“It’s unbelievable. This has been one of the best moments of my life. Holy Cross College is very close to my heart.”
These were the words of ex-West Indies coach and player, Phil Simmons, who was honoured by his alma mater, Holy Cross College, during a tribute ceremony for the former hard-hitting allrounder at the school in Arima on Thursday.
The 60-year-old Simmons, who played 143 One-day internationals and 26 Test matches for the West Indies, was hailed as a “pioneer” in the cricket world by Holy Cross for his coaching exploits with Afghanistan, Ireland, Zimbabwe and his native Windies team.
“You were a great missionary coach Phil. You went to the world!” said former Holy Cross principal Bernard Tappin. “You are a pioneer for West Indies cricket.”
Simmons, whose cracking cover drives and pull shots as a teenager, would echo straight from Calvary Hill, Arima, to the famous Arima Dial, went on to score five ODI hundreds for the West Indies, as well as 18 ODI fifties. Simmons also had the solitary Test ton, to go along with four fifties. In the maroon colours of the Caribbean team, Simmons’ most famous moment perhaps came with the ball in hand.
In a Benson and Hedges World Series match in Sydney in 1992, Simmons had the jaw-dropping figures of four wickets for just three runs in his full ten-over quota, as he ripped the Pakistan top order to shreds in a quite brilliant display of seam bowling. The Pakistanis were bowled out for a paltry score of 81 on that day, while the Windies went on to win the series, defeating Australia in the final. Simmons took a total of 11 wickets in the series and was jointly named Player of the Series alongside legendary pace bowler Sir Curtly Ambrose.
Simmons won the prestigious Wisden Cricketer of the Year award in 1997, following a stunning 1996 County Championship campaign where he helped Leicestershire to their second County Championship title. In that 1996 County season, Simmons rattled off four centuries, while he took 56 wickets at an average of 18.23.
Simmons played his last international match for the West Indies at the 1999 World Cup.
Upon his retirement, Simmons found success on the sideline, becoming a respected coach on the world stage.
“The biggest part of success is discipline,” said Simmons, who attended Holy Cross from 1974-1979. “The discipline in the classroom and out in the field will stay with you through life.” Simmons, who currently coaches the four-time Caribbean Premier League (CPL) champs Trinbago Knight Riders, urged the Holy Cross students to be disciplined in all aspect of their daily lives.
“I’m not someone who thinks about honours and awards. I like to see progress,” Simmons said. “I like to push the players to make sure that every time you come back to me when I haven’t seen you for a while, there’s been progress.”
Simmons’ first job at the international level came with Zimbabwe in 2004, before he went on to a successful stint with the Ireland team from 2007-2015, leading them to victories over West Indies and Zimbabwe at the 2015 World Cup.
Simmons would get his own success with the West Indies on the international stage in his first of two stints as head coach, leading the men in maroon to their second World T20 title in 2016.
His second stint as Windies coach spanned from 2019 to 2022, with the Arimian stepping down from the post after the regional team failed to qualify for the 2022 World T20 tournament.
In May 2023, Simmons was announced as the new TKR coach. Having won the CPL title with Barbados Tridents (now Barbados Royals) in 2019, the former Holy Cross College student will aim to inspire the TT franchise to a fifth CPL crown.
“This is one of the biggest honours I have had. I wanna thank everyone responsible for this.”