Champion batsman Mike Hussey believes West Indies and Sydney Thunder star Andre Russell will return as a better player and person after serving his one-year ban for a doping violation.
Russell was banned from cricket for one year for a doping whereabouts rule violation by an independent anti-doping panel in Kingston, Jamaica on Tuesday, where he was found guilty of failing to explain his whereabouts three times in a 12-month period in 2015.
"I’m devastated for him to be honest," Hussey told cricket.com.au. "It’s really sad.
"I don’t know what they (Russell’s team) are going to do if they’re going to try to appeal it.
"I think they’ve got two and a half weeks if they want to appeal that decision.
"I feel really sad for him. He’s been through a really tough time.
"It’s just really sad because he’s right at the prime of his career right now. I know he’s got an injury at the moment but he’s arguably the most devastating T20 player in the world and we’re not going to be able to see him for a whole year.
"It will be interesting to see how he comes back from this, how he deals with it both physically, mentally and with his cricket.
"He’s a tough guy and a tough character so I’m sure this whole experience will make him stronger and make him a better player and a better person in the future."
The ban starts from January 31, 2017 to January 30, 2018 meaning the star allrounder will be unavailable for the Thunder next summer, leaving a gaping hole in the BBL|05 champions’ roster.
Russell battled a mystery leg injury during this summer’s KFC Big Bash League before a hamstring injury ruled him out of the tournament only five matches into the Thunder’s title defence.
West Indies teammate Carlos Brathwaite came in for Russell for the back end of the competition but now Hussey, who is the Thunder’s Director of Cricket and List Manager, must find a full-time replacement for Russell.
A task that that Hussey says is practically impossible.
"We’ll see what happens with the appeal process," Hussey said.
"If he appeals we’re still clinging onto that hope (of retaining him).
"We would hate to lose him because he’s been a cult hero for us in the past couple of years.
"He’s loved by the players, he’s loved by the whole franchise and certainly loved by the fans as well.
"If we do lose him … you can’t replace him. He’s just incredible.
"We’ll have to sit down and see what’s out there and then try and make the best decision for the franchise from there."