Irish braced for storm of Windies speculation over Simmons
IRELAND are refusing to have their World Cup plans blown off course either by inclement weather or by mischievous reports linking Phil Simmons with a return home to coach the West Indies.
The squad abandoned plans for a day on the golf course and decamped from the Gold Coast to Brisbane a few hours early ahead of the expected landfall of a Grade 5 cyclone off the coast of Queensland.
While plans were hatched to beat the rain with indoor net sessions, Simmons was refusing to be drawn into speculation that he could end his hugely successful eight-year association with Ireland before his contract expires in December.
The West Indies have not had a full-time coach since parting company with Ottis Gibson last summer and the Trinidadian was one of the replacement options being bandied around the press tent in Nelson on Monday.
Simmons has always maintained the West Indies job is the only one that might tempt him away but whether he would leave a team on the brink of achieving Test cricket to join one that is in disarray after going on strike over pay in October is by no means certain.
The outcome of Ireland's second World Cup group game against the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday is also less certain than it had seemed 48 hours ago, with the Gulf side putting up a spirited performance against Zimbabwe before losing by four wickets.
Ireland have beaten the UAE repeatedly in recent years but will need to redouble their focus after seeing the underdogs post an impressive 285-7 in Nelson and then attempt to defend it with vigour.
Ironically, given that the ICC's stated reasoning for barring the smaller nations from the next World Cup is to have closer matches, the UAE provided the closest contest of the eight group games to date. No match between Full Members has been anywhere near as competitive.
Meanwhile, Graeme McCarter (22), formerly of Gloucestershire, has joined the Ireland squad in Brisbane as cover for the pace bowlers.
Australia will welcome Michael Clarke back on schedule as they bid to make it two wins out of two this weekend.
There have been insinuations in some reports during Clarke's recovery after hamstring surgery in December that there was not always a unity of opinion about his return.
But after two warm-up matches and after George Bailey led Australia in his absence to a wide-margin opening win over England, he was duly cleared to take charge again when the co-hosts face Bangladesh in Brisbane tomorrow.