WEST Indies all-rounder Andre Russell is not daunted by the expectations placed on the team heading into the ICC World Twenty20 (T20) tournament to be staged in Sri Lanka next month.
The Jamaican, who is scheduled to leave the island on Friday to join a West Indies’ preparation camp, said the pressure to do well will push the regional players to perform at optimum levels during the competition.
“Some people say we are favourites, but we won’t be thinking too much about that (the favourites’ tag). We just want to go out and win.
“There are expectations and yes, there is that pressure to do well, but it’s good that people expect good things. It is all about representing the Caribbean and representing well and the expectations certainly gives a boost to my game,” Russell told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Aside from big-hitting lefthanded opener Christopher Gayle and the swashbuckling Kieron Pollard, the squad includes mercurial all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, in-form batsman Marlon Samuels and young shot-maker Johnson Charles.
Captain Darren Sammy has also shown improvement with the bat in recent times and will boost the lower order.
The slow bowling department comprises specialist T20 wrist-spinner Samuel Badree and offspinning sensation Sunil Narine, while Russell, Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul are the seamers selected.
The make-up of the squad makes Russell optimistic the Caribbean team can be a formidable force.
“I’m confident in the team that we have. We’re a team that everyone is talking about. We have the all-round talent and in T20 cricket that’s very important.
“We have plenty of bowlers, so if one is not getting the balls in the right areas, the opportunity is there for someone else to get the job done. We will look to capitalise on that advantage,” he said.
Though boasting averages of 36.62 with the bat and 27.86 with the ball in 27 One-Day matches, the powerful righthander has only played five T20 Internationals.
In that format he has scored a total of 23 runs and has taken only one wicket.
The 24-year-old said given the strength of the squad, he is aware that making the starting XI is not an easy task.
“I’m really happy with being in the 15-man squad. It means a lot to me going to the World Cup, but getting into the final XI is going to be a major achievement.
“The team is covered with allrounders, so I have to make use of the opportunities when I get them. I’m trying to improve my batting and bowling so that the management staff and the selectors can see I’m up for the job,” he reasoned.
After a series of talismanic performances for community outfit Old Harbour, helping them become the first team to successfully defend the Social Development Commission (SDC) T20 title, Russell said he is pleased with his general form heading into the regional camp.
“I’m looking forward to this fitness camp. My form in the SDC competition has enhanced my confidence. A lot of people may think the tournament is not of a high standard, but as shown yesterday (in Sunday’s final), I had to work hard to score runs. Though I’m an international player it was not easy for me,” he said.
West Indies open their account in the World T20 against Australia on September 22.
West Indies squad — Darren Sammy (capt), Dwayne Bravo (vice-capt), Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Darren Bravo, Samuel Badree, Fidel Edwards, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Dwayne Smith.