Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Phil Simmons, bang on target

Published:Sunday | May 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM
West Indies coach Phil Simmons (centre) speaks to members of the team during a training session at Kensington Oval, Barbados.

There were a number of nice guys who wore the West Indies cap in the past, and wore it proudly at that, especially the great ones.

Phil Simmons was never considered great, but without a doubt, he was one such player.

Apart from being an attacking opening batsman, a good seam bowler, and a more-than-competent fielder, he was, and is, an easygoing man and a decent no-nonsense man.

He was also a man who spoke from his heart and one who believed in talking the truth. He did not believe in speaking half-truths or talking in parables. Whatever he was saying, he said it for all to understand.

Simmons is the West Indies latest coach. He comes in after doing some good work with Ireland, and despite the opposition being England, his first few days with the West Indies have been, more or less, a getting-to-know-you exercise.

And they were good days for a start, winning a match and drawing the series, his first with the West Indies, and against England at that.

He has not sat on his laurels, so to speak: he has made his intentions clear by a firing a few warning shots, including when he said, on the eve of the third Test versus England, that the players were reckless on a few occasions during the first two Test matches.

After fighting and drawing the first Test in Antigua, the players went to Grenada, went into the final day at 202 for two, needing to bat out time to save the match. They lost their remaining eight wickets for 105, to be dismissed 35 minutes after lunch.

"There is learning to be done," Simmons said. "We had two hours of negligence on the last day in Grenada and we lost the game. It was a reckless period. It just needed a couple of guys to bat for another half hour and we would have saved the games."

 

MINDSET CHANGE NEEDED

 

Simmons went on: "We just need our young players to understand that how they play must be determined by what the teams needs and what the scoreboard reads. So they have to learn that if the score is 40 for four you might have to bat for two sessions and come back the next day to get your big score. The mindset has got to change."

The coach, however, stopped short of saying what will happen if the players don't change their mindset, or their ways, and the team continues to lose.

They did not lose the Test match, and they won it batting as if they wanted to bat and to bat long. They won it by playing the way Simmons said they should play.

That will not always happen, however. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't. Sometimes the batsmen will bat how they feel like batting, and at other times they will as the situation demands. It will all depend on trust.

The West Indies has been losing for too long. The players have been playing, or were playing, the same way for too long, and the same players continue and are allowed to do the same things for too long.

It is as if the players cannot be dropped. It is as if they are indispensable. They play quite well, they get selected to the West Indies team, they perform admirably, and then suddenly they become somebody else all together.

They turn up in earrings, they turn up with big gold chains, they saunter to the wicket like they are on a stage, or as if they are doing someone a favour, and whether the score is one for one, 20 for two, 30 for three, they play as if they are millionaires with unending wealth.

When, after a few moments, their recklessness ends up in their dismissal, they stroll away from the wicket believing that some miracle had occurred, looking at the bat as if a hole had suddenly appeared in it, or staring down at the pitch as if it had suddenly developed craters.

 

READY TO MAKE EXCUSES

 

And the coaches, including Australians, the managers, and the captains always appear ready to make excuses for them. No coach has ever had the guts to question the players' approach to anything, or to question their technical competence, or as Simmons has said, to question their ability to understand the position of the game and to play accordingly.

Even when the coach talks to them, they go out and do the opposite, and there is no penalty. It has always been business as usual, or it appears so, and that, may be, is the result of insularity.

Many a West Indies coach has lost his job because of cries of favouritism from the territory of a player who challenges him or otherwise ignores his suggestions.

Simmons is a West Indian, and every West Indian must hope and pray that he be given a chance to do his job. He is surrounded by other West Indians - Curtley Ambrose, Stuart Williams, and Andre Coley, manager Richie Richardson, selector Clive Lloyd, special adviser Viv Richards - and the hope is that they will work together and that he will stamp out this recklessness in West Indians.

Young West Indians are talented, but for so long their batting has been characterised by recklessness and this must stop, for their own good, and for the good of the team.

Too often we have seen a batsman like Marlon Samuels get out caught in the deep for no reason at all and the West Indies collapse. In the first Test against England, with the West Indies in trouble, and after a fine first innings century, we saw Jermaine Blackwood attempt a 'yam lick' and was dismissed embarrassingly. In the third Test, he ran down the wicket and Jos Butler failed to stump him; and many times it has been seen where Denesh Ramdin got out without rhyme or reason.

Simmons was not one who sat on the splice all day, but although he should not be telling the batsmen how to bat and when to do certain things at this stage of their careers, if he succeeds in tempering the West Indian batsmen, in getting them to take notice of the scoreboard more often, play accordingly, and not recklessly, and without trying to make them all little Kraigg Brathwaites, his would be a job well done.