DURHAM will have to negotiate a tough start to the 2012 season without Paul Collingwood after the county cricket fixtures were released today.
The Riversiders open their County Championship campaign at home to Nottinghamshire on April 12 and have two trips to London – against newly-promoted Middlesex and Surrey – before the month is out.
May sees them host champions Lancashire, travel to Warwickshire and play Somerset home and away.
In all, Durham play seven of 16 Championship matches before June and Collingwood’s Indian Premier League commitments could rule him out of all of them.
The former England limited-overs captain is halfway through a two-year contract with Rajasthan Royals worth around £155,000 a year.
Injury meant he was unable to play last year.
It will be the third part of a busy winter for Collingwood.
He has signed for Perth Scorchers in December’s “Big Bash” in Australia, and is committed to the South African version in February/March.
The IPL is scheduled to run from April 4 to May 27. The Lancashire game starts on May 30.
It is because they will miss such a long and important part of the season that Durham are reluctant to let their players take part in the IPL, but when Collingwood joined the Royals he was still contracted to England and not them.
In recent years April and May have been particularly significant in shaping the Championship season, the eventual winners often doing the bulk of their points-gathering in that time.
Coach Geoff Cook acknowledged the importance of a good start and is still confident of getting one.
He said: “We played particularly well during that period of last season.
“We played on very good wickets.