Phil Simmons is Afghanistan's new head coach. He takes over the role that was left vacant when the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) terminated the contract of Lalchand Rajput, barely three months after the former Indian batsman was appointed. Simmons starts work from January 8, and will join the Afghanistan squad in Dubai as it prepares for the limited-overs series against Zimbabwe in Sharjah in February. His contract runs till the 2019 World Cup.

Simmons was one of the three candidates shortlisted by the ACB, which conducted interviews over the past few months. He eventually emerged as a favourite owing to his experience and success as head coach with Ireland and then West Indies. Also in favour of Simmons was his stint as a coaching consultant with the Afghanistan team last year. "We went with Phil because he understand our team," Shafiq Stanikzai, the ACB chief executive officer, said. "He has coached West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland - all these are teams Afghanistan will play in the World Cup Qualifiers. He is a good prospect."

Simmons' immediate challenges will be on the limited-overs front. After the Zimbabwe series, which comprises two T20Is and five ODIs between February 5 and 19, Afghanistan will move on to the World Cup Qualifiers in March. Later in the year, Afghanistan will travel to India to play their inaugural Test, dates for which are yet to be finalised.

Simmons had also interviewed for the Bangladesh coach job earlier this month.

Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo