SYDNEY – Andre Russell is headline news in Sydney.
But his Thunder management might have missed a trick this season.
Russell, the club’s highest-averaging batsman and the tournament’s top-ranked all rounder, believes he could be even more damaging at the top of the order.
And he might get his chance on Saturday, with Thunder openers Jacques Kallis and Usman Khawaja ruled out for the must-win clash against the Sydney Sixers.
The West Indies limited overs specialist hasn’t managed to register any half-centuries batting in the middle, but his cameos have been explosive and a hit with fans.
Just imagine what he could do if he came in earlier – because he has, and it brings a grin.
“My goal is actually to open the batting because I would abuse that first six (overs) and then it doesn’t matter where they set the field,” Russell told The Daily Telegraph today.
“Normally when I go out to bat the field is spread anyway and I still manage to score my 50s and 60s. If I get a good start in the first six, what I can do in the long run will be amazing.”
It’s little surprise Russell has already become a cult figure in his first season at the Thunder. He celebrates with trademark enthusiasm, brushes off painful blows to the shoulder and prefers to be called by his DJ name, Dre-Russ.
He’s one of the great personalities of the Big Bash and he’s hoping to be back at the Thunder next season to entertain some more
“I don’t like to change environments and being here, getting to know everyone, I think it’s a chilled environment,” he said.
“Not every environment you’re in where you lose four in a row after winning the first three you get the same welcome, the same environment around still.
“Guys are still inviting other guys out for a barbecue and still having drinks together – it just goes to show that we’re a good team.
“The fans love me and I love the support I’m getting, so whenever I get feedback like that I like to make them happy and contribute to all the games. I just look to make sure that whatever I do on the field, it counts.”
Russell has played in T20 tournaments all over the world, but believes the Big Bash is the most challenging, and the most rewarding too, because he gets to pick the brains of Mike Hussey and Kallis.
“It’s hard to explain. Being around guys like them, obviously watching those guys as a youngster, and now batting in the middle with them, I feel like blushing sometimes but you have to face reality and know that it’s happening.
“Just to talk to them, pick their brain and ask them what they’re thinking before a game, what they think during a game and stuff like that. I’m trying to learn, just like they are learning from me as well.
“The Big Bash is very tough, but I enjoy it because of that. If it was a bit easier I could just walk on the park and make 50 off 15 balls – I would enjoy it, but I would be saying no, it’s not testing my skills.
“There are no easy teams. You can’t just pounce on a bowling attack and say, ‘I’m going to take this attack apart.’ There are good bowlers and bowlers who can get you out, so you have to be smart.”
After the great start Sydney Thunder had to the tournament they shouldn’t be in a position where they need a win to make the semi-finals after losing their last four in a row.
“I think we all should feel a bit grumpy knowing we went three from three and now lost the last four,” Russell said. “I didn’t see this coming, but the ball is a round ball, it can go either side, and it just goes to show we can’t take anything for granted. I think we can break that four game (losing) spell and try to win the next one.”