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Jamaica Tallawahs 'weirdest' team I've ever played for - Andre Russell

Allrounder says CPL 2020 will be his last season with the franchise

Nagraj Gollapudi
Jamaica Tallawahs captain Andre Russell chats with coaches Mark O'Donnell and Ramnaresh Sarwan during training  •  Peter Della Penna

Jamaica Tallawahs captain Andre Russell chats with coaches Mark O'Donnell and Ramnaresh Sarwan during training  •  Peter Della Penna

A day after Chris Gayle lashed out at the Jamaica Tallawahs management, his West Indies team-mate Andre Russell has called the franchise the "weirdest" he has ever played for. On Tuesday, a day before he turned 32, Russell also announced that the 2020 CPL season would be his last one with the Tallawahs, who had signed him in 2018 after he returned from his anti-doping ban.
On Monday, Gayle blamed Tallawahs' chief executive officer Jeff Miller and assistant coach Ramnaresh Sarwan for influencing the owner Kris Persaud to release him for the 2020 season. In a statement on Wednesday, the franchise said Gayle's release was "strictly a business and cricketing" decision taken collectively by the leadership group that did not include Sarwan.
'Unprofessionalism in this team is all about communication'
If Gayle's ire was targeted at Miller and Sarwan primarily, Russell took a deeper view, saying the franchise suffered from "unprofessionalism", lacking transparent communication.
In CPL 2018, Russell returned to captain the Tallawahs, a development he said was "very, very good for his image". However, he found the management's ways of doing things odd. Before the 2018 players' draft, Russell shared a list of names - Caribbean and overseas - he would want in the squad.
"I'm a guy that play to win," Russell said on his Instagram on Tuesday. "And I've won 13 championships [T20 titles]. So, I don't play to lose. If I'm picking a friend I believe in that friend. But the way Tallawahs went about things, that first, they went in in the draft, on the day of the draft, I was trying to reach out to these people. No reply."
Russell said his intention was to "clear the air". "During the draft still tried to reach out to these guys. No reply. After the draft they messaged me and asked me if I was happy with the team picked. I took a while to reply because I was disappointed."
Russell said the Tallawahs "did pick a good team" which lost to St Kitts & Nevis Patriots in the Eliminator. However, Russell claimed things were no better in 2019 season. "This year was way different. This is the weirdest franchise that I have ever played in. And when I mean weird, people that [are] supposed to reach out to you as an individual, and I am not just a normal player in the Jamaica Tallawahs team - I was once a leader. I realise how they look at things and how they do things."
In the five matches that Russell featured in the 2019 season, his returns were underwhelming: 99 runs with six wickets. Injury then sidelined him from the rest of the CPL,where the Tallawahs finished bottom in the six-team league.
Russell also said he was hurt at being "treated" as a debutant and he was "not involved in anything whatsoever" with regards to the franchise's plans. "I felt like a first-class player that just made his debut one game ago. Your opinion is not valuable. That's how I was treated."
Even this year, Miller had only contacted Russell to check whether he was going to sign the contract in order for the franchise to retain him. Russell said he continued to be "kept in the dark" when he asked questions. "Even when I ask questions: who you guys planning on retaining? Who you guys planning on buying? I don't get no answer on that. So, I just leave it."
Russell said he was happy to take a "pay cut" to stay with the Tallawahs only to play in front of his "home crowd, my family and friends." He said several other franchises in CPL were ready to pay him more than what the Tallawahs were paying him. But for Russell, "loyalty" was important.
According to Russell, the Tallwahs as a franchise has to address "unprofessionalism" in the ways the management has gone about doing things. "Addressing unprofessionalism in this team is all about communication."
To illustrate his point Russell provided two examples. The first was when Floyd Reifer, who was the interim head coach of West Indies at the 2019 World Cup, messaged Russell to inform he was potentially going to take over a similar role at the Tallawahs, replacing the incumbent Donovan Miller. According to Russell, Reifer also spoke to him about his front-foot position, while bowling, which was landing in an "awkward" fashion and putting pressure on his knee ligaments. However, soon after, Russell claimed Reifer "suddenly stopped communicating".
Russell tried asking Miller, but he did not say anything. Around this time, Russell heard rumours about Gayle moving to St Lucia Zouks. By then, he had signed the contract to stay with the Tallawahs. At the same point, Russell said Gayle messaged him a picture of a newspaper article, asking Russell if he had any information on his release. Russell said he had no clue. He called Gayle "instantly" and told him Reifer was "potentially" going to be the coach. "Communication was the problem, right throughout. No one say anything to Chris. No one say anything to me."
Russell felt Reifer did not want him to be captain of the side. "All of these things happened because of Floyd Reifer gonna be the coach. He don't want to have me as the captain because he wants to have someone he can actually talk to. Rovman Powell and Floyd Reifer have a good relationship and I respect that."
'Don't come and offer me captaincy again'
Russell said he would continue to perform for the team regardless. "I'm a free spirit player. If I'm not the captain I'm fine, I'm happy," he said. "The communication was the biggest problem when it comes to all of this. Up till now, I don't know nothing that is going on. I don't know nothing that was happening in the Jamaica Tallawahs team. And now it looks like me, Rovman, Floyd Reifer plan up, and I get rid of Chris. Why would I get rid of Chris? Chris have a three-year contract with Tallawahs. You're not supposed to breach a contract. As a franchise you can get in trouble with that."
Russell said that although he would continue to support Powell, he would not take over the leadership role in case the franchise approached him now. "All these guys have my number, no-one messages me. I'm not here to fight and say that I want to be the captain because at the end of the day, if I wasn't Tallawahs' first choice to be the captain, don't come and offer me the captaincy again. I'm not going to accept it."
Russell said he felt "weird" clearing his throat on his social media account, but was left with no choice; otherwise he felt like he had been pushed "under the bus" and his head would be crushed if it moved backward or forward. But Russell was firm about not staying back at the Tallawahs once his contract expires in 2020.
"I think this might be my last season for Jamaica Tallawahs. I'm just clearing the air," he said. "I've another year's contract [left] with the Tallawahs [2020 season]. I'm going to play and try and win because that's all I play for, but this will be my last, because I've been getting mixed up with all this shit that is happening, and I can't be playing cricket and I'm not comfortable. I think another franchise that has been coming last and fifth and fourth will appreciate me more [which] I am not getting it here. Honestly, I feel messed up about the whole situation."

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo