West Indies coach Phil Simmons hopes to finish tenure on a high


Phil Simmons enters his final days as West Indies coach believing he has given his all in the role and hopes the foundations are in place for a revival of their Test cricket.

Simmons’ departure was announced after the team’s early exit from the 2022 T20 World Cup when they failed to make it out of the first round.

That was a continuation of some dire white-ball form – which is also likely to see them have to go through the qualifying tournament for next year’s ODI World Cup – and led Cricket West Indies to initiate a review which includes Brian Lara and Mickey Arthur on the panel.

However, there have been some encouraging signs in their Test cricket. The 164-run defeat in Perth was their first loss in six matches this year, while there have been other notable high points in Simmons’ second stint as a coach, which began in October 2019. They include the one-wicket victory over Pakistan in Jamaica and the 2-0 away victory against Bangladesh, where they chased 395 to win the opening Test and took the second by 17 runs.

“[I feel] good, from the point of view that every time I come out and every time I’m part of West Indies, I give everything I can give,” Simmons said ahead of the Adelaide Test. “I will give all for the next six days and let’s hope we can come out with a win, so I finish on a high.

“We’ve lost one Test in a year, and it’s shown in the way we’ve played – especially the series against England where we had to fight for a few games then come out on top in the last – that some progress has been made. For me, the joy is seeing people improve. You’ve had Jermaine [Blackwood], who is going into his 50th Test [in Adelaide] and he was out for a while, now we see the difference in him. It’s little things like that that bring joy to me.”

As he leaves the West Indies national set-up again, Simmons hoped the game in the Caribbean could make the changes required to give the players the best chance to succeed.

The Test, ODI and T20 sides now look significantly different from each other with the emergence of Jayden Seales and the recent debut of Tagenarine Chanderpaul bringing cause for optimism in the Test group.

“My big hope for West Indies cricket is we get things in order at home, we put things in place so that every team can start improving and moving up the ladder,” he said.

“Think the Test team has shown the way so far. In the last few years, we haven’t had good success in white-ball [cricket] but the talent is always there. What we do on the ground to harness that talent is what will get us back to where we are supposed to be.

“The captain [Kraigg Brathwaite] keeps setting the standard, and with Tage [Tagenarine] next to him, now think that example will be set so everyone else can follow it. It augurs well for our batting line-up, [there’s] a lot more grit and determination. [In] the last few years, the bowling has done their work, now the batting is coming. Sooner or later it will all come together.”

Casting his eye a little wider, Simmons could see the possibility of Test cricket becoming a higher-tempo game, referencing England’s extraordinary approach this week in Rawalpindi, but stressed that it was important that each side played to their style.

“In the next few years, the game will just keep going faster and faster,” he said.

“We saw a Test in Pakistan and it’s just unbelievable; the game will keep getting like that. ODI cricket brought speed to Test cricket, and now T20 is bringing speed to both forms. We’ll see how fast it gets in the next few years. But the way you play depends on the tools you have. If we don’t have all the big shot-makers that England have right now, then we play in our way.”

Simmons remains keen to stay in cricket and will be the head coach for Dubai Capitals in the inaugural ILT20 next month. But on the prospect of coming back to West Indies again, he said: “Think you can rule out that third stint. That’s enough for me. I’d like a lot more time at home.” (ESPNcricinfo)

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