DURHAM are considering turning their back on a traditional pre-season tour living out of hotel rooms in favour of staying at home – in a tent!
For the last six springs, the Riversiders have flown to South Africa to prepare for the new county cricket campaign.
No concrete plans have yet been made, but this year they could erect a giant marquee over their Chester-le-Street pitch to allow them to stay there, whatever the North East weather throws at them.
The Journal understands Durham are weighing up following the lead of Essex last year. In mid-February they erected a huge marquee over their Chelmsford ground to allow them to practise outdoors.
Having seen something similar in La Manga, Essex put up a marquee which was 16ft high and 40ft x 100ft across and went through their pre-season work underneath it.
“With transparent sheeting covering the sides and roof, it is very much like a gardener’s polytunnel,” explained head groundsman Stuart Kerrison at the time. “It’s possible to ‘net’ inside the marquee and therefore it allows near-constant use and practice.
“Having enough light in the marquee was a concern in the planning stages but, now it is up, it is surprisingly bright.”
Durham’s players have been back in pre-season training since October, with net sessions at the indoor school of their Chester-le-Street home.
With similar high-quality facilities available at South Northumberland Cricket Club in Newcastle, the North East is well provided for when it comes to areas for indoor practice (as it needs to be), but it is an unsatisfactory substitute for playing outdoors. It is simply unrealistic for any English county – let alone the most northerly one – to schedule matches at that time and expect to get the full amount of play in without artificial help.
Most counties will be going abroad, with Yorkshire, Hampshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire in Barbados for a Twenty20 Cup and various longer friendlies.
A marquee would be the cheaper option for a club keeping a close eye on costs. Durham have already said they will probably have to go without an overseas player in next season’s County Championship.
There was a general acceptance at the end of the 2012 campaign that they needed a quality experienced player to fill the hole left by Michael Di Venuto’s retirement.
Having looked at the figures, Durham think the only way would be if a senior player were to leave – and with concerns about a shortage of experience, that would somewhat defeat the object.
The Riversiders will start on minus points in all three competitions in 2013, having breached the 2011 salary cap, and therefore must be extra cautious not to do so again.
While staying at home has its advantages, there is much to be said for the effect touring and living out of hotels has on team morale as much as their physical condition. Players have spoken glowingly in the past about the value of past South African tours.
Sadly, the marquee would have to come down before their season proper starts on April 10.