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Zim vs Windies: Interim WI coach Coley stays positive, has Lara to help



NEW interim West Indies coach Andre Coley (pictured) feels there are enough recent positives to draw on despite the team’s humbling first-round exit at last year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.

That was followed by a 2-0 Test series loss against Australia that included a 419-run drubbing in the second Test.

Before those setbacks, West Indies won at home against England and Bangladesh and Coley is focused more on that ahead of a two-Test series in Zimbabwe starting on Saturday.

“Australia is now in the past,” Coley said in Bulawayo. “As a team, there have been many positive results over the past 18 months and we want to focus on achieving much of the same in the year to come.

“We are looking forward to playing a brand of cricket that will position us to achieve this outcome.”

West Indies will be expected to deliver a series win in Zimbabwe, with the hosts gearing up for their first Test in 18 months.

While West Indies want to win again, Zimbabwe have achieved their first objective of just playing Test cricket again after that long gap. Getting matches and series is a regular challenge for the southern Africans.

Zimbabwe has enjoyed some sort of recent revival, though, following the return of former captain Dave Houghton to take up the role of head coach again. Houghton’s presence has led to a more positive outlook for Zimbabwe, which won a T20 series and drew a one-day series against Ireland last month and has managed to attract former England batter Gary Ballance back to his country of birth.

Ballance made his international debut for Zimbabwe against Ireland and is set to make his Test debut against West Indies, having switched allegiance from England back to Zimbabwe, where he was a youth international before moving to Britain.

“Gary Ballance is an experienced cricketer,” Zimbabwe director of cricket and former captain Hamilton Masakadza told The Associated Press. “His inclusion in the side is invaluable. He has gelled very seamlessly in the side. He is sort of the right player we needed in the side. We look forward to him doing big things for Zimbabwe.”

Ballance will need to offset the absence of key Zimbabwe batters for the series. Captain Sean Williams is out with injury and Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl have been granted permission to play in T20 competitions overseas.

Coley’s first foray in charge of West Indies appears set to rely on some old heads, such as 34-year-old fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who did not play when West Indies lost heavily against Australia but has been recalled, and fellow quick Kemar Roach, who is also 34. At 26, Alzarri Joseph is the youngster in that pace trio.

They will find Bulawayo’s traditionally low-bouncing and slow pitch a challenge but Gabriel and Roach have 130 tests of experience to call on if they are reunited in the bowling attack for the first Test, as is expected.

The West Indies squad also has one of cricket’s greatest players to help after Brian Lara was hired to be a performance mentor for the team, starting with the series in Zimbabwe. – The Associated Press.