Harare:Zimbabwe's 15-man cricket squad leaves for the West Indies next week determined to face up to their most stringent examination so far as they bid for a return to Test status.
Zimbabwe will play a Twenty20 match and three ODI's against a full strength West Indies.
Their convenor of selectors Alistair Campbell, a Test veteran here of a decade ago, told AFP: "We don't expect to win the series, but we might snatch one result.
"Our realistic objective is to be competitive. It is of paramount importance that we are, so as to improve our credibility. Failure in this regard would be a serious setback to our efforts and plans."
In June Zimbabwe are planning to host India in a probable five-match ODI series, during which they will again hope to provide at least serious competition and evidence of improvement.
Then they believe they can make sufficient further improvement in the next year or so towards the day a formal submission can be made to the International Cricket Council for a place on the new "forward Test programme" scheduled for 2012.
After the India tour, Zimbabwe will seek to play a lengthy series of four-day matches - the nearest they can presently get to five-day Test cricket - against full ICC member country "A" sides.
Ten of the 15 players destined for the West Indies tour have played Test cricket for Zimbabwe in the past, indicating a strong reliance on experience at present. But a second emphasis is to develop youth for the future.
A new national coach is to be selected in the next few days from a short list containing two former prominent Zimbabwe Test stalwarts - Grant Flower and Heath Streak.
The other applicants include England's Chris Silverwood and Alan Butcher, the son of former England opening batsman Mark Butcher.
Flower and Streak appear to be the front runners. Flower, 39, the young brother of England head coach Andy Flower, would form part of a unique family national coaching duo if appointed.
Grant played in 87 Tests for Zimbabwe, scoring over 3,400 runs at 34.57. He was also a useful left-arm spin bowler. In recent years he has been contracted to Essex and played several big innings for the English county.
Streak, 35 is the present bowling coach for the new regional league. He played 65 Tests for Zimbabwe as an all-rounder, later signing for Hampshire before moving on to Warwickshire as captain.
Heath's application throws up a curiosity.
In 2001 he objected to what he referred to as selection of black players on racial grounds rather than capability and quit as Zimbabwe captain.
He was sacked from the team, whereupon nearly all the other players went on strike. The affair was also part of a heated pay and expenses dispute which presaged the demise of Zimbabwe cricket.
Whoever gets the top coaching job will have the task of spearheading intensive further efforts to get back to Tests, which they were forced out of nine years ago. Zimbabwe hopes to apply formally to ICC within two years.
Squad for West Indies: Prosper Utseya (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Stuart Matsikenyere, Kyle Jarvis, Shingai Masakadza, Graeme Creme, Ray Price, Elton Chigumbura, Timson Maruma, Gregory Lamb, Charles Coventry, Chris Mpofu.