Jamaica Tallawahs captain Andre Russell voiced his displeasure with the decision to shift more home games away from Sabina Park, after his side's first loss of the season to Guyana Amazon Warriors in Florida. The noisy and at times hostile atmosphere of about 4000 fans was overwhelmingly in favour of the visiting Warriors during a 71-run win over the designated home team.
"Honestly, I'm very unhappy at the moment," Russell said after the game. "The guys fought tonight ... but based on tonight's game, it wasn't like a home game. It didn't feel that way.
"Every boundary, every wicket it was going Guyana's way. [Shimron] Hetmyer came out, he played some good shots and just the crowd being in his back, it kind of gave him that pump and it shouldn't be like that. I think we should have that home advantage where a guy hits a boundary, he hears silence. Right? If that's how home advantage is supposed to be in these conditions, then you have to wonder. You hit a four, you hit a six, you're not hearing nothing because a Guyana crowd is out here and they want to see Guyana do well."
According to Russell, his fielders were under pressure almost from the start of the match. When Samuel Badree struck with the seventh ball of the night to trap Chadwick Walton lbw, a hush fell over the ground before it became lively once more in the next over as Hetmyer hit his first two boundaries off Imad Wasim on his way to becoming the youngest centurion in CPL history at age 21. The Warriors eventually bested the previous CPL-best total at the venue to make 209 for 7.
"Honestly, these are little things that get me upset from the second over," Russell said. "Guys saying stuff to you on the boundary. I don't want to field on the boundary because guys are pressuring you. It shouldn't be like that. When I go to Guyana, then I expect that.
"Guys were upset. I was upset. When I got off the field, I was throwing shoes, everything all around the changing room, things that fans don't need to see but that's how upsetting these things can be. You want to know that the crowd is behind you in your home game. So if we go to Barbados and we see a sea of blue, then we expect that. But you're playing a home game, you want to feel that home advantage. You get a wicket, you hear that loud cheer. It gives the bowler energy even if you're tired."
The Tallawahs have now lost four of five matches in Lauderhill since the CPL's first matches in Florida in 2016. Russell is expecting the hostile environment his side experienced on Saturday night to be no different on Sunday when the Tallawahs take on Trinbago Knight Riders, considering that TKR has historically had by far the biggest group of travelling supporters attending CPL matches in Florida.
He even joked about Tallawahs players trying to pick out their traveling family members in the crowd since they may be the few Tallawahs fans in attendance. But the Tallawahs pulled off a CPL-record chase in the first week of the season at Queen's Park Oval and Russell is optimistic that they can prevail over TKR again
"We got the two points before and I know that we can get it again here," Russell said. "I know it's gonna be loud. It's gonna be a lot of Trinbago colours tomorrow but I hope that we can see some yellows and we can identify our family and friends and we can actually give them something to cheer for tomorrow."
Even prior to the match against Amazon Warriors, Russell told ESPNcricinfo of his ambivalence towards playing home games away from Sabina Park after the Tallawahs had won their last two matches in front of near capacity weeknight crowds of 15,000. Speaking on the eve of the matches in Florida, the Jamaican allrounder made it clear there was no doubt that if the Tallawahs want to maintain a true home-field advantage then a Jamaican franchise should be playing in Jamaica.
"Florida is based on a lot of culture, a lot of different countries and nationalities," Russell told ESPNcricinfo. "So I hope that we can get the support that we really want. It won't be like playing in Jamaica where the crowd is behind the Tallawahs and the Tallawahs only. You're gonna have a lot of people here coming out to support Guyana while some supporting us while some come out just to watch the games. Their heart is not with the Tallawahs."
However, Russell and his Tallawahs team-mates may be stuck playing more matches away from Sabina Park for the foreseeable future due to an agreement struck by their owner with the city of Lauderhill. Kris Persaud, whose Worldwide Sports Management Group took control of the Tallawahs in 2017, has a contract with the Lauderhill venue, guaranteeing at least three international cricket events per year at the stadium. It's the key reason why this year's CPL matches at the venue were designated as Tallawahs home games as opposed to neutral site matches shared amongst the six teams.