Former West Indies coach Phil Simmons was hailed as a "pioneer" and a "missionary coach" by his alma mater Holy Cross College during a tribute ceremony for the former hard-hitting allrounder on September 7.
With a CV which includes successful coaching stints with Afghanistan and Ireland at the international level, as well as a famous World T20 title win with the West Indies, few would argue with the above sentiments.
These days, Simmons is at the helm of the Caribbean Premier League's (CPL) most successful team, the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR), and he is striving to deliver a fifth title to the franchise. Simmons is no stranger to CPL silverware, as he led the Barbados Tridents (now Barbados Royals) to their second CPL title in the 2019 season.
After a disappointing 2022 CPL season, where TKR finished bottom of the six-team table, the franchise announced Simmons as their new coach on May 15, 2023. Simmons made his intentions clear prior to the 2023 campaign.
"The thing about it is, anybody who is not accustomed to being last and when you get there, you know that something is wrong," Simmons told Newsday. "So we are trying to correct all the things that we did not do correctly last year."
A belligerent batsman in his heyday, Simmons' 12-year stint as a West Indies player ended in 1999, but not before he was honoured with the Hummingbird Medal Silver award in 1997. He played 169 matches for the WI across the Test and one-day international (ODI) formats and scored six hundreds in his international career.
The Arima-born Simmons had a stint as head coach of the TT team from 2001 to 2003, before getting his first international coaching gig with Zimbabwe in 2004.
Simmons, 60, came to prominence in his next international coaching role, as his eight-year stint with Ireland helped the then-International Cricket Council (ICC) associate nation towards their push for full Test-match status – which they achieved in 2017. He coached the Irish for over 200 games from 2007 to 2015, leading them to successive World Cups in 2011 and 2015.
At the 2011 World Cup, Ireland landed a major scalp in the group stage, as they defeated England by three wickets after hunting down a 328-run target in Bangalore, India. At the 2015 edition, Ireland earned two more famous wins, as they defeated both Zimbabwe and the West Indies. In their group stage match-up with the WI, Simmons' Irish team again showed their ability to chase big totals, as they beat the Caribbean team after getting to a 305-run total at the Saxton Oval in New Zealand.
Simmons soon swapped the Irish green for the Windies maroon, as he joined the Caribbean team after the 2015 World Cup. Success was right around the corner for Phil and a talented WI T20 international team, as they won the World T20 title in 2016 after defeating England in dramatic fashion in the final at Eden Garden in Kolkata, India. Barbados allrounder Carlos Brathwaite stole the headlines as he dispatched current England captain Ben Stokes for four successive sixes to seal the Caribbean team's second World T20 title in the space of three tournaments. Simmons was lauded for his ability to manage and bring a band of superstar players together, and he had a coveted T20 crown to show for it.
In September 2016, Simmons was relieved of his duties by Cricket West Indies (CWI) despite the feat at the World T20. In October 2019, Simmons was hired for a second stint as the Windies head coach. His term with the WI team ended in 2022, with the coach stepping down after the two-time World T20 champions were knocked out during the qualifiers for the 2022 edition of the tournament.
Between his two spells with the WI, Simmons led Afghanistan to their second Cricket World Cup in 2019, while they also got their historic first Test win in March 2019 – defeating Ireland in a one-off Test in Hyderabad, India.
In that match, Simmons and Afghanistan also handed a debut to a then-17-year-old Waqar Salamkheil. Now 21, the tricky left-arm wrist spinner has been a revelation for Simmons and his TKR team in the 2023 CPL campaign, taking nine wickets through just six matches in his debut season.
As TKR go for the CPL crown in the final leg of the tournament in Guyana over the course of the next week, Salamkheil will be looking to rekindle his magical touch to repay Simmons's faith in him.