"Wasim and Waqar changed the face of one day cricket" : Phil Simmons

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Phil Simmons of the West Indies is no stranger to Pakistanis. Many of us will remember this hard hitting all rounder as the man who destroyed the Pakistani batting line up in Sydney with a blistering spell where he removed 4 of our batsmen for a paltry 3 runs!

Simmons' career with the West Indies national team yielded one Test hundred against tough opposition at Melbourne in 1992-93 - he also made four fifties, most of them as an opener. He was voted Wisden Cricketer in 1997 and eventually retired in 2003.

Fact remains that Simmons career as test player did not do justice to his talent but he his interest in cricket has continued with his current role as coach for Republic of Ireland.

We are grateful to Phil for taking the time to speak with PakPassion.net. on a variety of subjects, based upon questions submitted by our members.

Saj was the interviewer and Genghis the scribe.


PakPassion.net: First of all Phil, many thanks for giving your time to PakPassion.net.

Phil Simmons: No problem, anytime.


PakPassion.net: When you were making your debut for the West Indies, who were your heroes in the team. With so many big names, so many high profiles - who were the guys you looked up to the most?

Phil Simmons: Before I made the team I always looked up to Vivian Richards and Gordon Greenidge. You know there wasn’t anyone else really at the time. Those were the two main guys that I looked up to and wanted to be playing on the same team as them.


PakPassion.net: Cricket in the Caribbean in your era and still to a certain degree now, is almost like a religion. What inspired you to become an international cricketer?

Phil Simmons: Just the fact that we were playing cricket and we were on top of the world and we were beating everyone. It was just one of them things - you want to be a part of the success and we were successful at that time.


PakPassion.net: That head injury must have been a very traumatic time for yourself and one you would like to forget. Were you a different batsmen and different cricketer after that unfortunate injury?

Phil Simmons: No, I don’t really think so. I think that I still played the game how I wanted to play and made sure I enjoyed what I was doing. I think if it changed me, I would have stopped. It just made me realise to enjoy every day a little more.


PakPassion.net: Phil, tell us about that amazing spell you bowled in Sydney again Pakistan. 10 overs, 8 maidens, 4 for 3. Things just seemed to go pretty well that day?

Phil Simmons: Yes, I had been bowling pretty well for the whole one-day series. It was just I was being given the new ball and just enjoyed bowling with the new ball. So that whole series I was bowling well and that night I was just hitting the right areas as much as you can in 10 overs. Catches were taken. It was just one of them nights where things clicked in every way. It was enjoyable, I think that’s the main thing. I just enjoyed the bowling in that World Series.


PakPassion.net: Phil, we’ve seen Ireland produce some magnificent results over the years. That win over England was just phenomenal. How do you feel Ireland are coming on in terms of improvement and potential?

Phil Simmons: I think we’ve been improving a lot every time we go out on the field. I think none of the big teams take us for granted anymore, which has taken us a step closer to the respect that you want from everybody. I think all the big teams now respect us and come with plans against us and don’t just turn up to the game. They know that we play the game hard and we keep improving every time they meet us. It’s not a case of ‘oh we’re just playing Ireland’ anymore, it’s now a case of ‘we’re playing Ireland and we got to work on it.’


PakPassion.net: Must be frustrating for Cricket Ireland, the coaching staff and even some of the players to see the likes of Eoin Morgan and now possibly Boyd Rankin playing for England. Some of the home grown talent which is now being "taken" by England?

Phil Simmons: Yes, it is disappointing and it’s something that was here even before I came. I think I look at it in a way, we keep producing these youngsters and at some point in time the ICC is going to realise that we need some help to hold onto our players in order for us to keep improving. If every time we have two special youngsters they want to go play for England for whatever reason, then our cricket is going to keep being at one stage. If we can get their help to keep our cricketers the way professional cricketers need to be kept, then we will improve and we will get to the top or at least close to the top of at least the One Day and Twenty20 tree.


PakPassion.net: You mentioned the ICC. Recently they have reversed the decision in regards to qualifications for the World Cup tournaments. Your thoughts on that decision by the ICC? Do you think it is fair as it opens the door for teams like Ireland?

Phil Simmons: Yes, it’s got to be fair. You want to spread the game and in order to spread the game you have to allow some sort of qualification from as low down as possible and whether you want two to come in and join the top 10, or you want the last in the top 10 to play with the 6 of us to make 10. You have to give everyone some sort of chance to qualify. You watch the Rugby World Cup now and you have teams like Georgia, Russia and USA who have come through the qualification.

They didn’t have England and Australia having to qualify as they are the big teams. Same with soccer. All teams affiliated with FIFA get the chance to qualify for the next World Cup from whereby it starts. But we want to dilute it and make it into 10 teams which you can, but still give us a chance to qualify and that’s all we’d ask for. For them to come back and turn around and say we’ll allow 4, its good.


PakPassion.net: Test cricket is the pinnacle of any cricketer and has been over the years and still no doubt is. Many former players and media pundits worry about the state of test cricket. Your thoughts on test cricket and what changes the ICC needs to do to perhaps make it more interesting?

Phil Simmons: I don’t know about making it more interesting. We played test cricket at a time, when it was 2 runs per over. Now test cricket is 4 runs per over sometimes. The only thing they need to do is find out ways to bring crowds in different places. In England, India didn’t play well when they were here in England, but the English team has playing some great cricket. The series against Australia in Australia that is top class test cricket and you will get people watching and there is a lot of people sitting down and watching. I don’t think that test cricket is in jeopardy.

I think we had this conversation when one day cricket started getting big. But all it did was enhance the speed of test cricket. Now we have Twenty20 cricket which is enhancing the speed of one day cricket and the domino effect will take place. The fact that in test matches that you see scores of 4 or 5 runs per over more consistently. So I am not worried, we just have to come up with ways of making test cricket more attractive in getting bigger crowds in other parts of the world. In England all the games are sold out, Australia games are sold out and India a lot of times games are sold out. So you just need the other parts of the world to get people to come to test cricket. But test cricket itself is being played by guys who are passionate about test cricket.


PakPassion.net: Chris Gayle is one of the most entertaining cricketers in the world. Sad to see him not playing for the West Indies? Your thoughts on this whole standoff between Chris Gayle and the West Indies Cricket Board?

Phil Simmons: It is definitely sad because when you see him play in the IPL and the way he brings joy to everybody and his teammates. It is sad to have him in the stands when West Indies play a match at home. Him watching and having beers with his friends when he should be on the pitch entertaining everybody. I only go by what I read, because I’m not too close to the ground at home so I would rather not comment on hearsay. But the thing about it, is that you are talking about one of the best cricketers in the world right now in all forms of the game. If you have him, you tell me if Australia had him, or England or South Africa they wouldn’t find a way to make sure that things are settled for him to be in their team? They would. I think that is the thing. West Indies and international cricket misses Chris Gayle when he is watching from the stands.


PakPassion.net: As a fellow professional coach yourself, you must be very impressed with what Andy Flower has brought to the England setup. He has taken them to the top of the ladder now. Your thoughts on Andy Flower and what changes he has made to the England team that have impressed you?

Phil Simmons: I think Andy has always been a great person and now he has shown himself to be a top class coach, one of the best in the world right now. I think one of the main things is that there is a big team behind the scenes involved in what has happened in England. You see a lot of people fighting for one another. You see a lot of people happy at other people’s success. I think that’s one thing that Andy has brought. I think the other part is that nobody is indispensable. And I think once you get people to realise that you back them, but if you don’t perform than you are not indispensable and that coach or captain goes down, then you get people performing.

I think the other part is that, below the main team, with the England Lions you have a group of players who are always looking to perform and to get into the senior England team, so there can be no complacency and therefore you have to perform. So I think those three things are big when it comes to a team being successful. You had that with the West Indies which was a successful team, as well as with successful Australian team. These are big factors that which have carried them from fourth and fifth straight up to the top.


PakPassion.net: You have batted with Brian Lara, you have seen him time and again. Not many people know Brian as a cricketer better than yourself. The comparison with Sachin Tendulkar is always one that fans make, who in your opinion was the greater all-round batsmen?

Phil Simmons: For me it hard to separate them. I think Brian was great in the fact that the amount of games that he has pulled off and taken West Indies to victory. Sachin is great in the fact that he has been there for 20 odd years playing at the highest level and still at this stage he is still one of the most feared batsmen in the world and one of the most consistent. So I think in their own way they are great and it is hard to separate them as to who is the best of the lot. I think they are just two great batsmen and it’s been great to be able to play against and with the two of them.


PakPassion.net: You faced Wasim and Waqar at their prime when they were really unleashing those big inswinging yorkers at 90+ mph. Your thoughst on those two great Pakistani bowlers?

Phil Simmons: I think Wasim and Waqar changed the face of one day cricket. They turned one day cricket upside down and by that I mean they made sure people started scoring runs up front rather than wait for them at the death because there was no chance of scoring 6-7 runs per over at the death against these two bowlers. It’s a case where they turned it around. They were two of the most unbelievable exponents of inswinging yorkers and reverse swing. It just made everyone sit up and note that in the death overs we cannot score a lot of runs, so let’s try up front. So it brought Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya and players like that to come and try and score runs up front and change the face of one day cricket.


PakPassion.net: You are obviously still watching a lot of cricket around the world. You must be seeing and spotting some talented youngsters. Any young up and coming cricketers from anywhere in the world that have caught the eye recently?

Phil Simmons: Well we haven’t really played in many places yet. I think mostly what we have seen is the young cricketers at the World Cup. I think Bishoo has shown that he has the mind as well as the talent to go far and to keep going in all three forms of the game. He’s one of the top youngsters now.

I think you have people like Kohli and Rohit Sharma who are youngsters in themselves with exceptional talent with the bat. So all countries have a couple of youngsters who are destined for greatness but it is up to them to put it together and to take a leaf from Sachin’s and Brian’s book and pile on the runs. That is how you are judged at the end of the day.


PakPassion.net: You very diplomatically didn’t mention the name Lendl Simmons in there. He looks a very talented batsman himself. Against Pakistan recently he showed what he is made of. You must be very proud of Lendl?

Phil Simmons: I am very proud. I am even more proud of him because of what he went through in the 2 years before that. Where he was out of the team and nobody gave him any reasons why he was out of the team. He worked hard and got himself back in the team and performed. My only thing with him now is that he needs to score hundreds in order to fulfil his potential. He needs to start scoring hundreds in one days and Twenty20 and then big hundreds in four-day and test cricket. But I am very proud of where he has brought himself from to where he is now.


PakPassion.net: On the topic of West Indies cricket, we have seen some barren years after the great West Indies sides. Where has West Indies cricket gone wrong recently?

Phil Simmons: I think the whole system has been wrong for a number of years and sometimes when you are winning things it doesn’t show up. We started losing and it kept going down. The system needs to be sorted out. If you put a system in place which England did in the mid 90s when Hugh Morris took over. That sort of system has paid dividends now. Look at how many youngsters they have who have the calibre to play test cricket but also have the mindset and the discipline and all of that. I think until West Indies puts a system together properly and gets a system flowing in the Caribbean, we are going to stay where we are.


PakPassion.net: It’s good to see the likes of Desmond Haynes, and Otis Gibson is there as well. Some good guys getting involved in the whole coaching setup?

Phil Simmons: Yes, its good to see guys come in there. It’s good to see guys who’ve played looking to give something back. Sometimes we have people who want to take and their happy that they played and they took. But it’s good to see guys giving back something and trying to help get the cricket back up to where it deserves to be.

PakPassion.net: Many thanks for the interview and best wishes for the future.

Phil Simmons: No problem. Anytime.


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Very interesting comments about Wasim and Waqar, I never really though of it that way. I'm not sure I entirely agree though, surely the fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs is what really led to attacking up front in ODIs?
 
Shayan - I think Big Phil does make a good point though, the way the 2 Ws used to blow away the opposition late in the innings, must have figured into team strategy.
 
Some very interesting stuff from Phil.

What he meant regarding the quote about the 2 Ws is that batsmen at the tail end of an innings knew that it would be virtually impossible to score freely off those 2 greats, so they changed the gameplan to attack more at the start with pinch hitters.

The England / Ireland quotes are interesting too.Must be quite annoying for Ireland to produce players and then lo and behold, England take them away.
 
Fascinating interview, hugely disappointing to see the decline of cricket in the West Indies. Seems that they like Pakistan have issues with an administration that badly needs reform. No doubt some talented cricketers have been produced but many have also fell by the wayside.
 
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Another brilliant interview.

As expected Phil is frustrated about Ireland players moving on to England. This has to change for Ireland cricket's sake. They will never get into the test playing nations league if they lose their best players. Not sure what Ireland can do but they must do something.

p.s Just an idea. These interviews are so good they really should be on the front page of the cricket section. I'm sure people have missed some in the past and don't go finding them.
 
"man who destroyed the Pakistani batting line up in Sydney with a blistering spell where he removed 4 of our batsmen for a paltry 3 runs!"

This is way over the top comment regarding this lollipop bowler and when you have man who has had a very limited talent.

Other wise a good interview with.
 
Many thanks to Simmons for his time.
 
The St. Kitts & Nevis (SKN) Patriots announced today that former West Indies Coach, Phil Simmons, will become the new head coach of the franchise for the 2017 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) season.

"We are happy to announce that Phil Simmons is the new head coach of the SKN Patriots”, said Co-Owner & Principal, Uday Nayak. “We expect that Phil’s experience and local knowledge will help the Patriots achieve improved performances in our 2017 Hero CPL campaign, and will bring the ultimate success that our fans and sponsors deserve”. The Patriots owner described Simmons as “the right coaching choice at this very crucial time in the development of our Franchise.”

Commenting on his new role, Coach Simmons said, “I am delighted to take up the role as Head Coach of the SKN Patriots. I would like to thank the owners and management for offering me this exciting opportunity to lead the squad. I am aware of the immediate challenges we are facing and I will do all possible to ensure that we achieve improved results”.

The new Patriots coach expressed his delight that the franchise had just last week signed star batsman Chris Gayle, “I am very pleased with the recent signing of Gayle. This is a major boost for me coming in as the new coach and I look forward to working closely with Chris to bring the desired success to the St. Kitts & Nevis franchise”.

Phil Simmons is himself a former explosive West Indies batting all-rounder. He retired from being a professional player in 2002, before embarking on a successful coaching career. Simmons is former coach of the Ireland national cricket team from 2007 to 2015, a period of significant improvement for Ireland's ranking in world cricket. Simmons is best known for coaching the West Indies team to victory in the ICC World T20 in India earlier this year.
 
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