Zimbabwe sets sights on return to Tests

Peter Chingoka says it is "very realistic" for the southern African country to return to Test cricket within 18 months.

updated: February 24, 2010 10:32 IST
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Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka says it is "very realistic" for the southern African country to return to Test cricket within 18 months following the appointment of a new coaching team.

Alan Butcher was announced as Zimbabwe's new coach over the weekend, supported by assistant Stephen Mangongo and former internationals Heath Streak and Grant Flower.

Chingoka told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he agreed with Butcher's early assessment that Zimbabwe could be playing Tests again in 18 months. The country withdrew from Test cricket in 2006.

"If you talk to experts like (Director of Coaching) Dave Houghton and Alan Butcher they will tell you it's very realistic, and I fully agree with them," Chingoka said.

"We just need to play a lot of games against 'A' sides from the leading Test nations. When we get back to Tests, we would want to start with lower sides like Bangladesh and then work ourselves upwards. The management is working on a program to take us to where we want."

Chingoka was adamant the game is making progress following a period of deterioration that mirrored the economic and political problems in the country.

"It's healthy and long may it continue," Chingoka said. "The game is bigger than all of us. Everyone is just concentrating on cricket."

Zimbabwe announced in 2006 that it was temporarily withdrawing from Test cricket, and has not played a Test since then.

But the country has overhauled its domestic game with a restructured competition called the Logan Cup that has convinced former internationals like Sean Ervine to return home from England.

The country's first Twenty20 competition was also played recently, featuring former Australia allrounder Ian Harvey and England's Chris Silverwood as player-coaches.

Zimbabwe's rejuvenation has continued with the appointment as head coach of the 56-year-old Butcher, father of former England Test batsman Mark.

Streak, a former Zimbabwe captain, was selected as bowling coach with Grant Flower, brother of England team director Andy, the new batting coach.

"We endorsed them unanimously," Chingoka said of the new coaching setup. "They have the full support of the board."

The ZC chairman also denied suggestions that Butcher's appointment was an attempt to help normalize the country's frosty relationship with Britain.

"That never entered our minds," Chingoka said. "We just wanted to get the best possible person. The country of origin did not matter."

Zimbabwe has departed for West Indies where it will play one Twenty20 international and five one-day internationals starting Sunday. The squad will be led by a transitional staff of Streak, Houghton and outgoing coach Walter Chawaguta.

Butcher is expected to meet up with the squad in mid-March ahead of the World Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean, which begins April 30.