Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies former all-rounder Phil Simmons played with some of the greatest cricketers of all time.
Now he is hoping to turn Ireland from World Cup giant-killers to one day becoming genuine contenders.
The Ireland coach wants to start next year’s Cricket World Cup campaign with a win over his old team, the West Indies, and with a bit of luck, their third game of the tournament against South Africa at Manuka Oval on March 3 could be huge for the cricketing minnows.
Simmons was part of the West Indies’ golden era that included players such as Sir Viv Richards, Sir Curtly Ambrose and Brian Lara as his teammates.
He has been in charge of shaping Ireland’s players since 2007, taking over after they announced themselves on the world stage by making the Super 8s round of the 2007 World Cup staged in the West Indies when beating Pakistan.
In the 2011 edition, they upset England in a huge boilover.
But the 51-year-old Simmons wants Ireland to take the next step from being a competitive side that can cause the occasional upset to one that can be a contender.
Simmons is hoping that can start next year in the February 13th to March 23rd 14-team Cricket World Cup taking place in New Zealand and Australia. Ireland in Pool B with the West Indies, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates.
Simmons has a few building blocks to work with, including allrounder Kevin O’Brien, who holds the record for the fastest century at a World Cup (off 50 balls in the upset against England).
“It moves in stages and at one stage we wanted to compete with everyone, at the next stage we try to beat everyone and now we want to win competitions,” Simmons said.
“The last two World Cups, counting the Twenty20 [one] also, we didn’t show exactly the standard we’re at and this one we want to show we can make it into the second round and even go further than that.”
The Irish start the World Cup campaign against the West Indies in New Zealand on February 16 before playing the United Arab Emirates in Brisbane nine days later.
Then they face the might of South Africa in Canberra.
That is why the team is in the Australian Capital Territoty this week, having been welcomed to the nation’s capital by Irish ambassador Noel White on Saturday.
They trained at Manuka Oval on Sunday and yesterday, before playing the ACT Comets in a 50-over game at Manuka today and a second one-dayer on Thursday.
Much like the Afghanistan team did last week, Simmons wants his players to get a feel for the conditions Down Under so they can ambush the Proteas in March.
“It’s a huge game, especially if we can manage to win the first two and that becomes a big game,” he said.
“Hopefully there’ll be more Irish here [in Canberra] than South Africans and we can turn the table on them.”
Simmons was hoping Canberrans, and Australians, would adopt Ireland as their second team.