Russell fires blame at Tallawahs hierarchy for controversial departure of Gayle

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, April 30, 2020

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SUPERSTAR cricketer Andre Russell says the Jamaica Tallawahs hierarchy is at fault in what he deemed was a communication breakdown surrounding the departure of iconic Twenty20 (T20) batsman Christopher Gayle.

The self-styled “Universe Boss” Gayle is to suit up for the Darren Sammy-led St Lucia Zouks in the 2020 Caribbean Premier League (CPL).

Russell, the former Tallawahs captain, said he felt he was “thrown under the bus” after an apparent fallout between the franchise's executive team and Gayle.

“Communication was the problem right throughout. No one said anything to Chris; no one said anything to me,” Russell, who turned 32 yesterday, said as he addressed fans on his Instagram live Tuesday night.

“I just think that they didn't deal with Chris Gayle the way they were supposed to,” the Jamaican all-rounder said, while opining that Gayle's non-retention was “personal”.

Russell, named the leading T20 cricketer in 2019 by the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, added: “Since these owners come on board, it's been different, that's all I'm saying.”

The CPL T20 tournament is scheduled to take place from August to September, pending requisite approval, given the health risk posed by the novel coronavirus.

Days ago, Gayle, who captained the Jamaica-based franchise to the 2013 and 2016 CPL titles, accused the Tallawahs Assistant Coach Ramnaresh Sarwan of undermining him.

During a three-part YouTube post, Gayle, 40, claimed Sarwan's role was central in him being left off the Tallawahs players' list. He labeled the Guyanese Sarwan, his former West Indies teammate, as a “snake” who held considerable influence within the Tallawahs hierarchy.

In addition, Gayle alleged that the Tallawahs Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jefferson Miller was not transparent about plans to retain him this season.

The giant, left-handed batsman, who insisted his departure was not due to a salary dispute, put no blame at the feet of Guyanese/American owner Krishna Persaud, instead calling him “a good man”.

However, Gayle said he was forced to examine the role some of his former teammates might have had in the actualisation of events.

“I was questioning myself… 'What do these players know exactly?' So I texted the most senior person, Andre Russell: 'You know about this — I wasn't going to be retained?' ”

He said Russell denied any knowledge.

On Tuesday, Russell confirmed the conversation with his compatriot, and washed his hands of any blame.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Tallawahs said: “The ownership and management of the Jamaica Tallawahs [were] disappointed to see the comments made by Mr Christopher Gayle about his departure from the Tallawahs, as we would much rather have had these discussions in private.”

The statement said Sarwan played no part in the Tallawahs decision, while insisting that the move was “based purely on business and cricketing reasoning” after the team's dismal performance last season.

The management team did not address the comments made by Russell. Yesterday, the Jamaica Observer's attempts to contact the Tallawahs CEO were futile.

Russell, who expressed displeasure at being supposedly dragged into the matter, said he believed it was necessary to clear the air.

“Now I've been thrown under the bus, I'm addressing these situations. I just think I've been thrown under the bus and I'm in the middle. I respect Chris; Chris is my idol and he'll always be,” he told fans, maintaining that he would “look like the bad guy” if he did not go public with his side of the story.

Russell, obviously frustrated, said turmoil within the franchise could see him leave at the end of this season's tournament.

“Fans, I think this might be my last season for Jamaica Tallawahs. I have another year's contract with the Tallawahs, and I'm gonna play and try to win. But this will be my last because I'm getting mixed up with all these [expletive] that is happening,” he said.

“I can't be playing cricket and I'm not comfortable. I think another franchise that has been coming last and fifth and fourth in CPL will appreciate me more. I'm not getting it here,” the all-action player added.

After leading the Tallawahs to their second title, Gayle left for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots before making a heralded return last season. But the Tallawahs endured a horrid campaign, finishing last in the tournament with the Jamaican-born, England-based Donovan Miller at the coaching helm.

He said he had been eagerly looking to enter the second season of a three-year contract, and to hopefully end his career at his home franchise before he got wind of plans to release him.

Gayle is the leading scorer in T20 cricket with 13,296 runs in 404 matches. He has struck 22 hundreds, including a remarkable best of 175 not out, along with 82 half-centuries.

Russell, one of the biggest drawing cards in white-ball cricket, has amassed 5,365 runs in 321 matches. His uniquely explosive batting has brought him two tons and 18 half-centuries. As a pace bowler he has captured 291 wickets including a best of 4-11.

Russell, also a massive asset due to his sublime fielding, outlined issues he has had with the franchise.

“I still didn't get the contract that I wanted, and I don't ask for a lot. I've always accepted a pay cut… just to play in front [of] my home crowd, my family, and my friends,” he said.

He noted that other franchises have reached out to him, offering more attractive wage packages, but he turned them down.

“I'm talking about much more than the Tallawahs are paying me, but loyalty, and wanting to play in front [of] my home crowd; it's not all about the money,” he added.

He claimed that after captaining the team in 2018, he was virtually put on the outside looking in.

“[In 2019] I felt like a first-class player that just made his debut… and just been thrown into the CPL, so they don't need to say anything to you; your opinion is not valuable or nothing. That's how I was treated.

“This is the weirdest franchise I've ever played in. People who are supposed to reach out to you — and I'm not just a normal player in this Jamaica Tallawahs team — I was once a leader.

“We have to do things better for the future, we have to do things different,” he reiterated.

Should the CPL get going this season Russell is predicting a very tense players' dressing room, but he vowed that he will give of his best.

“I can tell you, this is going to be an awkward dressing room… but no one will actually see that when I step out to bat or to bowl or while I'm on the field.

“I'm willing to play as a normal player. I'm going to do my job still and perform [well],” he said, stressing he doesn't have ambitions to return to captain the franchise.

Reports are that Barbadian, Floyd Reifer and Jamaican, Rovman Powell are to take up the respective roles of head coach and captain.

Jamaican-born former fast bowler Andrew Richardson, who was team manager for the Tallawahs since 2015, has moved on to reigning champions Barbados Tridents.

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