PORT OF SPAIN – If there is one person chomping at the bit ahead of tonight’s second semi-final of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League, it is lively Jamaica Tallawahs all-rounder Andre Russell.
Almost unnoticed, the 25-year-old has emerged as the hero for the Tallawahs, producing match-winning knocks and incisive spells, to help propel the Kingston-based franchise into the final four of the Limacol CPL.
With the crucial semi-final against Barbados Tridents underway at Queen’s Park Oval, Russell said he couldn’t wait to line up again, as he sought to steer Tallawahs into the final.
“I’ve been working hard on my batting and bowling so I am not really surprised by my form at the moment. I’m bowling good yorkers, I’m hitting the ball cleanly and I’m waiting for my type of balls to dispatch so I’m happy,” Russell said.
“We’ve qualified for the semi-finals but we want to keep up that winning momentum so we just want to take it step by step.”
Russell announced himself with a scintillating unbeaten 42, an innings which fired Tallawahs to a seven wicket victory over Antigua Hawksbills, in their second match of the inaugural tournament.
In the next match against Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel, Russell snatched the two key wickets of Adrian Barath and skipper Dwayne Bravo at critical moments in the game, as the Tallawahs stole a narrow five-run win in the last over.
Subsequently, stroke-filled, unbeaten knocks of 47 and 27 also saw Tallawahs post important triumphs and Russell said his performances were testament to the determination he has shown since losing his spot in the West Indies team.
“I’m feeling good. I got dropped from the West Indies team but I know what I have to do and I know how important it is for me to work harder than everyone else,” said Russell, who last played for West Indies on Zimbabwe’s tour of the Caribbean in March.
“As an all-rounder you have to be extra fit. I’ve been doing a lot of work. I’ve played in England for Worcestershire and I’ve been doing a lot of running and stuff like that.”
He added: “Getting dropped made me stronger. I went back in the nets. I have my own training facility at home with a bowling machine so I made use of that. I know what I have to work on and I spent extra time working on those things.
“I know what it is to play international cricket and I know what it takes to stay there. I’ve been dropped but when I return to the West Indies team I think I will be a better player.”
In danger at one point of not qualifying for the semis, the Tallawahs’ surge in form saw them finish second in the standings behind Guyana Amazon Warriors, and set up tonight’s highly anticipated clash with the Tridents
Russell, who has played 34 One-Day Internationals and 15 Twenty20s for West Indies, said much of the Tallawahs’ success had been as a result of the senior players and the atmosphere they had created in the camp.
“The guys that we look up to like Chris Gayle and Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) … they are all fun guys and that is very important when guys like those can come and say something funny and you laugh. It really keeps the team going,” Russell explained.
“Murali is a true legend – off the field, on the field – and that’s one of the best things. We just have to keep going and keep doing well. We have the team and we have the confidence. Our confidence is sky high right now because winning gives you momentum.”
Today Russell and Tallawahs had even greater incentive to do well tonight against the Barbados Tridents when Hollywood actor Gerard Butler, who is in Trinidad for the closing matches of the inaugural tournament, met the members of the team in which he has an equity interest. Butler wished the team well in tonight’s game and looked forward to them taking the field in tomorrow’s final
Tallawahs captain Chris Gayle presented Butler with an official playing shirt.