Gayle, Russell named in Windies T20 squad
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC):
Batting sensation Chris Gayle and all-rounder Andre Russell have both been included in the 15-man West Indies squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in India.
Some media reports yesterday announced the squad without Gayle and Russell, sparking some speculation on social media, but CMC Sports understands that the Jamaican pair is definitely part of the Windies campaign for the March 8 to April 3 tournament.
The squad, which is yet to be named officially by the West Indies Cricket Board, includes embattled off-spinner Sunil Narine, who is currently banned from bowling internationally.
However, Narine is expected to undergo testing on his action at Loughborough University in England next month, before confirming his spot on the side.
All eyes will be on Gayle, however, especially after he sparked controversy during the recent Australia Big Bash with his now infamous 'Don't blush, baby' live television interview, where he appeared to openly flirt with Channel Ten's Mel McLaughlin.
The 36-year-old left-hander has played in every T20 World Cup since the inaugural tournament in South Africa eight years ago, when he announced himself in the format with a stunning hundred against the hosts in Johannesburg.
He has since become arguably the most valued commodity on the global T20 circuit, and his presence will ensure West Indies will be installed as one of the early favourites.
Only recently, he blasted a 12-ball half-century in the Big Bash to equal the record for the fastest ever fifty in T20s.
Russell, meanwhile, has become one of the most sought-after T20 players and last year plied his trade in the Indian Premier League, South Africa's Ram Slam, the Caribbean Premier League, the Bangladesh Premier League, and the Big Bash.
He emerged as one of the leading players for Sydney Thunder as they wrapped up the BBL title last week, scoring 185 runs at a strike rate of 186 while taking 16 wickets with his pace bowling.
The Windies squad also sees the return of combative left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, who has not played for West Indies since last April after being dropped following England's Test tour of the Caribbean.
Benn, 34, had an outstanding campaign with the ball in the Regional Super50 which wrapped up on Sunday in Trinidad and Tobago, taking 15 wickets to be the tournament's leading bowler.
All-rounder Darren Sammy, who led West Indies to the T20 World Cup title four years go in Sri Lanka and into the semi-finals in Bangladesh in 2014, has been re-appointed skipper.
West Indies are set to play in Group One alongside reigning champions Sri Lanka, South Africa, England and yet-to-be determined qualifier.
WEST INDIES - Darren Sammy (captain), Lendl Simmons, Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Keiron Pollard, Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin, Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Sunil Narine, Andre Fletcher, Jason Holder, Jerome Taylor, Andre Russell.