WICB chief executive officer Michael Muirhead has said there was no one specific reason for the termination of coach Phil Simmons’ contract, nor was it a sudden development. In a nutshell, Muirhead said, Simmons’ vision did not “align” with the strategic approach of the WICB and the divide widened over the past few months, reaching a point where a final decision had to be made.
The decision to relieve Simmons of the job was taken by the board of directors at the quarterly WICB meeting last weekend in Dominica. It is understood the directors were asked to vote on the matter, but Muirhead would not reveal whether it was a unanimous decision to terminate Simmons’ contract. “It was the board’s decision. Let us leave it at that,” Muirhead told ESPNcricinfo.
Asked whether it was his appraisal that eventually led to the decision, Muirhead did not reveal much. “I hired him, so therefore I have to release him but that is on the recommendation of the board,” he said. He did point out though that the WICB and Simmons had been deliberating on quite a few contentious issues behind the scenes. “The coach has an opinion and the board collectively had another opinion, and that had happened on more than one occasion.
“It is a whole number of things over a period of time. I can’t say it was really one thing. There is no one thing that defines what may have taken place. I think things came to a climax when a decision needed to be made.”
Simmons’ track record as West Indies coach was mixed. Appointed after last year’s World Cup, the high points of his tenure were West Indies’ draw at home against England last summer, and the World T20 win in India in April. Importantly, the players seemed to be on the same wavelength as Simmons. But Muirhead and the board of directors remained unconvinced. “Ultimately it is performance of the team, and we want the team to perform the best it can do,” Muirhead said. “Was it [doing so] is a question that is still unanswered.”
Technically, Muirhead was not Simmons’ boss. That was Richard Pybus, the WICB director of cricket. Simmons had mentioned in an interview that he and Pybus were not on the same page. “Relationship is a difficult word,” he had said of Pybus, soon after the World T20 triumph. “He communicates via emails but he has not spoken to me since the suspension. It’s sad because this is not about him or me, this is about West Indies cricket.”
At last weekend’s meetings, the board discussed several reports including the “Cricket Report” submitted by Pybus and the CEO’s report prepared by Muirhead. Pybus’ report was an overall review of cricket across the Caribbean, not limited to the West Indies teams and coaching staff.
Reiterating the lack of alignment in strategies, Muirhead said: “It has been an ongoing thing where I think Phil, in all that he has said and done, he has not aligned… the relationships were breaking down. I think he himself had ideas for a different strategic approach, notwithstanding one already having been approved and adopted by the board. I don’t think he was aligned with that.”
In a media release sent out on Tuesday, the WICB had pointed out it had identified “differences in culture” as one reason behind the friction between both parties. Muirhead elaborated: “The other thing was the work culture was a little different. It was how we do business, how we execute things. It was an organisational culture. It was not the difference in ethnic culture as has been pointed out elsewhere.”
Muirhead said he had had conversations with Simmons, and he had to intervene on quite few occasions to resolve issues. The last time they had met was about two months ago, he said. When he called Simmons on Tuesday to reveal the board’s decision, he said the chat was “cordial” and not “hostile” in any way.
Muirhead pointed out it was a “matter of coincidence” that the Simmons’ termination was announced the day the West Indies limited-overs squad left for the UAE to play Pakistan. “The sanctions and other things could not be discussed without the board meeting. We have board meetings every three months, where we discuss everything including the performance of the teams and the coaching staff.”