'We have got your back, Andre'
DUBAI, UAE (CMC):
All-rounder Andre Russell has praised Indian Premier League franchise, Kolkata Knight Riders, for providing the assurances which kept him focused during his one-year ban from the sport.
The Jamaican returned to competitive cricket earlier this month after serving an anti-doping whereabouts ban, and said KKR had indicated early in his suspension that they were interested in re-signing him.
"After I got banned last year, maybe a week after, KKR reached out and we negotiated that I would be signed this year on return," Russell told the India-based Firstpost.
"It was basically them doing their part to help ease my mind during the ban, saying that you are out of cricket, but don't worry about it, we have got your back."
He continued: "Dhaka Dynamites (Bangladesh Premier League franchise) and a few other teams reached out and gave confirmation I would be signed this year; so this all kept me focused."
At the IPL auction last month, Russell was retained by KKR in a US$1.07 million deal.
Russell has emerged in recent years as one of the most sought-after players on the international Twenty20 circuit.
However, the 29-year-old was banned in January last year after being found guilty of failing to notify anti-doping authorities of his whereabouts on three occasions in 2015 - a breach that is the equivalent of a failed drugs test under World Anti-Doping Agency regulations.
Though sidelined from competition, Russell said he remained fit throughout the year off, and stressed this was as a result of his mental strength.
"Overall it was a mental thing. I've always been a mentally strong person. Once I put my mind to something I'm going to get it done," he explained.
"So, I guess it was easier for me that way - not to sulk, lose shape, but keep myself in good condition and get out of bed sometimes to put in the work - despite knowing I'm just practising but can't play cricket.
"With six months to go, I started counting down and viewed it as a long preseason, because when the time was up, I wanted to be in the best shape and fully cricket-ready."
Russell returned to action earlier this month in the Regional Super50 - the West Indies domestic 50-overs competition - and immediately stamped his class with a whirlwind hundred and two half-centuries for Jamaica Scorpions.
He will turn out for Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League which bowled off here Thursday.