Superstar Dre-Russ gets Big Bash lifeline with Renegades

Melbourne Renegades have signed big-hitting West Indian allrounder Andre Russell as a replacement for Liam Livingstone after the No.1 pick's shock England Test call up

West Indian superstar Andre Russell will play in the Big Bash for a second straight season after being signed as a replacement player for the Melbourne Renegades' No.1 pick Liam Livingstone.

Russell was overlooked in August's BBL|12 Draft in part due to his limited availability and high price tag but has signed for a four-game stint in December following Livingstone's surprise inclusion in England's Test squad for their tour of Pakistan.

The 34-year-old Jamaican will be available for the Renegades' opening four matches of KFC BBL|12 before the Englishman joins the squad after the conclusion of the third Test on December 21.

Russell, who is one of the world's most experienced T20 cricketers with 428 games, will suit up for the Renegades' matches against the Heat (December 15 and 21), Thunder (December 18) and Hurricanes in Hobart on Christmas Eve.

It will be his second stint as a Renegade after he first represented the club in BBL|04, and fourth season in the competition after previous campaigns with Sydney Thunder and most recently the Melbourne Stars last summer.

"I love playing in Australia and I'm looking forward to seeing all the Renegades fans turn out at Marvel Stadium and in Geelong," said Russell.

"I will be doing everything I can to help the Melbourne Renegades start the tournament with a bang."

BBL clubs initially passed on Russell in the inaugural overseas player draft on August 28 as he could only be taken as a $340,000 platinum selection and was available only until early January before joining Abu Dhabi Knight Riders in the UAE's new International League T20 competition.

Each club is eligible to sign up to four overseas replacement players for BBL|12 with Livingstone's initial platinum retainer fee to be split between him and Russell on a per game basis.

Dre-Russ goes 'loooong' in blistering knock

Livingstone is understood to be available for at least four games from the Renegades' December 28 clash with the Sixers at the SCG before he joins the MI Cape Town franchise in South Africa's new T20 league.

Along with fellow West Indian veterans Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, and South African Faf du Plessis, Russell was one of five marquee nominations that missed selection in the draft as clubs looked to maximise the number of matches their overseas stars would be available for this season.

The Renegades, who also drafted spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Akeal Hosein with picks nine and 25, are the only club to sign overseas replacement players so far with former Sri Lankan first-class player turned Victorian leg-spinner Ruwantha Kellapotha also signing on in September.

Renegades head coach David Saker said at the time they would have taken Russell with their next pick had their preferred choices in Mujeeb and Tom Curran been retained by the Heat and Sixers respectively.

Despite being available for selection, Russell was also overlooked for the West Indies squad for the ongoing T20 World Cup in Australia where the Windies crashed out of the tournament courtesy of losses to Scotland and Ireland before reaching the main Super 12 stage, with the selection panel deciding to "move on" from big-hitting allrounder.

Russell's most recent T20 appearances came for Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League in September where he only managed 119 runs and six wickets from 10 matches.

But his 2022 Indian Premier League and T20 Blast campaigns were impressive, smashing 483 runs at almost 40 with top scores of 70no and 64no, while also topping the wickets tally for his franchise Kolkata Knight Riders with 17.

Image Id: B5C331CE9E754B0B947F566FA7224949 Image Caption: Russell in action for the Renegades in BBL|04 // Getty

Russell is a proven match-winner in the Big Bash having led the Stars to victory over the Thunder just last year with a blistering 41no off 21 balls that included five sixes.

He boasts one of the best T20 records with the highest career strike rate (169.04) of any batter to play more than 100 matches, while he is also the ninth highest wicket-taker of all-time with 381.

Melbourne Renegades general manager James Rosengarten said they had positive discussions with Russell throughout the draft process despite not selecting him with one of their picks.

"We were always keen to try to get him back in red. With Liam's availability changing after the draft, there was an opportunity to add Andre to our group and we jumped at it," said Rosengarten.

"He's a proven match-winner and exactly the type of player we need. He adds to our team in all three facets of the game – his ability to clear the boundary, take wickets and make things happen in the field."

The Renegades will begin their BBL|12 campaign on December 15 against the Heat in Cairns before hosting the Thunder at Marvel Stadium on December 18.

Melbourne Renegades BBL|12 Squad (so far): Nic Maddinson (c), Zak Evans, Aaron Finch, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Akeal Hosein (West Indies), Ruwantha Kellapotha (Sri Lanka), Liam Livingstone (England), Shaun Marsh, Jack Prestwidge, Kane Richardson, Corey Rocchiccioli, Tom Rogers, Andre Russell (West Indies), Will Sutherland, Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan), Jon Wells

Tickets for Weber WBBL and KFC BBL games are on sale now. Get yours at cricket.com.au/big-bash