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In the 2009 Champions League T20, Kieron Pollard got the Indian audience on their feet with his brutal batting display. That tournament changed Pollard’s life as he got a string of T20 franchises gunning for him. Pollard soon earned a Mumbai Indians contract with a heavy paycheck. In that very Trinidad & Tobago team, from the Champions League, was Lendl Simmons. He had seen his teammate’s path to glory and wished for the same.
Simmons was away from the IPL limelight all these years, while a lot of his Trinidadian teammates have become icons for their respective franchises in the IPL. Even a good show in a T20 league back in the Caribbean last year did not earn him an IPL contract. But as luck would have it, Simmons’ IPL call came by when he was asked to replace an injured Jalaj Saxena in the MI squad. In a short span of two games, that include a match-winning half-century against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Simmons is loving his new team. In this post-match chat with IPLT20.com, Mumbai Indians’ opening bat speaks about his love for the franchise and reveals his goal to hit a half-century in every outing this IPL. Excerpts from his interview:
A 30-plus score in your first game and a half-century today; this must be satisfying.
It was very satisfying to come up with a win. Even in the first game, I got off to a good start with a good strike-rate, but tonight, it was a better pitch to bat on. And I am glad I made use of the conditions and came up with a good score. How has the colour blue treated you till now?
I am loving the colour blue and it is great to play for the Mumbai Indians. They are a good franchise and I have been watching them since Champions League T20 when I was playing for Trinidad & Tobago. I have been watching the IPL all these years and it is good to be a part of it. All the guys are very good and very talkative and always supportive. It is good to be with them.
Having played in Champions league T20 representing Trinidad & Tobago, did you always want to be a part of the Mumbai Indians?
Yes! The first time I came to Champions league T20, I had thought of playing for the Mumbai Indians. They wanted to sign me, but Keiron Pollard came and played a big innings and he took that role. But now, I am glad I have got a chance to play for the Mumbai Indians. The guys here are good to play with and I am treated well here.
How challenging is it to open the batting when you have been playing at different positions for the West Indies?
I have batted in a number of positions for the West Indies, and at the moment, I am batting at No.3 for my national side. Having said that, I enjoy opening the batting and take it is as a nice challenge. I have opened with CM Gautam in the two games I have played so far and it is good to have a classy batsman on the other side.
Did you ask the team management to promote you up the order?
Actually, the Mumbai Indians were always clear of my role and responsibilities and they knew that I was an opening batsman. I am open to batting at any other position that the team wants me to, but it feels nice to bat at the top of the innings.
Most of your West Indian teammates play in the IPL. Were you a bit surprised that you were not picked in the auction?
I was not surprised when I was not picked in the auction, but I did feel I had a good chance this year as I had a good domestic season back home. Now that I have got a chance, I will make the opportunity count.
Dwayne Smith opened the batting for the Mumbai Indians in the past and was consistent. Did you give him a call after you got the news that you would play for MI?
I did not have a chat with him, but back home, I have played with Dwayne Smith a lot. He just told me to do my best when I became a part of the IPL and asked me to relish the opportunity.
Are you someone who believes in playing conventional cricket? Have you made efforts to innovate shots while batting?
It depends on the bowlers and the situation. The first couple of overs, I try my best to bat in a conventional way, playing the correct shots. But eventually, you got to get on with the game and go for the big shots. I do try to be a bit innovative at times and when it comes off, it looks good and when it doesn’t, it is not so impressive.
While opening the batting, are you the anchor or the aggressor?
I am the aggressor and I like to take the attack to the bowlers. That is how I see my role, and tonight, it did not come off as I wanted it to. In the games to come, I will try and make sure I attack right from the beginning.
Have you set any personal goals this IPL season?
As a team, we would want to win all the games and qualify for the Playoffs. I want to do my part for the team by giving a good start and scoring with a good strike-rate. I want to score a half-century every game and get my team off to a flier at the top of the innings.
When the hammer came down on Delhi Daredevils’ bid for Kevin Pietersen, the franchise owners must have been glad that they signed on one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world. However, the team hadn’t realised too many runs from the 33-year-old in the first three weeks of the season. However, in DD’s match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the South African-born Englishman took the aggressive way to get out of the rut – he walked out to open the innings and played some stunning shots. His square drive, which is considered to be one of the toughest shots to play, and his two sixes straight down the ground – one off Karn Sharma and the other off Moises Henriques – stood out. Those shots were indicative of the fact that KP had rediscovered his form. Here’s hoping he will be able to light up the scoreboard and entertain the usually-packed M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru when DD take on RCB later this week.
In the past three seasons, Chris Gayle has scored a mountain of runs for RCB and was expected to do the same again in Pepsi IPL 2014. However, RCB suffered a big blow when he suffered an injury in the days leading up to the competition and had to miss out the first few matches. On his return to the side, the Jamaican played the big shots he was expected to, but unlike previous season, his knocks remained cameos. He has scored 108 runs in his first five outings – 90 of them coming through hits to the fence – but his best effort remains a 38. With RCB falling behind in the race for the Playoffs, it is about time Gayle started piling on the runs. And the match against the Delhi Daredevils later this week might just be a good time to start.
After a wretched start to Pepsi IPL 2014 – where he scored just one run from four innings – Gautam Gambhir seems to have turned a corner. Since the birth of his daughter – which he thinks has brought him a lot of luck – the Kolkata Knight Riders captain has posted three half-centuries in three innings. He has shown an inclination to bat longer – he has batted well into the second-half of the innings – and has scored at a fair clip too. Having sailed through the tough times, Gambhir will know – given all the experience behind him – that it’s best to make merry when in form. KKR are locked in a mid-table battle with several other teams, and given the kind of individual he is known to be – a fierce competitor, focused and intense – expect him lead from the front in his team’s matches against the Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the coming week.
He has lost a lot of weight, appears lean and fit, has spent hours working on his batting with his personal batting coach, and is reaping the rewards now. Robin Uthappa, one half of Kolkata Knight Riders’ successful opening pair, is possibly playing his best cricket currently. He still has the tendency to walk across the stumps occasionally, but he’s batted with very good balance in recent times, and has hit the ball sweetly. The 28-year-old finds himself in a good space; he’s scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket, his state team, Karnataka, won most of the major domestic cricket titles in the season gone by, and it is showing off in his batting. In the coming week, he will be pitted against the Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad.