Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Ireland could face fight to keep coach Phil Simmons

Go west: Ireland coach Phil Simmons (right) with Richie Richardson, two men on the radar to be next West Indies coach

Ireland coach Phil Simmons has refused to rule himself out as a possible replacement for Ottis Gibson as coach of the West Indies.

Gibson, who quit as England bowling coach in 2010 to take up the top post with his home country, left yesterday "by mutual agreement" on the eve of the West Indies' home series against Bangladesh with former captain and current team manager Richie Richardson taking over on an interim basis.

Six months out from the World Cup finals, it puts Simmons in a difficult position because the West Indies job is probably the only one the Trinidadian great would consider leaving Ireland for.

But yesterday he refused to even consider the option.

When I asked him if he would be interested in the post, he said: "I'm not going to answer that. I am not going to comment on anything about West Indies cricket.

"All I have had is a couple of text messages and I don't know what is going on. I don't want to go into that. You can't comment if you don't know what is happening."

Simmons is now into his eighth year as Ireland coach and has led the side to six World Cups – four World Twenty20s and two 50-over tournaments – the next in Australia and New Zealand in February/March.

He signed a new two-year contract with Ireland last December, taking him up to the end of next summer, and has already guided Ireland in 210 matches, a period of unparalleled success.

Last year Ireland established themselves as the No 1 Associate nation by becoming the first team to complete the hat-trick of trophies available in every format, winning the World Twenty20 Qualifying tournament, the World Cup qualifiers and the (four-day) Intercontinental Cup, the 10th trophy under Simmons.

When he signed his new contract, Simmons said: "I love Ireland and the people, who have a similar outlook to life as West Indians. The team has been very successful, but importantly for me, they are still hungry for success and willing to learn and improve all the time.

"We still have a long way to go and it's an exciting period to be involved with Irish cricket, both on and off the field.

"We're putting in place foundations which will serve the sport well in the generations to come.

"There's always been quality in the Irish team, but we're adding genuine depth which can be seen now in the players who aren't in the squad.

"It's certainly made selection meetings a lot longer though!

"We've dominated at Associate level and now have ambitions to take the game in Ireland to the next level with our desire to become a Test nation by 2020.

"I'm delighted to be part of that set-up."

West Indies, having lost back to back series against New Zealand, the team directly above them, in the last year, are currently eighth in the ICC Test rankings, with only Zimbabwe and Bangladesh below them, eighth in the ODI rankings (Ireland are 12th) and seventh in the T20 rankings (Ireland are ninth).

The one consolation for Ireland is if Simmons does decide to return home, there should be no shortage of big-name applicants.

But Cricket Ireland will still be doing everything in their power to keep their most successful coach.

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