Simmons still enjoying Ireland role
David Holmes (News Letter)
At a recent Ireland Under 19 game I had the pleasure of spending some time with him and one word keep cropping up in his conversation; enjoyment.
As play continued in the background he reflected on his life in and around the game:
“I was born in Arima on the island of Trinidad and I was interested in all sports, not cricket in particular, but after a period of time you tend to get drawn to one and at about 15 or 16, it was cricket for me.”
Now as the current Ireland coach, I thought I should ask him about the coaching he had back then; he broke into a broad smile and laughed:
“Coaching? There was no coaching then, I remember playing in the local primary school leagues when I was about 9. We played at school then after school in the street. Then I went to Holy Cross College and the games master there was Brother Narvis, not a coach but he did everything including driving the bus!
I moved through the various underage sides at the local club and once I passed under 16 and became a senior player, I moved to Port of Spain to play in the National 1st Division with Crompton, but still no coaching it was senior guys like Harold Joseph who perhaps gave you some guidance.
Then in 1982 I made the West Indies Under 19 side against England, playing with guys like Courtney Walsh, David Williams and Robert Haynes. I made my debut for Trinidad in 1983 and was selected to tour India with the West Indies in 1987.”
Simmons made his test debut in the fourth test in Madras, now Chennai and was somewhat overshadowed by a 19 year old making his own entrance to the international stage. Narendra Hirwani the Indian leg spinner set a world record with 16 wickets in his first appearance.
Without dwelling too much on statistics, Simmons made 26 test appearances and played in 143 ODI’s. He played in possibly the greatest ever era there was for test cricket and in a side that was very much as the head of the rankings. So I was expecting an interesting answer to who were the best he played with and against:
“I played with both Brian Lara and Viv Richards, but Viv was without comparison. He always had an aura of being in command, the ability to know what to do and when to do it. He seemed to have the ability to do things at will, when we needed runs he just went out and got them. It was a pleasure to be a part of that team; we won games we should never have won.
I played against Sachin Tedulkar, Allan Border, Wasim Akram, I could go on but it really was a golden era. Even when you came back home to play in the local competitions again, it was hard and losing was not an option.”
What about the highlights:
Well I only scored one test century and that was against Australia at Melbourne, in the Boxing Day test in 1992, definitely the highlight for me.”
So looking back does he have any regrets?
“No I don’t think in terms of regrets, I enjoyed every minute of it. Perhaps there were things I could have done better. As a player I never thought about my personal statistics and probably I should have done. I have come to realise that now as a coach.”
Obviously now as the Ireland coach, how has that changed things:
“No different really, with coaching I still like success, I want to help people achieve and it is tremendous to see young guys develop and mature. I have been here for 5 years now and worked with cricketers like Kevin O’Brien, John Mooney and Paul Stirling, I believe I have seen them develop both as players and as people.
We have beaten the likes of Pakistan and England, we are going form strength to strength and I believe there is still more to come. We have tried for full ODI status and have a vision to have full test playing status by 2020 and I am happy that we are more than capable of reaching that goal.”
If that ambition is to be achieved will it still be with Phil Simmons at the helm:
“As a coach I am enjoying it at the moment, but perhaps things will need freshening up. We have many things still to do, for me the time to move on will be when I lose the will to think, but I am still learning all the time.”
What about the players in the Ireland set up with most ability:
“Well the one that immediately stands out is Paul Stirling, but in this squad everyone has stood up to be counted at some time, like Kevin O’Brien in the World Cup and before that Andrew White.”
As we are watching the Under 19’s I ask who stand out in that squad as most likely to succeed:
“Everybody keeps telling me we are not as good as two years ago, we shall see. There are two things that I like; players who play shots and good fast bowlers. I like what I see in Peter Chase as a fast bowler.
What about your future ambitions, would you like to coach the West Indies:
“Of course, it would be great to coach my home country, win a World Cup and become number one test playing nation, but I like to do things that I enjoy. I might be coaching a winning side but not enjoying it, I am happy here and I am still enjoying it, that’s key for me.
So whilst West Indies may be a bigger job and, yes I do want to get better, it may not give me the same sense of enjoyment, who knows?”