The curious case of Phil Simmons

Afghanistan stand to lose one of the best coaches in the world because of off-field drama, and West Indies could stand to benefit (again) at their expense

Phil Simmons gives catching practice  •  IDI via Getty Images

Phil Simmons gives catching practice  •  IDI via Getty Images

Phil Simmons was coach of the West Indies team. Simmons is now coach of the Afghanistan team. And it is very possible that Simmons will again become the coach of the West Indies team.
What is looking likely is that he cannot continue as coach of the Afghanistan team after tweets like, "I am in the middle of a World Cup and trying to get our team to perform to the level we expect, but at the end of the World Cup I will tell the Afghanistan people about the part that Mr Dawlat Ahmadzai had to play in our preparation and his part in the dismissal of #AsgharAfghan".
That was him responding to Ahmadzai's - a selector who lost his position during the tournament - comments about Afghanistan's poor preparation.
With those comments and some other things that have happened, like Afghanistan sending two players home, and having a random selection forced on the group as captain, you can certainly see that whether by his decision, or the Afghan cricket board's, Simmons may not stay as coach.
Not that any return to the West Indies would be smooth. In September 2016, Phil Simmons talked about the "interference from outside" when trying to choose the West Indies team. Then chairman Dave Cameron did not like that, and Simmons lost his job. Earlier this year, Simmons finally settled with CWI for a large settlement of nearly USD 500k.
However, this is the new CWI, with Ricky Skerritt already looking far more professional than his predecessor Cameron. With players like Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard being brought back, Andre Russell being treated well for his injured knees and Chris Gayle announcing he wants to play Tests, suddenly West Indies cricket doesn't have the talent drain it did before. That also includes the coaches; there are two world class head coaches from the West Indies at the moment. Ottis Gibson - who based on what has happened with South Africa in this World Cup, will soon need a new position - and Phil Simmons.
It's incredible that Simmons hasn't had one of the major jobs in world cricket. His record is consistently outstanding.
Simmons' work with Ireland proved he was brilliant at improving a side, even without the financial or logistical advantages that major teams have. Then, he came back to the West Indies to win a World Twenty20. Also, it is clear how much Afghanistan have grown since he took the job, despite the mess behind the scenes.
People who work with Simmons are almost always positive. He is excellent at coaching, tactics, and was one of the early adopters to cricket analytics. And yet, with that record, you don't even hear his name mentioned for the England job. It would appear from the outside that Simmons is one of the best coaches in the world, and with the West Indies opening their arms to those who left acrimoniously, he should be brought back home.
Floyd Reifer, the interim coach, was picked in part because of Skerritt's desire to find a local coach. When the decision was announced, Skerritt said, "Our landmark decision to immediately introduce a well suited young West Indian professional as our men's team coach is, therefore, a clear indicator of the seriousness of our West Indian-first policy and represents our commitment to celebrate the best of what it means to be West Indian."
Simmons is one of the best coaches in the world, and not only a Trinidadian, but also represented the West Indies 169 times. Surely - even despite his large and recent payout - he should be the man to lead this side into the future.
The game against Afghanistan is a dead rubber, but West Indies are already looking towards the future. As Roddy Estwick - West Indies assistant coach and former PE teacher of Rihanna - said, "Unfortunately we didn't have more time. We had to work with what we had.
"Looking back over the eight games that we played, I mean I personally thought that we should have won four of those. We were very, very close. We just didn't play the big moments well. And hopefully we can learn from that and we can move forward and we can plan for the next one.
"Obviously we're not happy losing games. But we started to build something, and once we can remain patient and we can keep building. Young players are coming through, and once that keeps happening then things will get a lot better."
The tournament has been poor for West Indies, but the level of talent in the younger players is as good as anywhere else. Nicholas Pooran was thrown in at number four, and has flourished. Oshane Thomas looks fit and scary. Fabian Allen showed what he can do last game. And the big-hitting Rovman Powell is not even in this squad.
If you are a head coach, this is an ideal job to get now.
Simmons - as the diligent coach he is - will look to ensure Afghanistan win this game. The pitch looks brown, the Afghan spinners are back in form, and the second half of this tournament they have been very close to winning games. Any win for Afghanistan will be a major achievement for Simmons considering the clown show they've put on off the field.
Also, an upset win could help Simmons when Reifer's interim contract ends. Not that anyone in the West Indies needs a reminder of what a good coach he is.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber