Blackwood sees positives working with coach and countryman Coley
Jermaine Blackwood of West Indies plays a delivery from bowler Umesh Yadev of India on day five of the second Test cricket match at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica, on August 3, 2016. (Photo: AFP)

Jermaine Blackwood, the West Indies Test vice-captain, says the familiarity of working with Coach Andre Coley should work in his favour as he looks to rediscover batting form in the two-Test series away to Zimbabwe.

Blackwood, the Jamaican middle-order batsman, endured a lean spell as West Indies lost 0-2 to hosts Australia late last year. Since then, Phil Simmons has left the post and Blackwood's countryman Coley has taken over as interim head coach.

The swashbuckling player's best season in regional four-day cricket came under Coley's guidance in 2020. Blackwood was superb in amassing 768 runs for Jamaica Scorpions in eight matches at an average of 51.20.

"I have known Andre since I was, like, 12 years old; I've known him for a pretty long time. So, it's really easy; he's just telling me to back myself and he backs me 100 per cent to go out there to play my natural game," the 31-year-old said in the build-up to Saturday's start of the first Test in Bulawayo.

"Hopefully, in these two Test matches I can really go out there and back myself and play the Jermaine Blackwood way, which is going to be good to watch once I get off. I think I have the full confidence of the coaching staff and the captain [Kraigg Brathwaite] to just go out there and play my natural game."

Though Blackwood, who has an aggregate of 2,629 runs in 50 Tests — featuring three centuries at an average of 30.69 — has not always lived up to his potential, he remains a vital cog in the West Indies team's batting line-up.

Blackwood scored a hundred while averaging 32 against England last March, and bettered that with 64.50 against Bangladesh in June as West Indies won both home series.

And while he could only muster 63 runs in four innings against a high-quality bowling attack Down Under, Blackwood said he did not have any specific challenge.

"I never really had any difficulty; I just never got the score I wanted. In the first game I think I really got a hard decision with the lbw against Mitchel Starc. And then in the second innings I think it was very unfortunate the ball hit the bat and thigh pad and then lobbed to [Marnus] Labuschagne.

"The pink ball Test match, I didn't really get a start, but as I said, going forward I feel pretty good. I feel back [to] my old self like a few years ago, so hopefully, I can go out there and put in some good performances for the team," he said.

"I feel pretty good at the moment, hitting the balls very good in the nets. I'm looking forward to this series, to at least score one or two centuries and get going for the South Africa series coming up shortly," Blackwood emphasised.

West Indies have never lost a Test against Zimbabwe in 10 previous meetings, and were 1-0 victors in the two-match series when they previously toured the African nation in 2017.

Traditionally, Zimbabwe have produced low and slow pitches.

Blackwood, who indicated West Indies were aware of the widespread changes in the Zimbabwe outfit since their last visit, said he is expecting similar batting surfaces.

"We're fully aware this is going to be a new Zimbabwe team, a more fearless Zimbabwe team as well, and we're fully up for it.

"The practice wicket has been slow, similar to the Caribbean. When we were here in 2017 the wickets were pretty slow and were turning so we're going to expect the same," he said.

"It's very important for us as a team to start on a winning note. Hopefully, we can play some hard cricket… I hope everybody can put on some good performances for the team so we can put back some smiles on the faces of the people in the Caribbean," Blackwood said.

— Sanjay Myers

COLEY...the West Indies senior team interim head coach.

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