Phil Simmons has traded his Irish green for the West Indies maroon.
The 51-year-old coach of the Ireland cricket side since 2007 has taken over the reins of the Caribbean team that was knocked out of the World Cup quarter-final by New Zealand last Saturday.
His first assignment will be the English tour of the Caribbean that starts on April 6. The visitors will play three Tests in Antigua, Grenada and Barbados.
With Simmons at the helm, the Irish won three Intercontinental Cup competitions for Associate members and appeared in two 50-overs and four Twenty/20 World Cups.
The Trinidadian, who signed a three-year contract, is excited to start a new chapter in his coaching career.
“West Indies has a tremendous history and prestige in the game and I am honoured to have been given this opportunity to be head coach,” said Simmons, who averaged 22.26 in 26 Tests and 28.93 with the bat in 143 One-Day Internationals in an 11-year West Indies career highlighted by a record One-Day International bowling performance against Pakistan at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1992 when he took four wickets for three runs off 10 overs, eight of which were maidens.
“There is an abundance of young talent coming through the ranks and to be able to assist with the development of the future playing talent in the West Indies is fantastic. I can’t wait to begin and I am looking forward to starting work with the players.”
With just three wins and eight losses in its last five-Test series and a declining fan base, Simmons promised to restore West Indies pride and passion for the sport.
“West Indies has a huge following across the world and I have great admiration for the passion fans show for our team,” he said. “We are determined to give the supporters the brand of cricket and the level of success that we are all looking to achieve.”
Simmons, the uncle of West Indies middle-order batsman, Lendl Simmons, was among seven candidates interviewed for the post, which has been vacant since Ottis Gibson was fired last August.
“We are thrilled with the appointment of Phil and we believe he is the right individual for our team and our region at this time,” said West Indies Cricket Board chief executive officer Michael Muirhead. “Phil has a proven ability to develop players while cultivating great team spirit and a winning culture. We have a number of young and talented players about whom he’s excited to be coaching and we believe he’s the right fit.”
Muirhead said Simmons impressed the selection panel with his understanding of the current realities of West Indies cricket and his ability to articulate practical examples and strategies of things that could be implemented within the team to boost performance.
“His independence of character and his resolve to stand up for what he believes in were also strong qualities that convinced us that Phil was best suited to usher the West Indies team into a new era of success,” said Muirhead.
The former opener/middle-order batsman, useful medium pacer and excellent slip fielder averaged 35.61 with the bat and 28.68 with the ball in 207 first-class matches. He also played a major role in Leicestershire clinching its second English county title in 1996, scoring 1,244 runs and claiming 56 wickets and 35 catches, feats that earned him the Professional Cricketers Association Player of the Year Award and a Wisden Cricketer of the Year honour the following year.
Simmons, who also played club cricket in South Africa, was encouraged to take up coaching by former Australian batsman Tim Boon during his final season with Leicestershire in 1998. Shortly after retiring in 2002, he coached Trinidad & Tobago for two seasons before landing a job with the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy on the recommendation of former West Indies captain, Clive Lloyd. His 2004 appointment as the country’s senior team coach ended abruptly when his contract was terminated just 12 months into his three-year contract.
Reinstated into the West Indies team 19 times after being dropped between 1988 and 1997, the married father of three children has a lot to be thankful for after being twice hit with a cricket ball.
Batting without a helmet in fading light in the 1988 West Indies tour match against Gloucestershire at Bristol, Simmons was struck in the head by former England fast bowler David Lawrence. Luckily, Frenchay Hospital, which is one of the best neurosurgery institutions in Europe, is close to the ground.
Rushed to the hospital by car instead of waiting for an ambulance, Simmons – whose heart had stopped beating for a few minutes – credits Dr. Nigel Rawlinson – with whom he has remained in contact– for saving his life. He made a full recovery and donned a helmet, which might have saved him from another serious injury when he was hit while trying to hook Barbadian fast bowler, Emmerson Jordan.
Simmons, who has several family members in the Greater Toronto Area, is the sixth West Indies full-time coach since the turn of the century.
Roger Harper coached the team for three years up until the end of the 2003 World Cup followed by Gus Logie – a former Canadian coach – whose contract was terminated in October 2004 after 15 months on the job. Australian Bennett King resigned in April 2007 after two years in the position while his replacement – fellow Aussie John Dyson – was sacked in August 2008. Gibson, who succeeded Dyson in January 2010, was relieved of his duties seven months ago.