Hero Gibson proves to be irreplaceable

DURHAM will not try to replace last season’s leading wicket-taker Ottis Gibson as the West Indian concentrates on his coaching career with England.

DURHAM will not try to replace last season’s leading wicket-taker Ottis Gibson as the West Indian concentrates on his coaching career with England.

The veteran fast bowler was the obvious choice as Durham’s Player of the Year last season. He also picked up the Professional Cricketer’s Award after he took 80 Championship wickets in a season and was the Dynamos’ leading wicket-taker in one-day cricket in 2007.

Durham coach Geoff Cook had hoped to persuade the 38-year-old to play for one more season, but his appointment as England’s full time bowling coach after the South African Allan Donald turned down the job has left a massive hole in Durham’s squad.

It is a void, however, that chief executive David Harker will not be trying to fill after Cook suggested a new signing would hinder the development of young fast bowlers Liam Plunkett, Will Gidman and Ben Harmison.

Harker said: “Ottis Gibson will obviously be missed. He was magnificent last year and probably one of our most successful ever signings. He had an impact in virtually every game he played and was a popular figure in the dressing room. We’d hoped he would play one more season, but it doesn’t look as though that will be the case now he’s involved with England as bowling coach. I’ve already spoken to Geoff Cook about it and we don’t think we are going to sign a replacement. Unless there is a genuine star available, someone who is going to have the same sort of impact, we don’t see the point.

“If we sign someone who isn’t as good as Ottis, we are going to hold back the development of Ben Harmison, Liam Plunkett and Will Gidman. They will be the ones who benefit if we don’t look to replace him and that is something we have to consider for the long term future of the club.” Durham have just completed their most successful season as a first class county, winning the Friends Provident Trophy Final at Lord’s as well as the Pro 40 League Second Division title and they were also runners-up in the County Championship behind Sussex.

But, rather than reflect on their success, Harker and Cook have already turned their attention towards trying to maintain the standards they have set next year.

Harker explained: “We want last season to be the start of something, not the climax, but the biggest challenge we face as a club on the pitch is trying to sustain the success.

“Already we have a few concerns about next season. We’re not entirely sure what the situation with Phil Mustard will be. We’re delighted his excellent form last season has been recognised by England, but, as always, it’s a double-edged sword.

“We want to be able to plan with Mustard in the side, but that might not be the case if he forces his way into the England team as wicket-keeper. It will depend on what happens in the winter, but it’s a potential problem.”

Harker continued: “Phil was also a big part of our success, particularly in one day competitions, so he would also be sorely missed if he is taken by England next summer. However, at the same time, his call-up against Sri Lanka was another big achievement for the club because he is another player to have come through our Academy and into the England team.

“Phil has probably attracted attention because of his batting, but I think he is under-estimated as a wicketkeeper as well.”

Tickets for Durham’s two international games next summer have gone on sale this week. The Riverside will host the NatWest one-day international against New Zealand on June 15 and the NatWest Twenty20 international against South Africa on August 20. Tickets are available for juniors (Under-16s) priced from just £10. Adult tickets are available from £35.

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