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A team man, a hard worker, a fine player, a big brother, and most of all, down-to-earth
May 1, 2010
The very first player of note who made an impression on me was former West Indian allrounder Phil Simmons.
When I first met Phil, around 1983-84, he was not yet an international player but he was already playing first-class cricket for Trinidad and Tobago, and was already being touted as a future West Indies player.
I remember walking through downtown Port-of-Spain one day, back when I was in high school, along with my friend and former school captain Kirk Newallo and another colleague, when we spotted Phil across the street. We knew that he had played at our cricket club, Crompton, previously, but by the time we had joined the club he was moving up and on and was busy playing elsewhere.
After a brief hesitation we worked up the gumption to go across street to greet him, not knowing whether or not he would speak to us. Kirk explained where we were from and that we were members of Crompton. At the end of the chat Kirk said that if Phil had a spare bat he could pass on to us the next time he came back from his travels, it would be a dream.
I can't recall how many weeks or months later it was, but Phil found us and fulfilled our request.
We shared, cared for and cherished that bat with the greatest pride. Simmo's willingness to stop in the middle of downtown Port-Of-Spain and chat to three teenagers whom he had never met before, to agree to a request for one of his bats and then to deliver on that promise is something I have never forgotten.
We had heard plenty of stories about "Pip", as he was affectionately known - his drive to succeed, passion for the game, unbelievable work ethic, his humility and loyalty to friends and amiable nature in general. What I experienced of Phil later as a team-mate and friend mirrored exactly that.
A couple of seasons after that fortuitous encounter, I made my senior debut for North against South in a zonal competition in Trinidad. Phil turned up at the game. He came straight up to me and said, "I have heard some good things about you, and people are talking about you as a future West Indian cricketer, so keep working hard." That blew me away because at that time I didn't see myself in that light. But that's Phil - he'll do anything to help encourage others.
As a batsman there were others technically superior. Statistically he underachieved for one so determined and one who worked as hard as he did. As a fielder he made himself sharp and agile, and he had a pair of hands to compare with many of his day. And he was a canny and underrated medium-fast bowler. But it is as a quintessential team man and big-brother figure that he has most impacted me and many of my generation. He taught us the value of courage, hard work and peak fitness, but also provided us an example of the importance of being grounded.
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