With two more high-profile T20 leagues coming up, top West Indian players are set to be in great demand, and the situation has all the makings of a fresh scrap between the players and the team management, and, by extension, the cricket board. It might have begun already.
“It hurts,” Simmons said. “There’s no other way to put it. But what can you do? I don’t think that I should be begging people to play for their countries. I think if you want to represent West Indies, you will make yourself available.”
Russell has now offered a somewhat cryptic social-media response to these comments, putting up an Instagram post with a screenshot of ESPNcricinfo’s news piece with Simmons’ quote in the headline, and this comment: “I know this was coming but am gonna stay quiet!!!”
Russell hasn’t turned out for West Indies since the 2021 T20 World Cup. He isn’t part of their squad for the ongoing three-match T20I series against New Zealand – Haynes said “he is unavailable because he hasn’t made himself available” – but is playing for the Manchester Originals in the Hundred. He was also part of the list of overseas players unveiled by the UAE’s ILT20, which begins in January next year.
Sunil Narine is also at the Hundred. His last appearance for West Indies was in a T20I in August 2019. Evin Lewis and Oshane Thomas have not appeared for their fitness tests, according to Haynes, though Lewis has signed a deal with Jaffna Kings in the upcoming edition of the Lanka Premier League. Fabian Allen has pulled out for personal reasons.
Jason Holder, Obed McCoy, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Romario Shepherd and Jayden Seales, who have turned out regularly for West Indies in recent months, have all signed up for the South African T20 league, which will be played almost concurrently with the ILT20 next year. Apart from Russell and Narine, Allen, Lewis, Rovman Powell, Akeal Hosein, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran and Dwayne Bravo are on board for the ILT20.
Due to all this, West Indies are far from getting their full crop of top T20I players together despite the T20 World Cup, which begins in Australia in mid-October, looming.
It appears, now, that some sort of breaking point might have been reached. According to Haynes, the West Indies management will give more weightage to performances in CWI-run tournaments, like the upcoming CPL, for selection.
“If there is a competition that is run by the West Indies (and) somebody is playing well, I think his name should really come up for selection,” Haynes said. “That performance is very important to us, and we didn’t say that we have picked the World Cup team yet, so all the games that are going to be played leading up to the World Cup, we must take into consideration.”
Russell and Narine, among others, are CPL regulars, so there is a chance that they might not be out of the fray for the T20 World Cup just yet.
Speaking on his international future, Narine recently told ESPNcricinfo, “There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on, which I don’t really want to get into, but I mean, everybody would love to represent their country. It’s a hard thing watching them knowing that you want to be part of it and you’re not part of it.
“Things happen for a reason and hopefully in the future I’ll be wearing maroon again, but until then, I’d still love to play for Windies. We shall see when that opportunity comes, but there will never be a no for West Indies.”
Russell has also in the past spoken about his desire to represent West Indies as much as possible, while at the same time seeming to prioritise franchise cricket over internationals. Late last year, for instance, he played for Deccan Gladiators in the Abu Dhabi T10 League, but opted out of West Indies’ tour of Pakistan, which began just over a week later, for personal reasons.