PAUL Collingwood has ordered his batsmen to make light of Durham’s failure to sign an overseas batsman for 2013.
Despite a freak thumb injury which put him in plaster for pre-season, Collingwood expects to lead the side into their only warm-up game, at home to Durham University, starting tomorrow. Even so, the county’s batting looks light of runs.
Durham recognised as much, promising to sign an overseas batsman at the end of last season only for financial restrictions to intervene.
Although The Journal understands there have been discussions with Jacques Rudolph, and bowler Junaid Khan this week claimed he had turned down an approach, coach Geoff Cook said yesterday there will be no overseas player this term.
That probably means a youthful top order of Keaton Jennings, Mark Stoneman and Michael Richardson being entrusted with seeing off the new ball.
Collingwood said: “We’re going to cause teams a lot of problems, particularly with our bowling attack.
“We just need someone to put their hand up in the batting line-up.
“We’ve lost Michael) Di Venuto (who retired in July), who’s pretty much guaranteed 1,000 runs a season. You need one of the top six to put their hand up and have a good season to replace those runs. The role of the young batsmen is to score runs. Everybody has a part to play in the team, and if it’s your role to score runs, then whether you’re a 20-year-old or a 36-year-old, you have to go out there and do it to the best of your ability.”
Di Venuto’s retirement was compounded when a shoulder injury forced Ian Blackwell to quit too last month, albeit the all-rounder had fallen from favour.
Twenty-year-old Jennings has played just five County Championship matches, while it was only at the tail end of last season Richardson was converted from reserve wicketkeeper to specialist top-order batsman.
Collingwood added: “It’s been frustrating we haven’t been able to bring anyone in, but it’ll just give opportunities to the younger players and that’s important.
“It would have been lovely to have brought in whoever we wanted, and bring them into a position in the batting line-up where they could guarantee runs, but we haven’t been able to.
“To me though, it’s almost as exciting to give the opportunities to the younger guys, as we did halfway through last season.
“That builds those younger players up as characters and cricketers. They find out about their game and techniques and that strengthens the team for the future.
“You don’t want to make decisions thinking about what’s good for one year – you want to be doing things which are good for the club in five or ten years’ time, and we’re doing that.”
It was only yesterday Durham could train outdoors for the first time this spring, so getting three good days’ cricket in at the weekend will be important.
Provided he has no reaction to the session, Collingwood will bat at six tomorrow.
Of his thumb injury, he said: “I’ve had it out of the splint for a week and a half now. I’ve had two hits in the indoor school just like everybody else.
“It’s been frustrating for everyone, whether they have an injury or not.
“You want to be out in the middle on the grass pitches, with the ball seaming around.”
Durham’s Championship campaign starts against Somerset on Wednesday – also at Chester-le-Street.
After failing to win any of their first ten games last year, the Riversiders are even more motivated than usual to begin well.
Collingwood added: “You need to get off to a good start because of the amount of games (six in the Championship plus five one-dayers) in April and May.”