West Indies cricket are “blessed” to have Phil Simmons as coach, according to Cricket West Indies (CWI) president, Ricky Skerritt.
In an unstinting demonstration of support, Skerritt made it clear that Simmons’ role as head coach remains “not in any way threatened” despite demands from one CWI board member, Conde Riley, for him to be sacked.
“I want to assure West Indies cricket fans that Phil Simmons still has the full backing of CWI, no matter what has been said,” Skerritt said. “When all is said and done, Phil’s job is not in any way threatened by that letter.”
Riley, also the president of the Barbados Cricket Association, suggested Simmons had “endangered the lives” of the entire West Indies touring party by temporarily leaving the bio-secure ‘bubble’ in Manchester to attend a family funeral.
“There was no question of me not going to the funeral,” Simmons said. “It is a very, very hard time for us. My wife, my daughters and my son needed that support. This has not been an easy time for my family. My wife was very close to her father and his passing has hurt us. All the guys [in the West Indies touring party] have been very close to me. It won’t disrupt us. It will just make us a little stronger going into the Test series.
“Family is a huge thing for me. It’s the same thing we’re trying to build here and everyone is supporting everyone. If someone wants to try and use that against me, all well and good. If that is to break up the camp and change our focus, that hasn’t worked. I had to do what is right for my family, just as I will do what is right for CWI for the rest of the series.”
As Skerritt made clear, Simmons had permission to attend the funeral and his departure and re-entry were managed by the medical teams from CWI and the ECB. He has subsequently remained in isolation at the team hotel – he has watched the on-going warm-up match from his hotel-room balcony – and been tested twice for Covid-19. Both tests have been negative.
“He went through a very vigorous recruitment process nine months ago and was the best man we could have found for the job,” said Skerritt. “He’s still the best man. I’m confident the people of the Caribbean have already thrown their support behind Phil and will continue to do so.
“Phil is the right man at the right time. We’re so blessed to have Phil back with us and to have Jimmy Adams as his boss. I don’t think I need to worry at all with those two guys leading the cricket.
“It is a well-established policy for CWI players and officials while on tour to be given permission for compassionate leave as and when needed. The matter of coach Simmons’ exiting and returning to Old Trafford should never have controversial in any way.”
While Skerritt admitted his request for Riley to withdraw the letter had, at this stage, fallen on deaf ears, he offered an olive branch of reconciliation towards the Barbadian.
“My only response was to ask him to withdraw the letter,” Skerritt said. “It was an unnecessary and hasty burst of emotion. I’m stunned that the letter reached the public.
“But Conde is a tremendous custodian of the game of cricket in Barbados. He gets my respect and I probably tolerate stuff like this more than I would with others. I think quietly at the right time we’ll make up. The problem is there are very strong influences around him and outside of the board who try to bring distrust and throw cold water on cricket-first activities we’ve been moving forward with.”
“Cricket administrators have to understand that our role is to provide the best possible environment for cricket and to give the best support and resources to our cricketers and management team,” Skerritt continued. “Giving them a sense of controversy and possible distrust and confusion is one of the worst gifts you can give.”