‘Superstar’ Russell the new Windies Gayle, Lara claims Bravo

By Sports Desk March 29, 2020

Veteran West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo believes T20 star Andre Russell has taken up the mantle of legendary players like Chris Gayle and Brian Lara for the regional team.

The swashbuckling 31-year-old was in fine form for the Windies during their recent tour of Sri Lanka, picking up man-of-the-series honours in a 2-0 win over the home team.  In fact, with a T20 strike rate of 171.29, the signature of Russell has become one of the most coveted on contracts all over the globe.  His development has impressed the Trinidadian all-rounder, who knows a thing or two about high-quality performances himself.

“It’s the same thing I used to say about Chris Gayle, we are happy to have someone like Gayle representing us, we don’t have to come up and bowl against him in an international match. I think it’s the same with Andre Russell. Andre Russell now is our Chris Gayle, is our Brian Lara in the T20 format. He is a superstar, he’s the best player and we are happy,” Bravo told local Trinidad-based radio station I955 FM.

“He’s the best in the world and we’re happy to have him in our team.”

Russell has claimed a number of titles with various franchises, including five in eight months in 2016.  He was named in the team of the tournament at the T20 World Cup that same year.

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    When I told my friend I was dedicating this blog to footballers like him, right off the bat he knew what I meant. Fat footballers.

    Generally, fat means sluggish, lazy, slow and unskilled. Well, he’s no stranger to hearing these stereotypes. And he’s no stranger to overcoming them either.

    For about 11 years his weight overshadowed small wins like going to four finals, receiving two medals and playing for Ardenne Prep, Jamaica College, Greater Portmore, Naggo Head and Duhaney Park.

    “There was this one time when I went to a match and the opposing coach explained to his players that the right side of the field is the weaker side because there is a big fat boy on there— and there’s no way that this big fat boy can contain any of the players.”

    Sportsmen and women are seen as the best physical specimens because they perform feats many of us can only dream of. Being overweight pokes holes into that ideal with the reaction from fans and even those inside sports like coaches and managers being to misjudge a player’s value and ability.

    “I played numerous positions— forward, midfielder, defender. I enjoyed the defending position most. I engaged in tackles and used my brain to contain quick and skilful players. We had to set up different walls to contain corner and free kicks. It was like guiding a ship!”

    Despite possessing obvious ability, my friend’s body-shaming continued unabated. Body shaming is criticizing or drawing attention to someone’s shape, size or appearance.

    Teammates, players’ parents— it came from all directions. The taunting was overbearing. “Some of the people who body-shamed me were parents, coaches, players, teammates and friends. When I was in prep school, a player’s parent expressed that she doesn’t understand why her son is sitting on the bench when there is a fat boy on the field. She wondered what I had over her son.”

    “Another example is in high school, a coach was giving out letters for summer training. He said to me that he doesn’t allow fat players on his team and the only way I’d get a letter was if I did something about my weight.

    “I asked him if he did anything about it (his weight). He explained that he has always been on the chubbier side. He’s naturally big and so is his family. He then started to tell me how diets and portion control never work for him.

    “To put him out of his misery, I asked if there was an upside to the misconceptions others had of him. I’ve definitely changed some minds. It was the beginning of the football season when all my teammates were talking about who was going to be captain. My coach didn’t announce the captain until minutes before the match. While spectators waited outside the dressing room for us, my coach turned to me and gave me the captain’s armband and told me that I’ll be leading the team for the rest of the season.

    “I didn’t put on my armband before walking out of the dressing room but I led my team out. Usually, the captain leads the team to the game. I could hear spectators asking if I was the captain or not. As I approached the field I asked my fellow teammate to put the armband around my left arm to show the spectators, the rest of the team and the opposing team who was the actual captain.

    “The coach saw me play the year before and knew I was capable.”

    I wanted our discussion to end on a happy note. Still, I asked him if body shaming affected him in any way. He said ‘no.’

    I wasn’t convinced because he remembered the remarks to a ‘t’; as if they were freshly said. I figured they lingered.

    I didn’t bother to tell him that part because I’d rather tell you guys this:

    Please be kinder to players who look like my friend. In no way is body shaming okay.

    Rahkeem Cornwall debuted for the West Indies on August 30, 2019, against India.

    Cornwall does not look like the average cricketer, lean and powerful, light on his or her feet, yet, in just his second match, against Afghanistan in Lucknow, he was the region’s best bowler, grabbing 7-75 and 3-46.

    He also showed in the CPL that he is a dangerous batsman when he gets going and can take a game away from a team with his batting and bowling. At the first-class level, Cornwall has already taken over 300 wickets in just 62 games.

    From Jimbo’s example, maybe there’s something to be said about staying your judgements.

    Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

  • West Indies paceman Gabriel pushing for involvement in England series West Indies paceman Gabriel pushing for involvement in England series

    West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel is hopeful of returning from injury in time to be selected for a planned Test tour of England.

    The Windies and England are attempting to organise a three-match series - to be held behind closed doors - for July, with games pencilled in for July 8, July 16 and July 24, according to Johnny Grave, the Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief executive.

    Grave also confirmed a 25-man squad, including 10 reserves, will travel to the United Kingdom in the week commencing June 8.

    Gabriel has not featured in the longest format since September 2019, having struggled with an ankle injury which subsequently required surgery in November last year.

    Now, the paceman is focusing on stepping up his rehabilitation with the aim of returning to the fold for the series.

    "It's a good feeling always to represent West Indies. It's good to be back out on the park," he told i955FM.

    "The plan is right now to try to make it to the tour to England - hopefully that comes off. I'm just trying my best to stay positive and I hope everything goes well.

    "It has been a long journey since November when I did the surgery on my ankle. Everything is going well, it has been a long process in terms of getting back to running and bowling and stuff like that.

    "I am trying my best to be as fit as possible so I'm really working hard in terms of my fitness and managing my weight, trying not to get too heavy to put too much strain on my ankle. So I know once I put in the hard work everything will be okay in the end. I just want to stay positive.

    "There has been no high-intensity work, I'm just taking my body back into it easy, taking it one day at a time and not trying to push too hard but it's still long while before the first Test in England and by that time I'm sure I'll be fit and ready."

    With cricket having been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gabriel does not expect it to be an easy transition for many players to return, especially with physical-distancing measures introduced by the ICC.

    "It's going to take a lot. It's going to be mentally taxing on the brain but you have to stay positive. Keep your mind fresh," Gabriel said.

    "I know they [England] are going to be coming at us all guns [blazing] at us, but I know the guys

    "Plus plenty of the guys haven't been playing any cricket, so it is going to take us a while to get back there. On the positive side, you're still getting the opportunity to play cricket and represent your country so that in itself should be enough motivation."

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    In 1993 the West Indies went into the fifth and final Test of a series against Australia at Perth tied at 1-1 and a number of brilliant performances made the game a one-sided affair, giving the visitors a not-so-close 2-1 victory.

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