Ian Westwood has arrived in the UAE ahead of his first franchise coaching opportunity and the Bears Second XI Coach can’t wait to ‘test himself in the new environment’.

Westwood has teamed up with Paul Farbrace’s Sharjah Warriors in the International League T20 as assistant coach, alongside Mooen Ali their captain, Chris Woakes and Chris Benjamin.

The tournament – which is in its inaugural season – will be held between January 13 and February 12 with six teams battling it out over 34 matches via a double round-robin and play-off format.

With few restrictions on overseas, there is a long list of international stars looking to make a statement in a year that includes a 50-over World Cup in India and Westwood is excited to learn as much as possible.

“This is my first step into the franchise world and it’s going to be great to see what that’s all about,” said the former Bears captain. “I worked with the Young Lions last summer so I’m ready to build on that experience with Sharjah.  

“With some of the best players and coaches in the world jetting in there will be plenty of opportunity to speak with those people and learn as much as possible ahead of the season.

“I’m grateful for the backing Farby has given me and I’m looking forward to working with him once again. I was asked if I would be interested a few months ago and I’d like to thank Mark Robinson and Stuart Cain for their support in allowing me to take part.”

With preparations well underway, Westwood has already made a head start. The Warriors play their first game on Saturday (2pm GMT) with players arriving over the weekend.

“I feel comfortable with the tactical side of the game and Farby has got me to go out pre-tournament so we can talk tactics and line-ups.

“I’m hoping to pick up some golden nuggets on things that I or maybe the coaches at Warwickshire haven’t thought about. No coach wants to become stale and cricket is evolving quickly so it’s important to stay ahead of the game with tactics and preparation.

“We want the players to play with freedom and to express themselves so it’s important to know the players as quickly as you can.”

Being in the Middle East will also enable Westwood to have a casting eye over the Bears selected. 

Dan Mousley (MI Emirates) and Jake Lintott (Desert Vipers) have also made their way to Abu Dhabi with Westwood admitting “he’ll make sure they’ll put some work in ahead of our season”.

But it’s within his own ranks that Westwood is excited. Ahead of Moeen’s return, the Moseley Cricket Club product and lifelong Bear is looking forward to working with his former batting partner.

“I grew up with Mo and played on a few tours with him before he went to Worcestershire,” Westwood concluded. “I think he can make a huge impact for the Bears especially in the changing room as he’s captained a lot around the world and he’s proven to have a great cricketing brain. 

“I think our philosophies are going to work well from what I know about him and his style. He comes across incredibly calm in big moments and he projects that onto his players so I think he’s going to be a great addition. It’s great to have him home.”

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