West Indies white-ball captain Kieron Pollard said they have no plans of including his friend and in-form mystery spinner Sunil Narine to the 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to begin on October 17 in the UAE and Oman. Narine, who failed to meet the board's minimum fitness criteria, wasn’t picked for the World Cup but has been in astonishing form in the ongoing Indian Premier League in the UAE.
The 33-year-old has scalped 11 wickets at an economy of just 6.12 in eight matches since the IPL's resumption. Narine single-handedly helped Kolkata Knight Riders topple Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator on Monday. He first took four wickets, including the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell, and then smoked 26 off 15 deliveries to help Kolkata chase down a target of 139 on a difficult Sharjah surface.
"That has been explained. If I add my two cents or my words on how his non-inclusion came about, then it could be spun - just like how he's bowling on these Sharjah wickets - in all different directions. Let's deal with the fifteen guys that we have here at this moment in time, which is more important, and see if we can rally around these guys and see if we can defend our title," said Pollard.
"I have no comments on that. Enough has been said on that. I think persons have explained the reason of his non-inclusion at this point in time. For me personally, I know Sunil Narine as a friend first, before an international cricketer. We grew up playing cricket together. He is a world-class cricketer."
However, Pollard is looking forward to having a fully-fit Andre Russell for the showpiece event. The all-rounder hasn’t played a single IPL game since September 26 but KKR captain Eoin Morgan recently suggested that Russell is working hard to be fit for the playoffs and has resumed training.
"Before I make any assumptions as to what he can or he can't do, we need to do our assessment first as a team. We haven't had the opportunity to see him. We've gotten reports as to what he has done. I wouldn't want to get into trying to say what he can or can't do at this point in time.
"He's a critical person for our team and we'd love for him to be 100%, but we have to deal with what's in front of us. Let's see what happens over the next couple of days. KKR have another game tomorrow and then, if they get through to the final, on Friday. When we see him as a management staff, we'll be able to assess and ascertain what he can or can't do, but we're looking forward to having a fit Andre Russell if possible."
Chris Gayle hasn't been in great form this year. The left-hander featured in only two games in the second half of the Indian Premier League 2021, scoring 15 runs, before ending his stint with Punjab Kings in order to "mentally recharge and refresh" ahead of the T20 World Cup. Pollard, who will be playing his first World Cup since the 2014 World T20, backed Gayle’s decision and also spoke about cricketers' mental health.
"Gayle's recharge was just like those iPhones. When the battery is low and struggling, you want to get some energy into you. In all seriousness, this bubble life is very, very difficult at times. Guys have moved straight from playing the home series, into CPL, then into IPL and into a World Cup. Sometimes you need a break as a cricketer and as an individual and I don't think enough attention is being placed on mental health for sportsmen and us cricketers at this time with all this bubble life," said Pollard.
"I'm fighting. I'm trying to look beyond certain things. As an individual, sometimes it tends to get to you, not being able to be free, leaving one tournament and going straight into the next. It's a bit difficult at times but we have a job at hand. We have something very, very important coming up in the next couple of weeks and it's something that we as a team are looking forward to.
"As the leader of the team, I try to gear myself and get myself in the best shape and the best order mentally, physically and emotionally, so I can lead to the best of my ability. I look forward to this World Cup. Obviously I haven't played a World Cup in a long time, so I think that's my motivating factor. To be able to come and represent the West Indies in a major tournament is something that I'm looking forward to, and hopefully we can put everything aside and turn out some very, very good performances."
Pollard also confirmed that his team will continue to take a knee before their games at the World Cup in a stand against racism. "From my knowledge at this present time, I think it's something we're going to continue because it's something that we strongly believe in, as a team. Hopefully we can just continue to show our support for something that I think is close to our hearts."