A new chapter in West Indies cricket opens with the appointment of Phil Simmons as coach of the West Indies team. The former opening batsman, joins the Windies fold after a successful stint as coach of Ireland, which lasted eight years and ended with the last World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where Ireland beat the country of his birth.
Considering how former coaches were treated by the players and the establishment, some pundits reckon Simmons may have reached out for a poisoned chalice. Of course, he can turn things around with the complete backing of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
A coach’s role should never be over-emphasised because cricket has still not seen a coach scoring runs, wickets and taking catches. But in this case, a young captain like Jason Holder would do well to treat Simmons as a go-to man in terms of building the kind of team that the islands’ passionate cricket lovers will be proud of.
Ever since the mid-1990s, the West Indies have shown time and again that they lack the stomach for the fight. The debacles that top the list are the loss to Kenya in the 1996 World Cup, the 0-5 Test demolition by South Africa in 1998-99 and being bowled for 54 by England at Lord’s in 2000. That Lord’s Test was attended by several erstwhile West Indian greats to celebrate 50 years of their famous win at the fabled venue in 1950 after which the calypso Cricket, Lovely Cricket was composed. What a dampener!
Simmons (51) can arrest the slide by stressing the need to always play tough cricket no matter whether they win or lose. He won’t tire from urging his team to follow Ireland’s example of giving it their all despite being inexperienced.
Trinidadian Simmons played in an era in which the West Indies were amazingly unbeaten in a Test series for 15 years 1980 to 1995. He admitted recently that leaving his coaching position at Ireland was a difficult decision, but he could not turn his back on his own country which is going through very difficult times. His probable sacrifice should not be wasted.
This month’s three-Test series against England is a fine time for West Indies to turn a new leaf.