Board again under pressure October 18, 2005

Zimbabwe players demand reinstatement of Simmons

Cricinfo staff



The letter to the board © Cricinfo
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The unrest between Zimbabwe's players and board has again spilled into the open with the leaking of a letter from almost all the team calling for the reinstatement of Phil Simmons.

Simmons, who was replaced by Kevin Curran as national coach in August, had stayed on the coaching staff and remained as an employee of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC). Ten days ago his contract was abruptly terminated, a decision he contested claiming that it had been taken in contravention of the board's own rules. The case is now in the hands of both sides' lawyers. Insiders told Cricinfo that ZC had spoken to Zimbabwean immigration officials about the possibility of Simmons's work permit being withdrawn.

But in a letter to Peter Chingoka, the ZC chairman, 30 players, including Tatenda Taibu, the captain, and Heath Streak, asked for the decision to be reconsidered. "We believe Phil still has much to offer ZC as national coach, and we feel the decision to terminate his employment is unjust and unfair and is not in the best interests of Zimbabwe cricket."

Some board members openly blamed Simmons for the team's problems, something the players disputed. "A number of factors have affected our ability to perform as a unit," the letter continued. "So it would not be right to make Phil the scapegoat. Phil knows a great deal about the game, and has taught us much in a short period. We therefore have faith in him and believe that Phil has a great awareness of the current squad of players as individuals, therefore we still believe he has the best chance to position the national team to win games in the future."



Phil Simmons: backed by the players © AFP
The letter concluded by stating that they believed Simmons was "the right person to continue as national coach and to take the team to India. Please may we urge you as concerned players who want the best for Zimbabwe cricket to reconsider your decision to terminate Phil's employment."

This is the second time the players have united to write to the boad in five weeks. In September, they lambasted the board for its treatment of them, and were especially critical of the handling of controversial new player contracts.

It also raises serious questions about the role of Curran. Although not mentioned in the letter, in calling for the reinstatement of Simmons the implication is that Curran would have to step aside.

This is sure to be yet another embarrassment for the Zimbabwe board, and one which comes on the day that Streak announced that he would be putting his role as captain of Warwickshire ahead of any international demands. On Saturday, a full-strength Zimbabwe side were humiliated by Kenya in a one-day match.