London, May 20 : Coach Phil Simmons was not given any reasons when the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) decided to change the captain, months ahead of the World Cup, but the West Indian said he was trying to ensure that the change didn’t impact their preparations.
The ACB removed Asghar Afghan as the national team’s captain and named three different captains for Tests, ODIs and T20Is with less than than two months to go for the World Cup.
Gulbadin Naib was named the ODI skipper, meaning the 28-year-old all-rounder would lead the team at the World Cup, while spin sensation Rashid Khan, who criticised the move along with Mohammad Nabi, was named the vice-captain.
“I was home (in London). No, I was not aware of it. I was not given any reasons. It was the decision of the ACB and the selectors,” Simmons told ESPNCricinfo in an interview.
“I have got on with what I have to do and make sure the squad is preparing in the way I wanted them to, baring the (captaincy) change. I am trying to make sure the captaincy change doesn’t have an impact on our World Cup preparations,” the 56-year old West Indian said.
Simmons, who represented the West Indies in 26 Tests and 143 ODIs, also revealed he would not renew his contract after the World Cup. “I have thought about it. I have actually given the ACB my notice that I will not be renewing my contract. I will move on to something different once my contract expires on July 15.”
Remarking that he had signed up originally for 18 months, Simmons said, “I think I have done a lot in this period. It is time for me to move on to something else.”
Simmons said, “I am going to do something in the Caribbean Premier League, one of my favourite competitions. God guides my path and we will see where he takes me.”
On Rashid, the face of Afghan cricket and someone the nation would bank heavily on, Simmons said his lack of wickets in the Indian Premier League would not be a factor, and added the 20-year old leg spinner was a leader.
“The professional that Rashid is, I don’t think the IPL form will play on his mind. His assessment of what he does is so good, that he would sit down and he would still come to the World Cup and take each game at a time.
“The relevance of not picking up wickets in the IPL will not affect him because his experience now at international level tells him that it’s not every day I can take wickets and it’s not every day I have to bowl to get wickets. His professionalism will carry him through this.
“He is a leader. You can see the way he does things on the field even when he is not bowling. These days he has been working a lot on his batting because he knows at some point he might be required to add those 20-30 runs to win a match,” Simmons said.
On the question if he feels batsmen have started to figure him out, Simmons said, “People started to figure out (Anil) Kumble and everyone else, but they still ended up with all those wickets. The bowlers themselves need to assess the batsmen and how they assess what they want to do on the day is important. You have to make sure you have the right plans.”
On off spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman who was also ineffective during the IPL and picked an injury, Simmons said, the 18-year old was still learning and would receive guidance from Nabi and Rashid during the tournament.
“He did not play a lot in the IPL, so that is not a concern. Once he starts playing consistently everything will get better. He will get tighter. You have to remember Mujeeb is still a young man in international cricket.
“He is still learning. A lot of time when Nabi and Rashid are around, they help him with his confidence, which helps him bring his game to a level where we want him to be,” the Afghan chief coach said.
Rashid and Mujeeb have been the highest wicket-takers from the World Cup Qualifier. Asked if the team can squeeze in Rashid, Mujeeb and Nabi into the playing XI on a regular basis, Simmons said: “We just hope in the World Cup it is sunny and we just get a few drier wickets.
“These guys are accustomed to bowling on flat wickets. It’s not strange to them. Their desire to do well in this World Cup is high. Drier the wicket, the more opportunity of the ball turning. It’s an advantage for us if the batting-friendly conditions persist.”
“We’ve been really good — haven’t lost a series in a couple of years. And our IPL players have had rest and are back. We are in good shape,” Simmons said.