With a focus on rebuilding for the 2020 CPL season, the beleaguered Jamaica Tallawahs franchise has opted to retain four players including star player Andre Russell for the new season.

West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell admits that like many others he is more than eager to see the back of the coronavirus pandemic, in order to get back to doing what he loves to do best, and that is hitting sixes.

The power slugger, however, also has another important reason to want to see the virus contained and that is to get his family back together.  Russell’s wife and newborn daughter were both in Miami, in the United States, when travel restrictions were enforced, while the Jamaican was in his homeland.

“She [his daughter] and Jassym, they are both in Miami. I stay connected to them and talk to them. I wish I could have them here, but with all these travel restrictions, we cannot do anything,” Russell said in an interview with the website of his IPL team, KKR’s official ‘Knights Unplugged.

 “It’s not really a situation anyone would want to be in. This is affecting the world, it’s affecting me, preventing me from hitting sixes. Hope this thing calms down in a month or two and we can go back to normal life again.”

The player hopes to once again feel the excitement of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which has been postponed indefinitely amid the outbreak.  For Russell, nothing compares to the excitement of the IPL  and facing his home crowd at Eden Gardens.

“Let me confess something, IPL is where I get the most goosebumps. I get that in CPL (Caribbean Premier League) as well but when it comes to playing in IPL, especially Eden Gardens, there is no comparison,” Russell said referring to his team’s home ground in Kolkata.

“The welcome I get, that’s love. It puts pressure on me but it’s good pressure,” he added.

The Tallawahs management this week rejected Chris Gayle’s attack on them over his exit from the CPL franchise but the Jamaica-based entity is doomed to failure if the fans don’t buy their story.

Gayle labelled Assistant Coach Ramnaresh Sarwan a "snake", "vindictive" and "despicable" as he ripped into retired Guyana and West Indies batsman and the “politics” he said triggered his departure from the Tallawahs.

On the ropes after Gayle’s verbal blows, the Tallawahs issued a terse press release that was too tame to be taken seriously, then stiff jabs by Andre Russell and Sarwan’s Gayle rebuttal 24 hours later hurled the issue into more confusion.

The Tallawahs top brass says omitting Gayle from the Tallawahs 2020 CPL roster was made purely on business and cricketing reasoning but the “business” reasoning seems seriously flawed.

Sabina Park attendance is critical to the franchise’s commercial success and we’ve already seen how unattractive a Gayle-less Tallawahs is to Jamaican fans. Not to mention the possibility of a calculated match boycott in solidarity over any perceived disrespect of a local star, as we’ve seen before in Caribbean cricket.

In April 1992, Barbadians pointedly shunned the historic one-off Test at Kensington Oval against South Africa because an anticipated debut was not given to local boy Anderson Cummins, who at that time enjoyed probably a mere 5% of the immense popularity Chris Gayle commands in Jamaica.

Gayle was visibly hurt in his YouTube outburst as he lashed the Tallawahs and Sarwan.

It was, to me, an unprofessional display by a giant in modern-day cricket but the new age of communicating with fans probably made it easy for him to go that route. His rant though, not only badly tainted his ex-West Indies teammate Sarwan but also soiled Chris Gayle and cricket’s image.

The Jamaica Tallawahs were – based on Gayle’s account – hugely at fault for not communicating with him honestly that they weren’t interested in retaining him for the 2020 season and absolutely nothing in the Tallawahs’ press release refuted Gayle’s charge that CEO Jeff Miller and Owner Krish Persaud failed to inform him that he was not in their plans for the upcoming season.

Gayle, now 40 years old, felt betrayed by an organization that gave him their word and went back on it. Gayle made only a passing mention of this, but it’s also instructive that Miller chose to speak directly with Gayle instead of the standard route of going through his agent.

It is very easy for me to deduce that the Tallawahs’ request – according to Gayle – to take not one or two but three pay cuts, may have been a strategy to frustrate him away from the franchise since they were not brave enough to confront the big-hitting superstar-about releasing him from the deal.

I understood fully the Tallawahs being “disappointed” over the way Gayle went public and I agree with their position to “much rather have had these discussions in private” but that is under normal circumstances and clearly Gayle did not consider the circumstances normal. He felt he was dealing with a group that he could no longer trust.

Did this Jamaican franchise ever consider that Gayle would have needed time to pursue other options if he knew he wasn’t with them? It was on deadline day that Gayle said he was called, not by the Tallawahs, but by a CPL official who did not see his name on the list!

Because of Gayle’s monumental record as a T20 batting star and crowd puller, the St Lucia Zouks snapped him up immediately. Gayle could have been left out-of-contract for the 2020 season because of the Tallawahs’ non-communication.

I am not interested at this point in addressing Gayle’s scathing and toxic references to his “former” friend Sarwan, nor the rebuttal coming from the 39-year-old Guyanese that he had no part in “the decision or the decision-making process” in not retaining Gayle. A lot was said in the narrative from both men and at this stage, it’s one man’s word against the other. Both very wounded by actions of the other. Cricket lost in that exchange.

I became aware very early in my career as a broadcast journalist that while fans worship sporting heroes because of the unbridled joy they generate, these successful men and women on the field of play are human beings like us.

They have imperfections, character weaknesses and limitations that adoring fans will hastily gloss over in standing behind them in times of controversy.

The Jamaica Tallawahs may have been in a position regarding Gayle as some Big Bash and IPL franchises had reached, where his stocks had declined over time, so Gayle being at a crossroad in franchise T20 cricket is not new. He had not been a part of Australia’s Big Bash since 2016 and his IPL standing had been shaken ahead of the 2018 season.

Gayle’s career had been highlighted by some tremendous seasons with Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, including 2012 when he topped the IPL’s batting charts with 733 runs at an awesome 61.80 average and 2013 when he averaged 59.0. But after two moderate seasons, 2016 and 2017, when he averaged a mere 22.7 and 22.2, RCB were no longer interested and he almost went unsold ahead of the 2018 IPL campaign.

The King’s XI Punjab bought him and he showed in 2019 he still had shots to fire with a 40.83 average.

As a privately owned franchise, The Jamaica Tallawahs has to make its own decisions. Under Chris Gayle’s leadership last year, the team played very poorly and finished last with eight defeats in their 10 games. He averaged a moderate 24.30 and his 243-run tally was No.2 on the Tallawahs batting list behind the New Zealander Glen Phillips (374).

By Gayle’s own admission, there was turmoil in the camp as referenced in his caustic YouTube address admitting that he “flipped” in a “very heated meeting” ahead of the last CPL game that “almost got physical”, clear signs there of a dysfunctional team setting. The scale of the clash with Gayle suggesting players were “making fun of the Universe Boss” and mocking him “in front of the younger players” could be interpreted as team damage that’s irreparable.

So, If the Jamaica Tallawahs managers believe that going forward without Gayle is a step toward rebuilding, it is their right, but it should have been done professionally, certainly more skillfully given what Gayle represents to Jamaican cricket fans.

The current world leader in T20 cricket Andre Russell has also jumped in, accusing the Tallawahs of poor communication while angrily announcing he is quitting the franchise after the upcoming season scheduled to start in August.

The CPL has been sold to the Caribbean public as an event with huge economic benefits potentially to the territories, but the truth is that team owners have been struggling over the years and the Tallawahs are heading for even tougher times.

This is not to suggest that the Tallawahs franchise cannot flourish without Gayle because he would have to go at some point, but Gayle’s absence has negatively affected CPL attendance at Sabina Park in the past and that effect would be escalated if the fan perception is that the T20 batting Phenom was disrespected by the Tallawahs owners and management.

The 2020 season of the CPL will be the last for Andre Russell with the Jamaica Tallawahs.

On the eve of his 32nd birthday, Russell, perhaps the most dangerous player in T20 cricket globally, in a rambling speech on Instagram Live on Tuesday night, accused the team’s ownership of poor communication and continued disrespect that helped create the impression that he was part of a conspiracy to get rid of Chris Gayle.

“I have another year’s contract with the Tallawahs and I am going to play and try and win because that is all I play for, but this will be my last because I have been getting mixed up with all these (expletive) that is happening,” he said, “and I can’t be playing cricket and I am not comfortable.

“And I think another franchise that has been coming last and fifth and fourth in CPL will appreciate me more. I am not getting it here.”

Russell revealed that he only heard about Chris Gayle’s departure from the team when the Universe Boss sent him a copy of a report in the Jamaica Gleaner that suggested that Gayle was not going to be retained by the two-time CPL champions and that there were going to changes to the coaching staff.

Rovman Powell was to be made captain.

That information, when combined with recent statements from Marlon Samuels suggesting that Russell must have known about Gayle's departure and Chris Gayle's subsequent comments, gives the impression that he knew what was going on behind the scenes at the Tallawahs when nothing could be further from the truth.

He said in 2019, he was not involved in anything with regards to the Tallawahs whom he said treated him like a player who was making his debut and whose opinion is not valued.

This is despite his decision to play for much less money because he wanted to play before his home fans. “I have accepted a pay cut just to play in front of my home crowd, my family and my friends,” he said.

This year, nothing has changed, Russell said.

“They communicated with my agent. My agent agreed. I agreed with my agent, ‘okay, let we sign’. The only time the CEO (Jeff Miller) or the only time the Jamaica Tallawahs contacted me was to ask me how soon will I sign,” he revealed. “The deadline is that time and can you sign please.”

Russell said when he asked who the team planned on retaining he did not get answers. “Who you guys planning on buying, I don’t get no answers on that. So I just leave it,” he said.

He said he read the newspaper report before he called Gayle and it made him nervous when it said that Floyd Reifer was going to be the head coach.

Reifer had messaged him, he said, indicating that he might be the head coach for the Tallawahs and mentioned plans they have for the upcoming season. However, Reifer suddenly ceased all communication and Miller still was not communicating with him.

During that time, Russell said, rumours began to circulate that Gayle was leaving for the Zouks.

He said his respect for Gayle made him fearful to even approach the ‘Universe Boss’ about whether the rumours were true. So when Gayle messaged him with the newspaper article asking if he knew anything about it, he was stunned.

“I called Chris instantly and I addressed the situation. I said to Chris that the only thing I heard was that Floyd Reifer was potentially going to be the coach.”

However, Russell believes that the fact that Rovman Powell and Reifer are friends and the perception that he knew what was going on behind the scenes, it creates the impression that he was part of a conspiracy to get rid of Gayle.

“Up till now I know nothing that was going on but now it looks like me, Rovman and Floyd Reifer plan up and a get of Chris. Why would I get rid of Chris? Chris has a three-year contract, you’re not supposed to breach your contract,” he said. “I had to address the situation because things don’t look good right now.”

However, this was something Russell said that was a feature of the ownership from the start.

He said when he signed to the Tallawahs in 2018, he had just returned from a one-year ban. The ban was for whereabouts violations after he had missed three doping tests within a calendar year, which under the WADA Code is equal to a doping violation.

He was made captain but, according to Russell, “the way they go about things kinda allowed me to dress back a bit”.

He said when he was made captain he gave the owners a list of the players that he wanted them to sign for the team.  “Overseas players, local players, players from inside the Caribbean. It wasn’t about friends. It wasn’t about Jamaicans,” he said. “I am a guy that plays to win and I have won 13 championships, maybe the only player that has done that, so I don’t play to lose.”

He said he tried to reach out to the owners on the day of the draft and got no reply. However, when the draft was completed they reached out and asked him if he was happy with the team they selected.

He said it took him a while to reply because he was disappointed that they did not communicate with him when he reached out to them. However, his agent urged him to reach out to them and indicate that he still wanted to be captain and that he was happy with the draft.

He concedes that they did pick a good team but it lost in the playoffs to St Kitts and Nevis.

However, Russell believes the owners of the Tallawahs need to change if they are to remain viable.

“We have to do things better for the future,” Russell said, who seemed genuinely disappointed and upset about what transpired between Gayle and Jamaica Tallawahs.

“To deal with Chris Gayle the way that they have dealt with the situation is nothing to do with cricket. It’s more personal.

 “This is going to be an awkward dressing room. It’s going to be an awkward CPL but no one will actually see that when I step out to bat or to bowl while I am on the field because I play to win.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andre Russell might be Wisden’s 2019 T20 Cricketer of the Year but the power-hitting Jamaica has no intention of resting on his laurels.

In its 2020 Almanack, Wisden has named Andre Russell as their leading Twenty20 cricketer in the world for 2019.

Few could fail to be amazed by the flat-out, raw hitting power or the devastating ability to single-handedly change a game that Windies T20 star Andre Russell possesses, but as far as being the new Chris Gayle or Brian Lara, he’s not quite yet there.

Now, the point recently made by veteran West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is not lost.  After a solid performance against Sri Lanka with both bat and ball, which in the end delivered the team a comfortable win, Bravo sees Dre Russ as having picked up the mantle as the team’s go-to guy.  The role played to great effect by both Gayle and Lara for the regional team over multiple formats.

To some extent, Russell has, on occasion, delivered for the Windies.  And, if we were speaking about club T20 cricket where his many big-time performances have seen him stack up titles right around the globe, there could be little argument regarding the snap assessment. 

At the international level, however, Russell still trails behind the two greats in one important area; consistency.

Not that it wasn’t ever true about the two Windies stars against which he is being compared, but too often it seems that Russell has failed to measure exactly what is required in the instant of the game when he arrives at the crease. As a result, he is sent back to hutch, head hung, with helmet in hand soon after.

A quick look at the averages will show that Russell averages almost 12-runs fewer than Gayle’s average of 32.54 in T20 international cricket. Overall, in T20s he averages 26.95 to Gayle’s 38.20.

 Of course, each man bats at different times in a innings.

Gayle has far more time to settle in than Russell who comes further down the order.  Even so, one can’t help but suspect that better application could have meant a higher average. 

In T20Is Russell is yet to register a 100 or 50 in the format, while Gayle has two 100s and 13 half-centuries.  Almost 10 years Russell's senior, Gayle has played more international T20 cricket, but not a lot more. Nine more, in fact, 58 to Russell’s 49.  One would think that with a more consistent approach, Russell would at least have registered a few more half-centuries.

As far as potential goes, however, the talented Russell could easily have the big two looking over their shoulders in the next few years.

His wicket-taking ability, which ensures that he is also a key part of the team’s bowling attack, is an element neither Lara or Gayle would have had. 

Russell also has the ability to be very effective in the ODI format of the game, giving us a glimpse at last year's ICC Cricket World Cup before being hobbled by injury.  During the tournament the quickest batsman, in terms of balls faced, to score 1,000 runs in ODIs, facing only 767 deliveries.

All that points to the fact that the sky could be the limit for a fully fit, fully focused Russell but he certainly has to deliver on a more consistent basis to fall into the same category of two of the greatest to ever play the game, even as a go-to guy.

Veteran West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo believes T20 star Andre Russell has taken up the mantle of legendary players like Chris Gayle and Brian Lara for the regional team.

The swashbuckling 31-year-old was in fine form for the Windies during their recent tour of Sri Lanka, picking up man-of-the-series honours in a 2-0 win over the home team.  In fact, with a T20 strike rate of 171.29, the signature of Russell has become one of the most coveted on contracts all over the globe.  His development has impressed the Trinidadian all-rounder, who knows a thing or two about high-quality performances himself.

“It’s the same thing I used to say about Chris Gayle, we are happy to have someone like Gayle representing us, we don’t have to come up and bowl against him in an international match. I think it’s the same with Andre Russell. Andre Russell now is our Chris Gayle, is our Brian Lara in the T20 format. He is a superstar, he’s the best player and we are happy,” Bravo told local Trinidad-based radio station I955 FM.

“He’s the best in the world and we’re happy to have him in our team.”

Russell has claimed a number of titles with various franchises, including five in eight months in 2016.  He was named in the team of the tournament at the T20 World Cup that same year.

There are so many things to love about cricket.  But most of us will freely admit that very few things are as satisfying as watching the ball scream well clear of the boundary ropes, perhaps to parts unknown. Unless, of course, you are watching your favourite bowler, or it was your team that desperately needed the ball to stay in the ground. 

Standing obdurately at the crease to deliver these telling blows are often some of cricket's Supermen, bulky, sinewy they come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing remains constant, once they get going, nothing gets in their way. 

Today we pay tribute to 10 of the game’s biggest hitters but with a twist. Our hitting greats have been put into two teams of five. Who could you count on to get the runs you need? Your guess is as good as ours.  Below are the picks for 10 of the heaviest hitters.