Dubai: Andre Russell, the Superman of T20 franchise cricket, wants to work on his fitness for the ‘‘next three months’’ in order to prepare himself for next year and the marquee ICC event - ICC T20 World Cup in India.
It’s been an unusually quiet Indian Premier League for ‘Dre Russ,’ as the Kolkata Knight Riders fans affectionately call him, during which he also sat out a few matches due to a recurring injury. However, following some quality down-time in Dubai after the IPL, the West Indies allrounder is now all set to add some muscle to Colombo Kings team in the inaugural edition of Lanka Premier League in Hambantota from Thursday.
The five teams in fray in LPL which has seen multiple postponements are Colombo Kings, Kandy Tuskers, Jaffna Stallions, Galle Gladiators and Dambulla Hawks – who will figure in 20 league fixtures before a play-offs stage. The tournament will be held in a single venue, Hambantota, for safety protocol against COVID-19 pandemic and will be held from November 26 to December 17.
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Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interaction, Russell agreed it had been a long time on the road for him. ‘‘Yes, I have been on the road for close to four months now. It started with the CPL (Caribbean Premier League), then IPL and now here...it’s been tough life in the bubble for me.
‘‘However, I got a sense of freedom in Dubai after the IPL - got to drive a car, have a party and listened to some music. I feel fresh now, as if I am coming from home. It’s going to take time for us to get used to but I will do my best to do well in this league,’’ he said.
The brute force with which Russell clears the boundaries belies his soft spoken nature as he chooses his words carefully. Admitting that a troublesome knee has not often allowed him to give his best, the 32-year-old Jamaican said: ‘‘Yes, I have been struggling with my knees for the last two years. I have been in and out of leagues...hence, I am here not to mess around but to try and get back my confidence. Starting from now, I will take my fitness extremely seriously for next three months.’’
Russell is certainly one of the big names in a modest set-up like the LPL, alongside the likes of Pakistan veteran Shoaib Malik and retired overseas players like Shahid Afridi and Irfan Pathan. Asked what brought him to LPL, he said: ‘‘I have been stamping my authority all around the world. In Sri Lanka, it’s a new league and it’s going to be fun. We have to make sure to help some of the young players grow. The team has a good captain in Angelo Mathews, he is a lovely cricketer and has a good head on his shoulders. There are some good local talents also and I want to contribute in whatever way I can.’’
It’s an irony of sorts that despite making his international debut in 2011, Russell has not been able to do justice to his reputation in the maroon shirt in comparison to the superstar status he enjoys in the world of franchise leagues. What would be his plans for the World T20 next year, where the Caribbeans will be defending their crown they won so dramatically at the Eden Gardens in 2016? ‘‘Every international player will want to make the most of it. I feel I need to get stronger, may be need to push my body with hard running etc. I will want to play in World T20 as I may not have too many years of international cricket left,’’ he said.
Incidentally, Russell had also been a regular at the Abu Dhabi T10 tournament in the UAE. Asked if he feels this format has any future as an Olympic sport, as endorsed by a number of top cricketers, he said: ‘‘Yes, T10 cricket is getting into everyone’s eyes. It can definitely be a part of Olympics. They can set up qualifiers like in sprints in athletics...each leading country can be in a pool. You can have the best 20 or 30 teams play four or five matches a day. It should be exciting,’’ he added.