At the end of last season Gordon Muchall was contemplating retiring from first-class cricket. Tomorrow he hopes to stake his claim for a regular place in Durham’s Championship-winning side.
The Riversiders’ pre-season starts with a four-day-night game against MCC in Abu Dhabi.
With Ben Stokes out injured for at least six weeks with a fractured wrist and Paul Collingwood part of England’s World Twenty20 coaching set-up, Muchall could get a chance he was resigned to missing out on.
As he explains in an interview in today’s J2, Muchall’s eldest son Adam has autism and had Durham not renewed his contract after much delay he would have had to retire.
He said: “I had made the decision if I didn’t get a contract with Durham it wouldn’t be feasible with Adam’s diagnosis to play for another county.
“(My wife) Gemma would then have to come away and not have the family support. It would have been a bit too much.”
The loss of Dale Benkenstein and Will Smith to Hampshire has left a hole in Durham’s middle order.
Muchall added: “There’s a chance to get a game and hopefully some runs.
“If I do that I’m in the picture to start and I have a chance to cement my place back in the side. That’s the plan.
“I didn’t play any first-class cricket last year when it was a nice summer.
“The one before was a bit tricky with the rain and I don’t think anyone in the top three really scored any runs. I dropped out of the side in 2012 and did not get back in.
“We’re a bit light in numbers but I still think we’ll be competitive.
“Injury and international call-up are going to hit a small squad a bit harder but if there aren’t too many I still think we’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
“The young guys like Ryan Buckley and Usman Arshad came into the Championship side and made match-winning contributions.
“Paul Coughlin had a tough year with injury last year but he’s a fantastic prospect as well.
“Replacing Ben Stokes isn’t going to happen overnight but we have two good all-rounders in Arshad and Coughlin to fill his role.
“If Graham (Onions) gets picked for England that’s going to be a hammer blow after he took 70 Championship wickets last year but Mark Wood, Chris Rushworth and Jamie Harrison are proven performers now.”
Muchall had an excellent limited-overs season in 2013, averaging more than 45 as a regular of both the 40 and 20-over sides.
He said: “I worked quite hard last winter, which helped me to be more consistent in the one-day forms.
“I changed a few things and I’m pretty happy with where my game is. If I do get that chance I’m backing myself to keep that spot as my own.
“In red-ball cricket I’ve always batted in the top order and at the Riverside it nips about a bit.”
Australian John Hastings will not make his Durham debut until Chennai Superkings have played their last match of this season’s Indian Premier League, while Rammy Singh has been called up after Gareth Breese’s withdrawal because of a family illness.
Mark Stoneman captains the side.
DURHAM (from): Stoneman (c), Jennings, Borthwick, Richardson, Muchall, Singh, Mustard (wk), Poynter (wk), Wood, Pringle, Arshad, Harrison, Rushworth, Onions, Buckley, Coughlin.