West Indies Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite wants ten days of “solid, hard cricket” for the upcoming two-match Test series against Zimbabwe which bowls with the opener next weekend at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
The 15-member squad touched down in Zimbabwe on Monday and will use the coming days to accilimatise ahead of a three-day warm up match at Bulawayo Athletic Club on Saturday.
Brathwaite and West Indies interim head coach Andre Coley want a “big team effort” from the maroon against Zimbabwe as they use this tour as preparation ahead of a multi-format series away to South Africa, from February 28.
“It’s good to finally be in Zimbabwe after a couple days of travel. We’re very excited. This tour offers opportunities individually as players, but also as a team, for us to regain confidence and to be at our best,” said Coley.
Brathwaite anticipates a tough series against the hosts despite them being ranked tenth on the ICC Test team rankings. West Indies are eighth, with Bangladesh ninth. Zimbabwe, he said, cannot be underestimated.
“The guys are very happy to be here. We look forward to a hard contested series. Zimbabwe are at home and play well at home so we can’t take them for granted. I think that’s the main thing we’re going to stress on. Pretty much play ten days of solid, hard cricket.
“We have to go out there and think we’re playing the number one team in the world. We really got to push ourselves and fight hard and get ready for the South Africa tour after, so it’s a great way to start the tour,” the skipper said.
Coley and Brathwaite said their bowling attack is critical to the team’s potential success there.
The maroon’s fast bowlers comprise Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers and Kemar Roach while their spinners are Brathwaite, Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Jomel Warrican and Gudakesh Motie.
Brathwaite anticipates similar pitch conditions to that of the Caribbean but believes the right mixture of aggression with the ball should do the trick. The Bajan all-rounder was part of the WI squad who won the two-Test series against Zimbabwe 1-0, back in 2017.
“The last time (2017) the surface was a bit slow so it takes a lot of time to get accustomed to the surface. It’s quite similar to the Caribbean, the slowness of the pitch.
“We have a practice game coming up which is good, so we’ll see what we can get from the pitches. Even though there may be some slowness on the deck, I know the batsmen would be unfearful.
“It’s all about discipline mixed with aggression. The pitch didn’t offer much to the pacers last time but the pacers did well. Once we mix that tight aggression with the pace, I think there’s something for the pacers. I really look forward to a big team effort,” Brathwaite added.
Coley said the team must be able to apply themselves and play every situation as is necessary.
“(Only) then, we can look to post challenging totals especially in our first innings, and have some control of the game and as the game progresses, we position ourselves in such a way that we can come out with a positive result.
“Tomorrow (Wednesday) we are going to have a look around and see what things are like. But if we are to go off history and what has happened, maybe in the last five years, we probably figure that pace and spin will work evenly well here,” Coley said.
WI TEST SQUAD
Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Gudakesh Motie, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Devon Thomas, Jomel Warrican
28-30 January: Three-day warm-up match at Bulawayo Athletic Club
4-8 February: 1st Test at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo
12-16 February: 2nd Test at Queens Sports Club