For minnows, Simmons is the man for all seasons

Under Simmons’ coaching, Afghanistan qualified for next year’s World Cup, and is now set to make its Test debut.

Having coached the West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland in the past, Simmons’ biggest moment awaits on Thursday, when Afghanistan appears in its first-ever Test.

Phil Simmons featured in international cricket for little more than a decade. From 1988 to 1999, Simmons played 26 Tests and 143 ODIs for the West Indies.

But his stint as a coach has been more rewarding for the 55-year-old. Having coached the West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland in the past, Simmons’ biggest moment awaits on Thursday when his current side, Afghanistan, appears in its first-ever Test. That too, against India.

He has been with this Afghanistan team for the last year and a half as a batting consultant, and that has helped adjust well with the team. After it parted ways with Lalchand Rajput, Simmons was chosen as the chief coach because of his rapport with the players.

And that has benefitted the team.

Under Simmons’ coaching, Afghanistan qualified for next year’s World Cup, and is now set to make its Test debut. It was a similar story when he coached Ireland—now a Test nation—in the 2011 World Cup and helped the team stun England in a group stage match in the same venue, where Afghanistan will mark its Test debut on Thursday.

Over the years, Simmons has been able to help the lower-ranked teams improve. The coach, however, is not too willing to consider it a big deal. “I think it is their (Ireland and Afghanistan) abundance of talent that comes through. In Zimbabwe, I wasn’t there for long enough. In Ireland, I was there for a long time but Ireland hasn't produce the amount of youngsters in the last four-five years as Afghanistan has produced,” Simmons said.

“The batting is a little bit less but the bowling (you will see a young fast bowler in this Test match hopefully) shows that they have young talent coming up. And exciting prospects for the future,” the coach said.

Now that both Ireland and Afghanistan have made it to the Test arena, Simmons agrees that with Ireland having a cricketing history, the job was not that tough. But with Afghanistan, things had to be ‘changed a little’.

“A lot of Irish players are playing county cricket and there was a history of cricket there. With Afghanistan it had to change a little but not much because it's the same — You educate them in Test and international cricket so it's the same sort of format,” he said.

When the eleven Afghan players take the field in whites on Thursday, it will also be the biggest highlight in Simmons' coaching career.