Mumbai Indians’ mind-boggling turnaround to reach the final of Indian Premier League-8 despite four consecutive losses at the start of the tournament has been widely credited to players like pacers Lasith Malinga, Mitchell McClenaghan, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, skipper Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard.
However, Lendl Simmons’ contribution at the top has largely gone unnoticed. With 472 runs in 12 matches at an average of 42.90, the West Indian is not just Mumbai Indians’ highest run-getter, but has often provided much-needed stability as an opener.
Mumbai Indians’ Lendl Simmons en route his 51-ball 65 vs CSK at the Wankhede on Tuesday. Pic/Atul Kamble
John Wright, who was Mumbai Indians’ chief coach last year until Ricky Ponting took over this season, said Simmons may be under-rated at opposition teams’ own peril. “Lendl Simmons easy to under-rate, but he is a natural T20 player. It’s no coincidence that when he joined the team, we started to do well last year and even when the team picked up this year. He is a languid player, a very good batsman,” Wright told mid-day yesterday.
Simmons may have opted for cautious approach a few times this year and may have looked scratchy in the last few innings, but the West Indian has been one of the biggest factors in helping Mumbai Indians turn the tables.
He stood like a pillar even as his opening partner Parthiv Patel failed to capitalise on his starts on most occasions.
“At the top of the order, he has been consistent and scored at a good rate. Parthiv and Simmons have formed an excellent pair; they complement each other well. I’m pleased that they (team think-tank) decided to go with this pair. A good partnership is always handy. It just sets things up well for players like Pollard. If you get a good start, there is nothing better than to have Pollard coming in,” said Wright, who now looks after youth development and talent spotting for the franchise. He will be in Kolkata for Sunday’s final.
When the MI unit failed to win any matches in their first four outings, skipper Rohit often stressed on not getting his combination right. One of those combinations, which the MI think-tank desperately wanted to get right, was a stable opening pair.
Their experimentation with Aaron Finch and Rohit did not yield the desired results, barring MI’s opening clash against Kolkata Knight Riders on April 8 where the MI skipper scored a brilliant 98.
A God-send opportunity
By the third match, Rohit had already dropped down in the batting order as MI tried the Patel-Finch combination. However, Finch got injured while batting in that match against Rajasthan Royals at Ahmedabad on April 14, which paved the way for Simmons’ selection in the next match against Chennai Super Kings.
The opportunity seemed a God-send. Although he did not make the most of his maiden opportunity, Simmons repaid the faith MI coaches and skipper bestowed in him by scoring 59 in his next match against Royal Challengers Bangalore. It was also Mumbai Indians’ first win of IPL-8.
Simmons hasn’t looked back since then, scoring five half-centuries with 71 being his best effort against Kings XI Punjab.
Simmons has not just been impressive with the willow, his stunning catches and athletic fielding has been another boon for Mumbai Indians. His one-handed effort at gully against big-hitting batsman Chris Gayle at the Wankhede Stadium on May 10 ranks amongst the top catches of the IPL-8.
With inputs from Clayton Murzello