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Simmons says Caribbean series key for Afghans

Discarded West Indies coach Phil Simmons believes Afghanistan’s one-day series against West Indies in the Caribbean later this year, will serve as a great opportunity for the fledgling side to begin to make strides in international cricket.

An associate member of the International Cricket Council, Afghanistan will be playing their first-ever bilateral ODI series against a major international full member when they take on West Indies in May/June.

Simmons, hired recently by the Afghanistan Cricket Board to prepare the squad, said at this stage the aim was to be competitive and make inroads.

“I like to be realistic. I don’t think the BCCI (Indian Cricket Board) or the Cricket Australia would be really interested in hosting them for a series at this moment,” said Simmons, who was sacked by the West Indies Cricket Board last September.

“The important thing would be to remain competitive at this level, and when that happens you are bound to get your chance against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I think the upcoming series in the Caribbean in May is a step in that direction.”

In Simmons’s first series in charge last month, the Afghans beat Zimbabwe 3-2 in a five-match series in Harare, a tour the Trinidadian believes his side should have won more convincingly.

And with upcoming series against West Indies and Ireland, Simmons believes his job is to get Afghanistan to take the next step.

“These guys were good against the Zimbabweans,” he noted.

“But if you look at their performances in the World T20 last year, they came close to winning on a number of occasions, but could not seal the deal. My job as the coach would be to help them through.”

Afghanistan is ranked 10th in the ICC one-day rankings – ironically one place behind two-time former World champions West Indies – with Zimbabwe 11th and Ireland, 12th.

Though the assignment is a short term one, Simmons hopes he can use his experience to help the Asian side get the most out of the next few series.

“I was the Ireland coach for a considerable amount of time, and since Afghanistan is scheduled to play two series against them, they have sought my experience, which is fair, I think,” he said.

“They have hired me for just three series. This series against Ireland, followed by another five-match ODI series against West Indies in the Caribbean in May, followed by a return series in Ireland in July. That’s what I am looking at currently.”

Afghanistan were good enough to beat West Indies in the preliminary round of last year Twenty20 World Cup in India. (Courtesy Jamaican Observer)

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