Zimbabwe news February 24, 2010

Chingoka confident of Test return in 18 months

Cricinfo staff

Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka believes their chances of returning to Test cricket in 18 months are "very realistic". His confidence stems from the appointment of a new coaching team - Alan Butcher was announced as Zimbabwe's new coach over the weekend, and will be supported by assistant Stephen Mangongo along with former international players Heath Streak and Grant Flower.

The country lost several leading players in an exodus following Heath Streak's removal from the captaincy in 2004 and the situation became worse in 2006 when the Zimbabwe board suspended the weakened national team from Tests.

"We endorsed them [the new coaching setup] unanimously," Chingoka told AP. "They have the full support of the board. If you talk to experts like Dave Houghton and Alan Butcher they will tell you it's very realistic, and I fully agree with them.

"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 said cricket in Zimbabwe was 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 they were temporarily withdrawing from Tests, having last played India at home in September 2005. Only a few players from the exodus, including Steak and left-arm spinner Ray Price, made comebacks. The country continues to play ODIs and Twenty20s but languishes at the bottom of the world rankings.

However, the domestic structure has been overhauled and restructured competitions like the Logan Cup have convinced former internationals like Sean Ervine to return home from England. The country's first Twenty20 competition - the Stanbic Bank 20 Series - was also played recently and featured former Australia allrounder Ian Harvey and England's Chris Silverwood as player-coaches.

Zimbabwe are scheduled to play one Twenty20 international and five ODIs on their tour of West Indies starting on Sunday.