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Gloucestershire have made a last-minute addition to their County Championship squad by signing West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite as an overseas player for the first two months of the domestic season.
Brathwaite will be available for up to eight Championship fixtures. He will travel to Bristol immediately after West Indies' ongoing second Test against Sri Lanka in Antigua - in which he scored 126 in the first innings - although with the match now heading towards a fifth day, he will not now arrive in time to face Surrey on April 8. He is likelier to debut against Somerset on April 15.
Brathwaite is set to open the batting for Gloucestershire alongside club captain Chris Dent, and will be their second overseas player alongside Daniel Worrall when he arrives after the conclusion of the Sheffield Shield season. Gloucestershire will be Brathwaite's fourth county after spells at Glamorgan, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, and he is the third member of the Test side to sign as an overseas player for the early rounds of the Championship season following deals for Kemar Roach (Surrey) and Alzarri Joseph (Worcestershire).
"I truly look forward to the opportunity to represent Gloucestershire," Brathwaite said. "I have always enjoyed county cricket and cherished the times I've been able to play in England. I'm excited to come to Bristol and do my best for the team, the club and of course the Gloucestershire supporters."
Ian Harvey, the club's interim head coach following Richard Dawson's appointment as the ECB's elite performance pathway coach, said that Brathwaite had been on Gloucestershire's radar for some time.
"To be able to bring somebody in who has played the number of Tests Kraigg has, and now as captain, is going to be a massive boost for the guys in the dressing room," Harvey said. "He will obviously add quality to the team now but also moving forward as a group, his presence here will be extremely beneficial for us.
"The way he goes about playing the game really impresses a lot of people at the club and it's fantastic that we've been able to bring him in for the early part of the County Championship. He opens the batting for his country so it would be hard to look past an opening partnership of Brathwaite and Dent but we do have a lot of quality players that will fit well around him."
Gloucestershire have also made an addition to their coaching staff, a week before the start of the season. Mark Alleyne, the club's captain throughout their era of limited-overs dominance in the late 1990s and early 2000s and head coach between 2004 and 2007, has been brought back in an unspecified role, which he will balance with his job as assistant director of sport at Marlborough College.
"Having Mark back at the club with what he's done in his career as a player and as a coach will be awesome for the players and only positive things can come from it," Harvey said. "We obviously worked well together on the field and I know we both have our own ideas about what he can offer the team so I am hopeful that we can have a fruitful coaching relationship too.
"Mark will work quite a bit with the first team and his knowledge and all those years of captaining a successful team will be hugely beneficial for our team, especially Denty. He'll also spend time with the second XI and that will be an invaluable experience for the academy players learning the game."
"I have a long working association with Ian Harvey and I love everything about his approach to the game," Alleyne said. "I am thrilled to get the call from him and be asked to help support him in his new role, and I am looking forward to working with the coaching team and getting stuck in at the club in the months ahead."