Ahead of the 2019 World Cup, West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell has expressed confidence in shifting back to the 50-over format, a challenge considering his frequent knee problems, as well as the time spent away from one-day internationals, specifically during his one-year anti-doping ban.
While speaking to cricket.com.au, Russell revealed that the clamour surrounding his year-long suspension in 2017, imposed after he missed three drug tests, made him feel like he “did a murder.”
Now, with a stupendous IPL 2019 behind him, where he finished with a strike-rate of 200-plus and hit over 50 sixes for Kolkata Knight Riders, Russell returns to the West Indies outfit for the World Cup, albeit, with the experience of featuring in only two ODIs since the end of the 2015 edition.
“I haven’t played the longer format for a while, so I’ve been working extremely hard to make sure my body can get through 100 overs. I’m ready mentally and my body’s feeling great. I’ve had knee problems in the past but now I’m happy where I’m at,” Russell said.
“The last time I was in the maroon colours, it didn’t go well: my knees were acting up on me. So I’m giving God thanks for the opportunity where I’m in one piece and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable. I can run in, bowl and do everything that I love to do.”
Russell served a 12-month ban from January 2017 to 2018, after he had violated a whereabouts clause, which, under WADA rules, equates to a failed dope test.
“A lot of people think that I was on steroids or taking banned substances. I feel bad inside because a lot of people don’t know and they accuse me of [taking] drugs and I don’t believe in those things. That can’t help no cricketer. You can’t swing the ball with steroids. You have to swing it naturally.”
While the 12-month ban did make Russell stronger by his own admission, it completely kept him off the game: “I couldn’t even visit a training facility. I feel like I did a murder. I wouldn’t want no other cricketer to experience what I experienced for that 12 months.”
Upon his return, Russell made it a point to amp up his belligerence to another level, forcing his way back into the ODI and T20 international sides. On the way, he kept adding accomplishments to his already rich T20 resume: in one 2018 Carribean Premier League game, he smashed a 40-ball ton and took a hat-trick, and this year, ended the IPL as the Player of the Tournament, with 510 runs and 11 wickets.
In West Indies’ final warm-up game on May 28, against New Zealand, Russell gave a brief glimpse of what can be expected in England, hitting a rapid 25-ball 54 down the order. He believes that a ‘relaxed’ West Indies could do a lot of harm to the other teams, as they chase a third World Cup title, what would be their first in 40 years.
“With the squad that we have here, the way that we’ve been gelling, I love the vibes, I love how everyone is focused and everyone is doing their thing. It’s not tense, it’s not tight, it’s just relaxed and that’s what we need. Our culture is [that] once we’re enjoying the game, we will hurt teams.”