By the time Andre Russell was little more than five years into international cricket, he was a two-time world champion. That both titles came in the T20 format defines the kind of cricketer he is. A batsman who hits the ball hard enough to make the inanimate thing scream for mercy, he functions primarily as a finisher. He generates even more pace with the ball in hand and when it is anywhere near him in the field, it doesn’t matter at what pace it’s travelling. Russell will probably get to it. He is less a cricketer, in the traditional sense, than an athlete.
An allrounder from Jamaica, Russell made his first-class debut at the age of 19. He made his way into the West Indies A squad and captured plenty of attention with his exploits in a 50-over game against Ireland in June 2010, smashing 61 off 34 balls and taking 6 for 42. It was a performance that helped him win a place in West Indies’ 2011 World Cup squad. Things didn’t go to plan there, but his capabilities were on show against the newly-crowned champions India in June when he came out at No. 9, with the score at 96 for 7, and smashed 92 off 64 balls.
Russell’s impact in international cricket was a bit sporadic until 2015, against South Africa in Port Elizabeth, when he provided a consolation victory for West Indies on a difficult tour by hitting 64 off 40 balls to chase down 263 with one wicket to spare. “My thing,” is how he described batting in the slog overs. “I think I really enjoy when there’s five overs or ten overs left.”
Those skills were evident in domestic T20 cricket though. He had a fine season with Worcestershire at the Friends Life t20 in England in July 2013 and a ground-breaking Caribbean Premier League a month later when his team Jamaica Tallawahs became champions. Russell’s star shone brightest at the IPL 2015, when he was named Man of the Series, and the Big Bash League 2015-16 when he struck at 186.86 and picked up 16 wickets – joint-second best – from 10 matches. He won the CPL title with Tallawahs in 2013, the IPL title with Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014, the Bangladesh Premier League title with Comilla Victorians, the BBL title with Sydney Thunder and the Pakistan Super League title with Islamabad United in 2016.
His flamboyant style is a part of his personality as well, which became apparent as he unveiled a hairstyle similar to Mr T at the 2015 World Cup. A year later, with his mohawk dyed blonde, Russell applied the final touches to a mauling of hosts India in the World T20 semi-final as West Indies became the first team to win the trophy twice.
During the most successful period of his T20 career, however, a cloud hung over Russell because the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission had charged him for not filing his whereabouts clause three times in 2015, an offence tantamount to one failed dope test. After hearings that went on over a year, Russell was found guilty of a whereabouts-clause violation and banned for one year by an independent doping panel in Jamaica. The ban was from January 31, 2017, until January 30, 2018.
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