HARARE, Zimbabwe, CMC – Former West Indies coach Phil Simmons is heading back to the ICC World Cup but this time with Afghanistan, and says the Asian outfit will be working on a few surprises over the next few months in preparation for the showpiece next year.
Afghanistan completed a fairytale campaign yesterday when they beat Ireland by five wickets to complete their third win of the Super Sixes and clinch the last available World Cup spot.
“It’s my ninth straight World Cup, whether T20 or big World Cup and I’m just grateful to be a part of it again, especially in the country that I reside in – which is England – it’s going to be massive,” said the Trinidadian who was sacked as West Indies head coach just months after guiding them to the capture of the T20 World Cup in India two years ago.
“It’s been a fairytale since they started and they just keep going up and up and I think we deserve to be in the World Cup. I’m sure of the talent that we have because there’s a lot of talent and a lot more coming out now and we deserve to be in the World Cup and will prepare well for it.”
Of what to expect from Afghanistan at the World Cup, Simmons added: “I’ll leave that as a little surprise because I’m sure there are youngsters coming out of the woodwork and will want to play in that World Cup so we will go through things over the next five or six months and then we’ll decide what the squad looks like.”
Afghanistan’s hopes appeared dead and buried when they played poorly in the preliminaries, winning just one of their four matches to squeeze into the Super Sixes.
Once there, however, they trounced West Indies by three wickets and then beat United Arab Emirates by five wickets.
Even then, their hopes rested on the results of other matches and when when UAE upset hosts Zimbabwe on Thursday, it opened the door for Afghanistan once they could defeat the Irish.
Simmons admitted he had all but given up hope on qualifying as he had not envisioned Zimbabwe losing to UAE.
“You rely on others but a week is a long time in this cricket and I personally didn’t feel UAE could have beaten Zimbabwe,” said the former West Indies all-rounder.
“I didn’t watch the game but when it (defeat) happened I knew were on a good thing and it’s ours.”
Knowing the odds at stage on Friday, the Afghan outfit were clinical, restricting Ireland to 209 for seven off their 50 overs, with champion leg-spinner Rashid Khan claiming three for 40.
They then chased down their target to get home off the first ball of the final over, with Mohammad Shahzad top-scoring with 54.
Simmons said he had been wart of Ireland as he was aware they were formidable foes.
“The bowlers have never let us down in this tournament but today was going to be hard because Ireland would never give up until the end and they put pressure on us all the time,” said Simmons, who was Ireland’s head coach for eight years and oversaw their campaign at the 2015 World Cup.
Simmons, appointed Afghanistan head coach last December, said the qualification would mean a lot for the country.
“It (success) is going to sink in but whenever it sinks in it sinks in because I think it is something that is going to go through the nation. I think the nation is going to be so happy today,” said Simmons who will now face West Indies in tomorrow’s final.