The club-over-country debate has long existed in football and has slowly but steadily started seeping into cricket. From South African players taking up Kolpak deals to West Indies players skipping matches to turn up for franchises, the concept isn't new to cricket.
But an extreme case involving Andre Russell on Friday has brought scrutiny back onto this trend. Russell was named in West Indies' T20 side - subject to fitness - to take on India in Florida in the first two matches. He had only just recovered from a knee injury which cut short his World Cup and was playing in the Global T20 Canada, when he experienced discomfort again.
Russell as such ruled himself out of the series against India. Fair enough? Hold on.
Hours after this, Russell turned out to play in the same league for his franchise Vancouver Knights against Edmonton Royals. If Russell could turn out to play a T20 match for his franchise, what stopped him from playing for West Indies?
This is a persistent issue with Russell who has time and again reported himself injured to the Cricket West Indies board only to turn up for a T20 franchise in a short time. However, this short a time-frame is unprecedented.
While it is pretty known that the West Indies board has less money and that the players make a bulk of their earnings through these T20 leagues, is it fair on the Windies if Russell pulls out at the last minute only to continue playing elsewhere?
He was eager to play in the World Cup for West Indies and played in four matches before a knee injury ruled him out of the rest of the tournament. Having been named in the T20I squad for the Indian series, Russell did not even take up the fitness test and opted to rule himself out.
The lack of eagerness to play for his country is quite evident in Russell's case. In this scenario, should the West Indies even wait for him to turn up?
Despite all this, their T20I skipper and Russell's close friend, Carlos Brathwaite, chose to defend him in the press conference ahead of the first game against India.
"I think he's been knocked in the press a bit because of his injury woes. And I think it's easy for us to see him hobbling around the field and just take for granted that he's injured but we can also look at it on the other side and say he can be home, he could be elsewhere and not trying to play for the West Indies," Brathwaite said.
The old adage of 'no player is above the team' is something West Indies ought to be adopted here. Instead, by giving a free will to Russell, West Indies are setting a bad precedent.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Paul Ellis