featured in an ODI for West Indies nearly a year ago during Bangladesh’s three-match tour of the Caribbean. He lasted just one game, however, before pulling out of the series with a knee injury.

Recalled for the last two ODIs against England earlier this year, he failed to play a single game as injury again kept him sidelined.

However, he has been sensational in the ongoing IPL for Kolkata Knight Riders, leading his franchise’s scoring with 392 runs at an average of 65, with three half-centuries.

Russell averages 28 from 52 ODIs and has taken 65 wickets.

Despite Russell’s recent injury troubles, interim chief selector, Robert Haynes, said he was satisfied the player was fit enough to compete.

“I spoke with Andre about four days ago and he assured me he would be ok for the World Cup,” Haynes told journalists.

“He just has a few niggling injuries – one with his wrist and one where he was feeling some pain behind his knee – but he assured me he will be ok for the World Cup.”

Russell was one of several IPL stars included in the Windies World Cup squad with Chris Gayle, Carlos Brathwaite, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer and Oshane Thomas all set to feature.

They will all miss the Tri-Nations Series in Ireland starting next week – West Indies’ last ODI series before the World Cup – but Reifer said he was not worried about players making a smooth transition to the ODI format.

“There are no concerns. You’re dealing with guys that are very experienced. Chris Gayle has over 200 ODIs, Russell is a very experienced player so I’m not concerned about that,” Reifer pointed out.

“Our main thing is when these guys come over to England is to get them gelling with the other guys and make sure their mindset is in a good place to play good cricket. I spoke to all the guys in the IPL and everybody is ready to represent West Indies and ready to play hard, tough cricket.”

West Indies clash with Ireland and Bangladesh in the Tri-Nations Series from May 3-17 in Dublin before going into camp in Southampton from May 18-24.

The Caribbean side then play two official warm-up matches in Bristol – against South Africa on May 26 and New Zealand two days later – before taking on Pakistan in their opening World Cup match on May 31 in Nottingham.

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