Gibson, Sammy back Russell to perform
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Two principal figures in the West Indies team management have backed Andre Russell to excel in his new role, even as the Jamaican all-rounder struggles to fill the slot made vacant by injured Twenty20 star Kieron Pollard.
In the recent T20 series against Ireland and England, Russell was used at number six in attempt to compensate for Pollard’s absence. However, he failed to provide the explosive power needed at the back end of the innings, with scores of just 15, 8, 24 not out, 2 and 0.
Despite the string of failures, captain Darren Sammy said Russell had the team’s fullest support, and would continue in this position as West Indies prepared for the defence of their World T20 title in Bangladesh later this month.
“We have to give players that confidence. It’s been five games since he’s been tried in that role. It’s a big gap to fill. Pollard knew his T20 game inside out and was very experienced. If Russell goes and gets the job done then I’m always there at the back end to do it [also],” Sammy pointed out.
“[There may be] situations … in the last five overs where I will have to go and we’ll have to make that decision then but as for now I am backing him, the coaching staff is backing him to do the job and we believe he is going to deliver. If he doesn’t then I back myself to come and finish the job.”
Russell has emerged as a powerful hitter in the limited overs format, and was key to Jamaica Tallawahs winning the inaugural Caribbean Premier League last year.
The 25-year-old produced a number of cameo innings – including a scintillating unbeaten 29 off six balls in the semi-final win over Barbados Tridents and 33 not out off 18 balls that saw Jamaica to victory in the final over Guyana’s Amazon Warriors.
Coach Ottis Gibson said he was confident Russell could rediscover this form for the Windies but said the player needed time to adjust to the role.
“He had a really good CPL for Jamaica with the bat. He made important runs for them. We’re missing Pollard and he’s a big loss for us because he’s one of our key men in those middle orders,” Gibson explained.
“We’re trying to give Russell the opportunity to fill that Pollard role and you have to give him time, it’s something he has to grow into. He has played three games in the (England) series and I will sit down with him and assess, and let him know how I think he has gone and what else he needs to do, and if he’s going do it the way Pollard has done it for us in the past.”
He added: “We believe strongly in Russell. We believe he’s got the capabilities to do it. He’s got the game, he’s got the power to do that job so we have to continue to back him up and give him the support he needs.”