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Today was my day: Simmons

Batsman says India's bowling didn’t worry West Indies, sounds warning for England about several match-winners in the team

01 April 2016 10:06

The cricketing gods act in strange, often mysterious and obviously unexplained ways. Last weekend, Lendl Simmons was at home in Port of Spain with his family, winding down an enforced holiday. This weekend, on Sunday (April 3) to be precise, he will be spearheading West Indies’ quest for a second ICC World Twenty20 crown, in the final against England at the Eden Gardens.

Simmons was a clear pick in the original 15-man squad for this tournament until a back injury ruled him out, Evin Lewis hitting it lucky. The right-hand batsman with excellent knowledge of Indian conditions could only watch on from his home as the 2012 champion scythed through the draw, until an unfortunate hamstring injury to Andre Fletcher on March 27 during the loss to Afghanistan opened the door for his return to the side.

As fortune would have it, Simmons’s first game would be at the Wankhede Stadium, a second home of sorts for the Mumbai Indians veteran. It would also be against the host nation, in a knockout game; Simmons set his stamp on the semifinal with a bruising unbeaten 82, aided by further slices of fortune, as India was sent packing by seven wickets after a tall chase of 193.

“When I went out to bat, I had a clear mind of what I wanted to do because we had a target to chase,” Simmons, who walked in at 19 for 2 with Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels back in the dugout, said later. “Before the game, I was a bit nervous. I was under a bit of pressure as the guys said I came here for a job. But all in all, it was good. We had a target to chase. And we got there.

“Yeah, today was my day,” he said of being called back to the crease after being caught twice, on 18 and then 50, off no-balls. “Every cricketer has his day and today was my day. I had a bit of luck on my side and I ride my luck and things went the way I wanted it.”

Simmons only arrived in Mumbai on Tuesday after the long haul from the Caribbean. “I got the news (of his call-up as a replacement player) after the Afghanistan game. The chairman (of selectors, Clive Lloyd) called me to ask if I was fit to go and play. I said yes, I was fit. I was coming here in any case, I was to leave on Friday to come to Mumbai to get ready for the IPL. I saw it as an opportunity to come and get ready for the IPL as well. Seeing this is my home ground as well, I know the conditions, I think I read it well. I was very rested for this game. I slept on both flights. I came here and I slept the night. In the morning (on Wednesday), I had practice. After that, I slept from 3-10 pm. Slept again from 12 pm to 4pm. So I was very rested.”

Admitting that the no-ball dismissals that weren’t impacted the game, Simmons pointed to the IPL as having played a huge part in his progress as a batsman. “It could have been a different ball game if I were out,” he remarked. “Obviously, it (the IPL) has made me a better player. The amount of games you have in the IPL, you are constantly playing cricket. You get used to different strokes and different situations at a game. Playing with guys like (MS) Dhoni and (Virat) Kohli also helps me analyse how I want to go about my game.”

While West Indies only won off the fourth ball of the final over, there was never one stage when it appeared seriously behind the eight-ball. Having said that, Simmons made it clear that India’s bowling didn’t hold too many fears for a power-packed batting line-up that wasn’t even required to fall back on Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Carlos Brathwaite, among others.

“At no point did I think that we had it under control because when a wicket falls, you never know,” Simmonds dead-panned. “But the (Indian) bowling was suspect. They had (Ashish) Nehra and Bumrah, two fast bowlers, but not express pace. Every one of our players is a match-winner in our team: Sammy to bat, Bravo to bat, (Andre) Russell came in, he played his part, (Denesh) Ramdin still to bat. We have a lot of batting power and any total anyone makes, we can chase it. We always back ourselves to chase totals.

“We have a lot of batting on paper but it all about which team performs on the day. We couldn’t make 120 a couple of days ago (against Afghanistan), so batting on paper doesn’t say much. The thing is on the day who gets off. Today I got off and I had the opportunity to win the game.”

West Indies has been projected as being over-reliant on Gayle at the top of the order, but Simmons warned that clearly, that wasn’t the case. “England will certainly be aware that this is not a one-man show in this team because Chris Gayle did not get off tonight but we still managed to get over the line and it was a big total. Seeing that he did not perform and we were still able to put up a fight and win the game with balls to spare shows a lot of character from our players.

“We shouldn’t be overconfident,” Simmons added, looking ahead to Sunday and the hallowed Eden. “As I said, it is about which team plays better on the day. The conditions will be different, I’m sure. It won’t be a perfect batting track like we had here today. From watching the previous games back home, the ball was turning in Kolkata, and that didn’t happen today.”