MICHAEL Richardson plans to tighten his technique this winter to make the most of his new Durham contract.
The South African signed a one-year contract extension with the option of another after being persuaded he had a future as a specialist top-order batsman.
Previously regarded as a wicketkeeper, Richardson feels his new role requires a different mindset – and a sounder technique.
“I suppose if you bat No.7 you really don’t need as good a defensive technique as at No.3,” said the 26-year-old.
“Every ball I’ve got to be on the money. You probably should have that even if you are at seven, but you don’t.
“At the top of the order you know you’ve got to face the new ball and I’ve been doing a lot of work with Geoff (Cook, Durham’s coach) on my technique.
“It’s all about adapting to playing First-Class at No.3. I could still be batting down the order, but that’s the way I’m approaching it.
“This is the first year I’ll go into hoping to start in the side and make an impression rather than force my way in.
“I know that might not happen, but that’s the way I’m approaching it.”
Like many of his predecessors, Richardson found opportunities hard to come by as back-up to Phil Mustard, keeping wicket in just four County Championship games over three seasons.
But he ended the 2012 campaign playing alongside Mustard as Durham looked for a new solution to their perennial top-order problems.
He responded with 41 at Liverpool, and a half-century at home to Sussex.
That encouraged him to believe he could get the regular first-team cricket he craves at Durham.
It does, however, mean the son of former South Africa wicketkeeper Dave will have to put the gloves to one side.
“I got a duck in my first innings (in last season’s County Championship) at Worcester and it was so nice to come back into the side and do well at Liverpool,” said Richardson junior.
“The end of the season gave me more confidence, it definitely focussed me.
“I know now how I’m going to get into the team, really if I want to bat at No.3 or as a top-order batter.
“I suppose this winter my focus is on that rather than my wicketkeeping. I’m very keen on keeping that going as well but I’ve got this opportunity now as a batter.”
Durham struggled all last season against the new ball.
Mark Stoneman hinted at better, but saved his top form for 40-over cricket, scoring only one century and two fifties in the Championship.
Will Smith and Gordon Muchall lost their places after averaging 16 and nine respectively.
Even Michael Di Venuto only hit one half-century before the then-highest active run-scorer in global First-Class cricket retired mid-season.
Durham wanted to bring an overseas player in to fill the gap in 2013, but until a severance agreement can be reached with the injured Ian Blackwell, finances dictate that is not an option.
Whether when that happens there will be enough money or time to land a replacement of suitable quality remains to be seen.
If not, Richardson and 20-year-old compatriot Keaton Jennings are likely to be given the first chance to stake claims alongside Stoneman at the top of the order.
Richardson kept Durham waiting before signing his new contract, but insists it was not as difficult a decision as the delay suggested.
“To be honest, not at all really,” he said. “It’s was more just that I wanted to see where I fitted at Durham.
“I’m trying to improve myself as a cricketer and I was never really looking to move.
“I was always trying to stay at Durham, I just wanted to know if that was a realistic option.”