The Knights franchise have contracted West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell for the 2015 Ram Slam T20 Challenge.
Russell, capped 36 times at Twenty20 International level, proved key to the Kolkata Knight Riders’ relatively successful Champions League T20 campaign this month – and succeeded in the Indian Premier League earlier this year.
His commitment to the Knights isn’t expected to conflict with the West Indies Cricket Board’s requirements during November’s tour of India – and December’s three Tests against South Africa.
‘We have signed Andre for the Ram Slam T20 competition. He will be available from the first game to the last, if we end up in the final,’ Knights Cricket CEO Johan van Heerden told SA Cricket magazine.
‘It doesn’t clash with the West Indies’ schedule, not at all. We spoke to his agent and we don’t believe he would be taken up into the Test side of the West Indies. Part of those series, against India and the Proteas, are at the same time as the Ram Slam tournament, but he shouldn’t be taken up into the Test side, so he was the ideal guy to get.’
Former South African captain Graeme Smith was recently appointed tournament director and brand ambassador for the Ram Slam T20 Challenge – and was central to the Knights’ signing of the 26-year-old Russell, who is currently involved in the Windies’ five-ODI series in India.
‘Russell was our first-choice international player. We have Graeme talking to international players, trying to get them into the Ram Slam T20 Challenge, to up the tournament profile,’ added Van Heerden.
‘I spoke to Graeme about Andre and he said if we could get Andre he would do a fantastic job for the Knights. If you take the composition of our team, a very young team, Russell will fit into the whole vibe. He is energetic, he will bring three disciplines to the game. He bowls quickly and is a hard-hitting batsman, which will fit into our set-up like a glove.’
The Knights, who failed to graduate to the semi-finals stages in 2012-13 and 2013-14, will face the Lions in the opening fixture of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on 2 November.