On the eve of his 32nd birthday, Russell, perhaps the most dangerous player in T20 cricket globally, in a rambling speech on Instagram Live on Tuesday night, accused the team’s ownership of poor communication and continued disrespect that helped create the impression that he was part of a conspiracy to get rid of Chris Gayle.
“I have another year’s contract with the Tallawahs and I am going to play and try and win because that is all I play for, but this will be my last because I have been getting mixed up with all these (expletive) that is happening,” he said, “and I can’t be playing cricket and I am not comfortable.
“And I think another franchise that has been coming last and fifth and fourth in CPL will appreciate me more. I am not getting it here.”
Russell revealed that he only heard about Chris Gayle’s departure from the team when the Universe Boss sent him a copy of a report in the Jamaica Gleaner that suggested that Gayle was not going to be retained by the two-time CPL champions and that there were going to changes to the coaching staff.
Rovman Powell was to be made captain.
That information, when combined with recent statements from Marlon Samuels suggesting that Russell must have known about Gayle’s departure and Chris Gayle’s subsequent comments, gives the impression that he knew what was going on behind the scenes at the Tallawahs when nothing could be further from the truth.
He said in 2019, he was not involved in anything with regards to the Tallawahs whom he said treated him like a player who was making his debut and whose opinion is not valued.
This is despite his decision to play for much less money because he wanted to play before his home fans. “I have accepted a pay cut just to play in front of my home crowd, my family and my friends,” he said.
This year, nothing has changed, Russell said.
“They communicated with my agent. My agent agreed. I agreed with my agent, ‘okay, let we sign’. The only time the CEO (Jeff Miller) or the only time the Jamaica Tallawahs contacted me was to ask me how soon will I sign,” he revealed. “The deadline is that time and can you sign please.”
Russell said when he asked who the team planned on retaining he did not get answers. “Who you guys planning on buying, I don’t get no answers on that. So I just leave it,” he said.
He said he read the newspaper report before he called Gayle and it made him nervous when it said that Floyd Reifer was going to be the head coach.
Reifer had messaged him, he said, indicating that he might be the head coach for the Tallawahs and mentioned plans they have for the upcoming season. However, Reifer suddenly ceased all communication and Miller still was not communicating with him.
During that time, Russell said, rumours began to circulate that Gayle was leaving for the Zouks.
He said his respect for Gayle made him fearful to even approach the ‘Universe Boss’ about whether the rumours were true. So when Gayle messaged him with the newspaper article asking if he knew anything about it, he was stunned.
“I called Chris instantly and I addressed the situation. I said to Chris that the only thing I heard was that Floyd Reifer was potentially going to be the coach.”
However, Russell believes that the fact that Rovman Powell and Reifer are friends and the perception that he knew what was going on behind the scenes, it creates the impression that he was part of a conspiracy to get rid of Gayle.
“Up till now I know nothing that was going on but now it looks like me, Rovman and Floyd Reifer plan up and a get of Chris. Why would I get rid of Chris? Chris has a three-year contract, you’re not supposed to breach your contract,” he said. “I had to address the situation because things don’t look good right now.”
However, this was something Russell said that was a feature of the ownership from the start.
He said when he signed to the Tallawahs in 2018, he had just returned from a one-year ban. The ban was for whereabouts violations after he had missed three doping tests within a calendar year, which under the WADA Code is equal to a doping violation.
He was made captain but, according to Russell, “the way they go about things kinda allowed me to dress back a bit”.
He said when he was made captain he gave the owners a list of the players that he wanted them to sign for the team. “Overseas players, local players, players from inside the Caribbean. It wasn’t about friends. It wasn’t about Jamaicans,” he said. “I am a guy that plays to win and I have won 13 championships, maybe the only player that has done that, so I don’t play to lose.”
He said he tried to reach out to the owners on the day of the draft and got no reply. However, when the draft was completed they reached out and asked him if he was happy with the team they selected.
He said it took him a while to reply because he was disappointed that they did not communicate with him when he reached out to them. However, his agent urged him to reach out to them and indicate that he still wanted to be captain and that he was happy with the draft.
He concedes that they did pick a good team but it lost in the playoffs to St Kitts and Nevis.
However, Russell believes the owners of the Tallawahs need to change if they are to remain viable.
“We have to do things better for the future,” Russell said, who seemed genuinely disappointed and upset about what transpired between Gayle and Jamaica Tallawahs.
“To deal with Chris Gayle the way that they have dealt with the situation is nothing to do with cricket. It’s more personal.
“This is going to be an awkward dressing room. It’s going to be an awkward CPL but no one will actually see that when I step out to bat or to bowl while I am on the field because I play to win.”