No Reason For Durham To Keep The Luggage In Addition To Sanction - Marcus North > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - No reason for Durham to hold baggage of sanction any more - Marcus North
It has been a well-documented tale of hardship, one that would elicit sympathy from even the hardest of souls. Durham were not just forcibly relegated in the Championship by the ECB at the end of the 2016 season because of financial issues, they were also hit with points penalties for the next season, had to follow strict financial plans and lost out on lucrative international fixtures. To some, it was just punishment for financial incompetence. To the vast majority of others, it was seen as punitive.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, these were, of course, not the only impacts on Durham. The punishments were seen by many at the club as a kick in the teeth. Although publicly they made the right noises about getting on with it, making the best of a bad situation, anger, frustration and sadness lingered for those left to pick up the pieces. And there haven't been that many people left to do that.
Some of Durham's most talented players, such as Keaton Jennings, opted for pastures new in the knowledge that Division Two cricket was unlikely to sustain their international ambitions. Others who stayed for a time, such as highly-rated all-rounder Paul Coughlin, deserted once it became apparent that restoring the club to prominence was not going to be a quick fix. The drain on the first-team squad has been huge.
Unsurprisingly, it has had an effect on results. Last season, Durham finished third from bottom in Division Two of the County Championship and bottom of the North group in the One-Day Cup. They did make the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast but all told, it was a disappointing season and one which was not much of an improvement on the year before.
The performance of the side was understandable, perhaps, but not good enough for a club which had become serial winners over the previous decade, winning three Championship titles and two one-day competitions since 2008.
It did not come as a shock, then when Durham made changes to the coaching group this winter after other off-field changes last year which included Sir Ian Botham's appointment as Chairman and Tim Bostock's as chief executive.
In September, former Australian batsman Marcus North replaced the retiring Geoff Cook as the club's Director of Cricket while James Franklin, the former New Zealand all-rounder, has just been announced as Lead High Performance Coach, replacing Jon Lewis who left in December. The departures of Cook and Lewis, two long-serving stalwarts of the club, were not easy but the time was probably ripe for fresh voices and fresh ideas.
That is where North comes in. He has strong links to the north-east, having been Durham's overseas player in 2004, the first of five counties he played for. His wife, Joanne, is from the region - they met while North was playing club cricket in Gateshead - and they have lived in the north-east for the last five years while the 39-year-old has pursued business interests. When the opportunity came up for him to get back into the professional game, he jumped at the chance.
"I've always been a real supporter of Durham," he tells Cricbuzz. "They gave me an opportunity as my first overseas contract in county cricket. The club has always been held quite close to me. To be Director of Cricket at Durham is very exciting. It's something, at my time of life post-cricket, having been in the business world for three years, that I feel I have the experience for."
Following a review of the cricket side of things, North wasted little time in moving Lewis on and has implemented, with Franklin working alongside Neil Killeen, Assistant Lead and Bowling High Performance coach, and Alan Walker, High Performance Assistant Coach, what he calls a "versatile" coaching group. A batting coach is expected to be announced soon. "There comes a time when clubs or businesses can stop and take a breath, look at how you go about things," North says.
"The key focus for me was to conduct a comprehensive review of our strategies from top to bottom. One of the things to come out of that was that we wanted to have a new coaching structure to support the players. I wanted a more versatile and flexible coaching team to move that forward.
"It's not necessarily about pigeonholing coaches to do specific roles in an entire year. I wanted to challenge the coaches to be involved in all aspects. James will be coming in as the lead and he will have a key focus on the first team but we want all the other coaches to be influencing first team, second team, academy and into the pathways rather than a more traditional structure where you might have a first team coach, a second team coach."
The appointment of Franklin, a Championship winning captain with Middlesex just three seasons ago, may raise a few eyebrows given he has little formal coaching experience behind him but that isn't the be-all and end-all for Durham. Currently part of the coaching set-up at Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash, Franklin has plenty of other attributes which North thinks will be relevant, not least vast experience as a player, renowned cricket smarts and being an excellent communicator.
Importantly, he is also someone Durham believe will fit into the dynamic of a young playing group. "It's really exciting to have James on board," says North. "There's been a rigorous recruitment process, including a number of candidates from the UK and all over the world. James was one that was a standout for us, someone we feel is the right character. A young, inspiring, motivated coach who will complement Neil and Alan but also, more importantly, be the right leader for this group.
"We've got a really exciting group of young players. There's been a lot of change of late and we are at a stage now that these players need to be challenged in a really supportive manner with a group of high performance coaches. We are looking to get real progression in the way we play, how consistent we play and how competitive we are in all formats to get back where Durham wants to be."
Durham have not only been a club with a proud recent haul of trophies. They have also provided a steady stream of players for England including Jennings, Mark Wood, Mark Stoneman, Steve Harmison and, the most decorated of the lot, Paul Collingwood. Only Wood now remains at the club following Collingwood's retirement at the end of last season but Durham's commitment to bringing through their own will continue.
"One of the big successes out of Durham is producing home-grown talent," says North. "As a focus for us as a club, that is an absolute key objective, to continue to work extremely hard on our pathway system to produce home-grown players. It's proven to have been successful. We've got a very strong club scene in the north-east and we want to maximise the potential out of that local talent, too. We aren't going to rush it but we feel we have the talent which could progress quite quickly."
After a period of strife, the new arrivals at Durham have brought with them a sense of optimism. Rather than looking back, North believes it is now time to look forward. "There's a real clear direction and motivation in the club but also excitement at where we are looking to go," he says. "There's been enough time since the sanctions happened now that we are in a position as a squad and a club to lose that baggage. There's no reason or excuses to hold that any more. It's about looking to the future."
There won't be many in the English game who don't wish them well.
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