BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – President Ricky Skerritt has assured men’s head coach Phil Simmons he has the full backing of Cricket West Indies, ahead of the start of the three-Test series against England next week and against the backdrop of a call for his removal from a prominent CWI director.
Simmons has come under fire from Barbados Cricket Association president, Conde Riley, for his decision to break isolation at Old Trafford in Manchester to attend the funeral of his father-in-law last Friday.
Riley slammed Simmons’s move as “inconsiderate and reckless” and in a letter to board members quoted by ESPN Cricinfo, called for the T&T former national standout’s “immediate removal as head coach”.But Skerritt said Simmons’s job was “not in any way threatened by that letter”, describing the former Test player as “still the best man” to lead West Indies.
“I want to assure West Indies cricket fans that Phil Simmons still has the full backing of Cricket West Indies no matter what has been said,” Skerritt said.
“When all is said and done, Phil’s job is not in any way threatened … he went through a very vigorous recruitment process nine months ago and was the best man we could have found for the job. He’s still the best man.”
He added: “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 been controversial in any way.”
The England tour is being played in a “bio-secure” environment because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has already resulted in 300 000 infections and nearly 44 000 deaths across the United Kingdom.
Under tour protocols, Simmons was forced to self-isolate for five days after attending the funeral, during which time he twice tested negative for COVID-19.
CWI announced yesterday he had returned to the squad after being cleared.
Skerritt, under whose tenure Simmons returned as head coach after being sacked under the previous Dave Cameron administration, said providing controversy was not the ideal way to help West Indies prepare for their upcoming assignment.
“Cricket administrators have to understand that our role is to provide the best possible environment for cricket and to give the best possible support and resources available to our cricketers and management team,” said Skerritt.
“And giving them a sense of controversy and possible distrust and confusion is one of the worst gifts you can give. I’m talking as someone who has been there in the trenches and have fought against it … and I’m confident this will turn into a wonderful cricket tour in the final analysis.”
Skerritt labelled Riley’s letter as an “unnecessary and hasty burst of emotion”.
“I’m stunned that the letter reached the public,” he said.
West Indies have spent the last month in Manchester since their arrival preparing for the upcoming series, which will see Tests at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and the last two at Old Trafford.
They wrapped up the last two of two ‘inter-squad’ warm-up matches on Thursday and will travel to England’s south coast on Friday to begin final preparation.
Simmons said he did not believe the controversy would impact the squad’s preparations.
“It won’t disrupt us. It will just make us a little stronger going into the Test series. Our focus is still on the series,” he said.
“I had to do what is right for my family, just as I will do what is right for CWI for the series.”