Russell return has BBL clubs scrambling

West Indies star back from drugs ban with a bang as Sydney Thunder face fight to keep star allrounder

Dave Middleton

23 February 2018, 12:16 PM

The return of Andre Russell has put BBL clubs on high alert, with the Jamaican allrounder yet to be contracted for a return to Australia following his return from a drugs ban.

Russell was partway through a two-year deal with the Sydney Thunder when he was banned for one year following a doping whereabouts rule violation.

There was no implication Russell had ever used performance-enhancing drugs but the two-time World T20 winner was found to have registered three whereabouts filing failures in 2015, which constituted a failed drugs test under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules.

Russell thrills in rapid innings

That ban expired on January 31 this year, and Russell was quickly back into the swing of things in the West Indies' Super50 domestic competition, striking 76 on his return.

The Thunder are keen to see Russell return to Sydney, but are understood to be just one of several clubs chasing the dynamic allrounder.

Russell played 15 games for the Thunder, and while he averages 17.5 with the bat and 23.26 with the ball, those numbers don't accurately reflect his ability to influence the game, especially as he played a key role in the Thunder's charge to the BBL|05 title.

The Jamaican has a happy knack of picking up T20 trophies, apart from his BBL title, he's won competitions in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Caribbean as well as the World T20 with the West Indies.

He played six games for the Jamaica Scorpions this month before heading to Dubai where he will again appear for Islamabad United, leaving the Caribbean with an unbeaten 108 in Jamaica's successful run chase of 240, having come in at 5-57.

He later revealed his return had been assisted by his IPL club, the Kolkata Knight Riders, who had provided him personal training staff and a promise to sign him on his return to cricket.

KKR were good to their word, and Russell was retained by the franchise for A$1.37 million.

"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," Russell told firstpost.com.

"After I got banned last year, maybe a week after, KKR reached out and we negotiated that I would be signed this year on return.

Russell thunders to 42-ball CPL ton

"It was basically them doing their part to help ease my mind during the ban, saying that 'you are out of cricket, but don't worry about it, we have got your back'."

The Jamaican made no mention of the Big Bash, but did confirm he has a deal in place for the Bangladesh Premier League with the Dhaka Dynamites which "kept me focused".

"Overall it was a mental thing. I've always been a mentally strong person. Once I put my mind to something I'm going to get it done," Russell said.

"So, I guess it was easier for me that way – not to sulk, lose shape, but keep myself in good condition and get out of bed sometimes to put in the work, despite knowing I'm just practising but can't play cricket.

Russell had his BBL|06 season cut short by injury 

"With six months to go, I started counting down and viewed it as a long pre-season, because when the time was up, I wanted to be in the best shape and fully cricket-ready."

While Russell will be in action for Islamabad United, his West Indies teammates will be locked in battle at the World Cup Qualifiers tournament in Zimbabwe.

The West Indies, who just missed direct qualification to the World Cup, must finish in the top two of the 10-team tournament in order to feature in next year's event in the UK.

Russell has been stung by criticism in the Caribbean that he put personal gain in domestic T20 competitions ahead of representing the West Indies.

"I've seen the comments bashing me, saying that I am not interested in playing for West Indies and turned my back on the team. I would never do that," Russell continued.

"West Indies made me who I am at this moment and I'm not going to burn my bridges.

"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.

"So all suggestions out there that I purposely didn't want to play for West Indies is not true.

"I told them (the West Indies cricket 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."