Zimbabwe coach faces axe

Darlington Majonga/Enock Muchinjo

ZIMBABWE cricket coach Phil Simmons’ job is on the line following the national team’s shattering innings and 294-run humiliation within two days at the hands of New Zealand

in the first of a two-Test series this week.

A couple of top coaches have been approached although India “A” mentor Sandeep Patil, who took Kenya to the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup, has been touted as the key target, IndependentSport has learnt.

Simmons (42) was shuttled from the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy to take over the reins from Australian Geoff Marsh in May last year soon after a white player revolt rocked local cricket.

Sources privy to the goings-on at Zimbabwe Cricket said Simmons’ fate had been discussed following the Test debacle at Harare Sports Club on Monday, when Zimbabwe were bowled out twice on the same day – the second time it has happened in the history of Test cricket – to go down to their worst victory ever.

Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Ozias Bvute flatly refused to comment on Simmons’ fate, insisting the former West Indies all-rounder remains in charge. But he admitted the union was assessing the debacle “with a view to improve the team’s fortunes”.

“It’s obviously important that we introspect to enable us to do better. Our intention is never to go into a match with the desire to lose,” Bvute told IndependentSport yesterday.

He added: “The coach and the captain have obviously spoken to the team with the intention of making sure a repeat of the first Test will not occur. We shall look into consulting widely to ensure all our structures are adequately improved so that our performance reaches the expectations of our fans and spectators alike.”

However, a cricket official who preferred anonymity confirmed the union’s patience with Simmons had run out – although some in the cricket body had felt it would be unfair to judge the coach on the results of an inexperienced side.

“Phil is finding it difficult to get the message across to the players. He has not added any value to the team at all and, actually, the young players have got worse since he took over,” the cricket official said.

“We need someone with good work ethics, and we certainly need to find a better coach from somewhere. Phil is a good coach, but Zimbabwe Cricket overrated his ability, and he has been found wanting at this level of cricket,” the official added.

“It seems that he cannot identify the problem with the team. He is relaxed, neither him nor any member of his team management has come to Zimbabwe Cricket to ask for anything or any assistance. We just assume that everything is well in the team.”

Local cricket commentator Dean du Plessis added his opinion, saying Simmons lacked the credentials to coach a Test side.

“Phil did a good job with the Under-19s and the academy. But he does not have hardness to coach at Test level,” du Plessis said.

“He’s a happy sort of guy, a gentle giant. He likes to socialise with everyone. There is nothing wrong with that, but that is one of his major weaknesses. He lacks the ability to discipline his players. He has simply not adjusted well as a Test coach.”

Du Plessis suggested former Zimbabwe internationals would be most suitable to take over from Simmons.

“I think we need to speak to one of our local guys because they know the players better than the foreign guys. But we do not have such coaches in Zimbabwe at the moment.

“So we need to engage our local guys who are no longer living in Zimbabwe, the likes of Andy Pycroft and Dave Houghton. But we all know that is not going to happen.”

Meanwhile Bvute has defended Zimbabwe’s Test status in the wake of renewed calls to the International Cricket Council to relegate the country from elite cricket.

“It’s unfortunate we’ve had a disappointing first Test but the basis of our future involvement in Test cricket should not be on the basis of a bad result,” Bvute said.

“The basis of any form of improvement is exposure, so it would be totally wrong to exclude us from any form of competition. We feel that through exposure we shall improve. Rome was not built in a day.”

Bvute said Zimbabwe Cricket remained confident the team would improve despite the shattering defeat against the Black Caps.

“We were disappointed with the outcome of the first Test but we are however confident that the team will do better in the next Test and other assignments to come,” he said. “The 11 that were selected to represent the country were the best Zimbabwe could field, and we still have faith in them.”

Zimbabwe selectors are unlikely to make major changes for the second Test in Bulawayo, starting on Monday, although the announcement of the final squad will be delayed until tomorrow evening.