WWE wrestler Randy Orton's signature finishing move is the RKO. It involves approaching the opponent from nowhere, grabbing the head, and slamming the chin on the floor. Orton has done that to opponents from behind their backs, on top of tables, and even in mid-air. The thing about the move is that it comes out of nowhere and blindsides the opponent.
On Sunday night, in front of a capacity crowd in Thiruvananthapuram, West Indies opener Lendl Simmons pulled off the cricketing equivalent of the RKO. "Simmons, where did he come from?" asked a local reporter. Out of nowhere.
Before West Indies' tour of India, to face Afghanistan first and then India, Simmons had last played an international in June 2017. Fellow Trinidadian Samuel Badree had taken the new ball for West Indies in that game. Badree is no longer active in international cricket, and in IPL 2019 he had been hired by Delhi Capitals as their spin-bowling coach. More recently, in CPL 2019, Badree was commentating on Simmons' batting.
Simmons wasn't even supposed to be part of CPL 2019, although he is second only to Chris Gayle in terms of most runs scored in the league over the years. Simmons found no takers at the CPL draft earlier this year, after having fetched the biggest bid in 2018.
Then, with Colin Munro being away with New Zealand on international duty, Kieron Pollard's Trinbago Knight Riders signed him up as a replacement player for the first half of the season. And, after regular captain Dwayne Bravo was sidelined from the entire tournament with injury, Knight Riders drafted him into the squad as a permanent member.
Simmons had a point to prove. That he still has it in the CPL. He scored 430 runs in 11 innings at an average of nearly 40 and strike rate of 150.34. Simmons' hot form in a misfiring Knight Riders batting line-up nearly took them to the final. On the back of his stellar run in the CPL - and under a new management - Simmons was back in the West Indies fold for the India trip.
"I'm a bit old school, take my time initially. My job in the powerplay is to go hard. Easier to bat outside the powerplay, knock the ball around and get the odd boundary"
After missing the first two T20Is against Afghanistan with illness, Simmons had a low-key return, making an 11-ball 7 in the decider against Afghanistan in Lucknow and then 2 in four balls in the series opener against India in Hyderabad.
However, with the series on the line in Thiruvananthapuram, Simmons stepped up on a tricky track and kayoed India with an unbeaten 67 off 45 balls. Simmons was uncertain against swing and the lack of pace in the early exchanges and had a life on 6 when Washington Sundar dropped him off Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He managed a mere nine runs off 13 balls by the end of the powerplay in a challenging chase of 171 on a grippy, dry pitch. At the other end, the in-form Evin Lewis had moved to 30 off 23 balls.
Having seen off Bhuvneshwar's new-ball spell, Simmons got stuck into India's spinners. After launching Washington, the offspinner, over the sightscreen, he pulled off his version of the helicopter shot against Yuzvendra Chahal, the legspinner. Simmons dared to hit against the break and clear the longer boundary. The approach was fraught with risk, but when Simmons is in his groove, he has the power to clear any boundary. It is that power that has made him a T20 - and now T10 - globetrotter.
Lewis, though, was dismissed by Washington in the next over as India sensed a way back into the game. However, Simmons slammed the doors on the hosts and levelled the series 1-1.
Once Shimron Hetmyer entered at No. 3 and began clearing the boundary, Simmons sat back briefly and just dinked the ball into the gaps, ensuring that the asking rate was always within West Indies' grasp.
West Indies reached 113 for 2 in 14 overs, and were in need of 58 runs in the last six overs, with eight wickets in hand. Sure, they had captain Pollard waiting in their dugout, but they were without Fabian Allen, St Kitts & Nevis Patriots' finisher in the CPL. And Brandon King was playing just his sixth international. Plus, India had Chahal to match up with Pollard.
Simmons had no problems in dealing with Chahal. He took the chase deep and targeted India's gun bowler, hitting 20 off ten balls from him. He raised a 38-ball fifty in the 15th over, when he jumped across off and slugged Chahal against the break for another six. Simmons then ran down the track to Bhuvneshwar and crunched him through extra-cover to silence the crowd. West Indies eventually completed the chase with considerable comfort.
"[I] like playing against India, it's a good challenge," Simmons told Star Sports after winning the Man of the match award. "[I] haven't played international cricket for a while, good to be back on the circuit, playing for the West Indies.
"Those guys can go at it from ball one, they have a different type of talent. I'm a bit old school, take my time initially. I understand my game, understand my role in the team. My job in the powerplay is to go hard. Easier to bat outside the powerplay, knock the ball around and get the odd boundary. [Nicholas] Pooran and Hetmyer were getting boundaries easily so I played the different role."
Some of Simmons' strokes revived memories of that innings against India in the T20 World Cup semi-final more than three years ago. In fact, that was Simmons' last T20I half-century before Sunday. That had come out of nowhere as well. He made it to the tournament as a replacement player for the injured Andre Fletcher, flying across continents and hitting the ground running in Mumbai.
Simmons will now return to the scene of his previous T20 World Cup heroics, with an eye on the next World Cup in Australia. That's later, though. For now, India must have an eye on him - he can blindside opponents, you see.