Ireland would be ready to play Tests in five years: Simmons

Mumbai: Pleased with the progress of Ireland in cricket, the team`s coach and former West Indies opener Phil Simmons has predicted that the island nation would be ready to play Tests in five years` time.

"I can see this team being ready for Test cricket in five years - sooner if the ICC adopt a two division Test league," said the Trinidadian after signing a new two-year deal with Cricket Ireland, according to a media release.

"We keep improving and we have shown that we learn quickly, so the more we play against teams higher than us the more we learn," he added.

The deal will see the 48-year-old former Test cricketer, who had represented West Indies in 26 Tests and 143 ODIs from 1988-99, guide Ireland till the end of the next World Cup qualifying phase.

He has continued to carry forward the cricketing revolution on the island, that began in 2002 with the appointment of Adi Birrell as national coach, since 2007, Cricket Ireland noted.

During Simmons`s five-year tenure, there have been notable wins over ICC Full Members England, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and Ireland had played in three successive world tournaments in the 20 and 50-over formats of the game.

"I was happy to sign the deal because I feel we have some unfinished business. Although we`ve achieved quite a bit in my tenure, there is still so much more to come from this team," he said after signing the new deal.

"It`s obviously an exciting time for Irish cricket and the plans we have now for the future will stand us in good stead.”

"The expanded contract system (23 players will be paid by Cricket Ireland this year) will give the players some security and let the guys who aren`t in the first team at the moment know they are very much in our plans. Everyone has seen the improvement in our centrally contracted players, playing a pivotal role in our success," he added.

Simmons is targeting a climb up the rankings in the coming years, and is hopeful of securing more games against top opposition.

The former West Indies cricketer termed the shock victory of Ireland over England in the 2011 World Cup as a watershed.

"That win was undoubtedly the high point of my career and I feel was a watershed in Irish cricket. It gave us an incredible amount of exposure but more importantly it gave the players belief that they could compete with anyone, on any stage at any time," said Simmons.

"What`s been pleasing for me in that time has been the emergence of youngsters like Paul Stirling and George Dockrell, who have proved themselves at the highest level. Also seeing John Mooney work so hard to make himself a permanent fixture in the team," he explained.

Ireland face a busy schedule in the next two months, with games in Kenya, South Africa and the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in the UAE.