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May 2, 2010
Group D in the World Twenty20 is resembling Friends Reunited. Ottis Gibson and Phil Simmons, former West Indies team-mates, have already gone head-to-head as the coaches of the hosts and Ireland while Eoin Morgan will also face his former colleagues on Tuesday. However, the most intriguing match-up will be when Gibson is brought up against England little more than three months after leaving the role of bowling coach.
It was a rapid turnaround between jobs for Gibson who was given permission to speak to West Indies just a week after finishing England's tour of South Africa. A few days later it was confirmed he would return home to take on the head coach role, but he still keeps in close contact with a number of the England squad which will create an added edge to the contest at Providence.
"I speak to Colly [Paul Collingwood] a lot and also Broady [Stuart Broad]," he said. "We [West Indies] are excited and there's a bit of banter going around about that game, but I don't play cricket anymore so can pretty much say what I want. It's up to the players in the middle to produce and it will be fun seeing those guys again. It was only two or three months ago that I was spending a lot of time with them. Somebody reminded me that West Indies have a good record against England in T20 so we'll look forward to the game.
"There are some new guys in there I don't know much about. Craig Kieswetter is one, Michael Lumb another and Yardy I haven't been involved with much. In T20 plans can change every day so what I knew about them three months ago could have gone full circle now so we just have to make sure we are well prepared."
Gibson's appointment as West Indies coach was generally viewed as a positive move, bringing in someone who understands the culture and can relate to the players. However, Viv Richards' recent outburst, relating to a Test against South Africa in 1998-99, has been the loudest descenting voice and took many people by surprise.
"I saw the now present coach Ottis Gibson with his two feet on the balcony, earphones in," Richards said. "West Indies were just about to go down the chute - and he was having fun, where the music was concerned. That has left an impression on me, seeing him in the present position he is now.
"That is not saying he will not be a good coach, but I doubt he would like to see one of his players [behaving as he did] at that particular time, with him being in the position he is now."
Comparing Gibson 11 years ago to the coach he now is forgets the prolific form in the closing stages of his first-class career with Durham and the work he has done to gain his coaching credentials with England. Gibson, speaking before Richards' comments were made, said he was settling into his new role and felt confident about the future.
"I have a passion for West Indies cricket and now the challenge is to bring people together which slowly is happening," he said. "The signs are very good and the guys are getting used to how I operate. This tournament will give us a good indicator of where we actually are."
With his bowling background that remains the area where most of Gibson's hands-on coaching continues. He has brought in Jimmy Adams to help on the batting front for the World Twenty20 and is eyeing a permanent batting coach in the future. He admits that moving from working with just one part of a team to oversee a whole operation has been a challenging experience.
"When I was bowling coach I generally only had four or five people to look after on a tour or a net session and now I'm in charge of the whole team," he said. "You have to make sure they are getting what they need in training and when people are left out you have to make sure people are okay about that as well. Then you are scouring the internet at time trying to get stats and information on opposition teams so it keeps me up at night I can tell you that."
However, Gibson's remit extends beyond the West Indies side. He has been charged with looking at all levels of the game and he has already implement new systems including a High Performance Centre in Barbados which is headed by Toby Radford, the former Middlesex batsman, who played a key role in Andrew Strauss's return to form two years ago.
Radford has also worked closely with Morgan so should be able to pass on some useful advice about England's new Twenty20 star. "He will try and instil the right attitude into those people who have been picked for the HPC and hopefully when they get into the senior team they will know what is required and can make a contribution to international cricket," Gibson explained of Radford's role.
He also emphasised what he said when he first took the role, that it's vital West Indies cricket only looks forward. "We want to stay away from the glory days and start a new era of glory. They are long gone and we have to start again. We should never forget the past but we can't keep looking back. We want to get players from that era to come in and share their experiences, but it is about this group of players to set new standards for themselves and start a new page."
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