Mumbai: Lendl Simmons was not even supposed to be here. He was not in the scheme of things till the last week as West Indies were plotting their moves against India. But in a span of four days, he has travelled continents, smacked an unbeaten 82, rode his luck and drove West Indies into the ICC World Twenty20 final following a win over India on Thursday.
The young all-rounder was called in to join the squad after Andre Fletcher sustained an injury.
“I got the news (of my inclusion in the West Indies team) after the Afghanistan game. The chairman called to ask me whether I was fit to come and play. I said I am fit. I was to leave on Friday to come to Mumbai in the IPL. I saw it as an opportunity to come and get ready for the IPL as well. See, this is my home ground as well, I know the conditions and I think I read it well,” said the Mumbai Indians cricketer.
“I was very rested for this game. I slept on both flights. I came here and I slept the night. In the morning I had practice. After that I slept from 3 pm till 10pm. Slept again from 12 pm-4pm. So I was very rested,” added Simmons.
But all of it took a backseat as he played a pivotal in West Indies’ victory over the MS Dhoni-led Indian side.
“When I went out to bat, I had a clear mind of what I wanted to do. We had a targeted chase. So we already have a plan. Before the game I was a bit nervous, under a bit of pressure,” he said.
While Simmons played a match-winning knock, he prolonged his stay in the middle courtesy a number of no-balls.
“I think today was my day. I had a bit of luck on my side. I ride my luck and the things went the way I wanted it,” said Simmons.
“I obviously think that it swung our way. It could have been a different ball game had I been out. A new batter would have been and you never know what would have happened,” added Simmons.
West Indies had struggled to past 120 against Afghanistan with the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Carlos Brathwaite failing to offer much with the bat. When asked whether the team can chase down any total with such big hitters in the side, Simmons said, “I think we have a lot of batting on paper. We could not score 120 a couple of days ago. So batting on paper does not say much. The thing is, on a day who gets off and I got off and had an opportunity to win the game. Everybody played their part.”
Simmons went on to thank IPL for making him “a better player”. "Obviously it has made me a better player. The amount of games you have in the IPL, you are constantly playing cricket and after playing in the IPL and on these pitches you adjust to different strokes and different situations of a game. And playing with guys like Kohli (Virat) and Dhoni (Mahendra Singh) and seeing how they read the game also helps me analyse how I go about my game."
Many believed West Indies were out of the competition after Jasprit Bumrah sent Chris Gayle packing in the second over. However, Simmons made it clear that it is not just one man show in the team. “Chris Gayle did not get off tonight. But we still managed it to get over the line and that was a big total. And seeing that he (Gayle) did not perform and we still were able to put up a fight and win the game, shows a lot of character from our players,” he said.
West Indies will be facing former champions England on Sunday in the ICC World Twenty20 final in Kolkata. Simmons was quizzed about his and his team’s plans against the Eoin Morgan-led side.
Simmons said, “I think we shall not be overconfident. We will go to Kolkata and analyse the situation of the game. The conditions will be different. It will not be a perfect batting track like what we got today. From watching previous games back home, the ball was turning in Kolkata and that did not happen today. So, I think that played into our hands. We have to see how it goes on, on Sunday.”
While Simmons won the Man of the Match Award, Johnson Charles’ quickfire fifty was vital in the West Indies’ chase. Simmons was wholesome in his praise for his compatriot.
“He (Charles) took a lot of pressure off me. He read the conditions well and batted perfectly in the situation,” said Simmons.
Simmons though admitted that he never thought the chase was under control and what he thought about Indian bowling.
“At no point I thought we had it control because as a wicket falls, you never know. But the bowling was suspect. They (India) had Nehra and Bumrah - two fast bowlers- who do not have the express pace. I think everyone from our team is a match-winner. Sammy to bat, Bravo to bat, Russell came in and played his part and Ramdin still to bat. We have a lot of batting power and with the batting power we have, any total anyone can make we will chase it,” concluded Simmons.