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Skerritt: CWI Not At War With Russell

(CMC) Cricket West Indies (CWI) president, Ricky Skerritt, says all-rounder Andre Russell will face no backlash from selectors over his decision to opt out of the recent Twenty20 tour of New Zealand in preference for the ongoing Sri Lanka Premier League.

The 32-year-old Russell was left out of the T20 squad for the November 27-30 three-match series after chairman of selectors, Roger Harper, said the player had cited bubble fatigue, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Russell subsequently signed for Colombo Kings in the November 26 to December 16 franchise tournament in Sri Lanka, following his stint for Kolkata Knight Riders in the cash-rich Indian Premier League played in the United Arab Emirates.

But with the Jamaican attracting widespread criticism from pundits and fans over his decision, Skerritt launched a sterling defence of Russell’s actions, contending the player was well within his rights especially since he did not hold a CWI central contract.

“I have said clearly that West Indies cricket is not at war with Andre Russell,” Skerritt told i95FM Sports here.

“Andre Russell has a family to feed, he has whatever his own needs are and I don’t question what his needs are.

“We must however be cognisant of the fact that Mr Russell spent two years out of cricket and I’m sure that at his age, he has every right to pursue whatever financial rewards he can as a brand and as an extremely outstanding athlete.”

He continued: “Now, will Mr Russell meet all the criteria for selection going down the road? Only the selectors can decide but they will not punish him by not picking him.

“If they’re not picking him, it’s because they have decided that he is not the right person for the team on that particular occasion.

“But because he turned down the opportunity [to play for West Indies] on this occasion, it does not mean he will not be available or not allowed to play for us again in the future, at least as long I am president. I would fight that battle very very vigorously.”

Russell was one of three senior players who turned down selection for the series, with batsmen Evin Lewis and Lendl Simmons also snubbing the offer.

Harper said Russsell had indicated that he “needed some time to clear his head and get himself together” since he had been “going from one lockdown … to another”.

With the T20 World Cup scheduled for India next October, there have been calls for Russell’s non-selection for that event along with upcoming tours but Skerritt reiterated the stated selection policy in place was not one designed to punish players, either by denying them international duty or No Objection Certificates to play in foreign leagues.

“The selection policy is documented. It is very clear on what the selectors have as criteria for selecting players for representing the West Indies,” he reminded.

“But one of the things that is also very clear as a matter of policy is that we do not use the selection route to punish players or to be vindictive against any players as in the past, which was scary to say the least.

“So a player who is not centrally contracted to Cricket West Indies or to one of the franchise teams has the flexibility to ply his or her trade wherever they so please, as long as they get an NOC from Cricket West Indies.”

He added: “My predecessors fought a legal battle and lost to the tune of millions of dollars against players who said ‘you are restraining my trade, by stopping me from getting an NOC’.

“So we will not stop anybody from getting an NOC and then be sued for millions of dollars and lose – that’s not going to happen. That would be stupidity. I’m not going down that road.”

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