DURHAM are resigned to another season without an overseas player. The county ended the 2012 campaign keen to add a quality overseas batsman to their ranks and add experience to a youthful line-up.
However, Durham have decided they cannot afford the standard of player captain Paul Collingwood in particular has been pushing for.
Ricky Ponting’s weekend admission his Australia career is perhaps nearing an end was a tempting prospect for members waiting to see who the county might sign, but it appears they will be disappointed.
Coach Geoff Cook said: “The club have a squad and are looking to develop one or two young players.
“We’d love to be in a position to attract a player of Ponting’s quality, but finances are tight at the moment.” Durham’s batting was badly exposed by a combination of seamer-friendly conditions and the mid-season retirement of Michael Di Venuto in 2012.
Youngsters Keaton Jennings and Michael Richardson – who has agreed a one-year contract with an option to stay longer – showed promise late in the campaign, but came into the side too late to prove their consistency.
Mark Stoneman continued to look good in four-day cricket, but reserved his big scores for the 40-over game.
Durham’s plans were not helped by the fact big earners were regularly overlooked by the first team.
However, with Stephen Harmison having a 2013 benefit and Ian Blackwell due to undergo a shoulder operation next month, there are no plans to make space for an overseas professional.
Cook added: “We don’t really want to do that.
“We have lost LiamPlunkett and Michael Di Venuto and one or two young players have left in recent years, so I don’t think we can afford to lose any more.” The Riversiders have not had an overseas player in County Championship cricket since Shivnarine Chanderpaul in 2009.
Counties are permitted one at any given time in the competition.
Durham will start next season with minor points deductions after falling foul of salary cap rules in 2011, but overseas players employed just for the Twenty20 Cup, where two are allowed, are exempt from it.
It seems likely South African-born Richardson will continue in the troublesome No 3 slot at the start of the season.
Richardson is Durham’s reserve wicketkeeper and was considering leaving at the end of his contract because of a lack of opportunities.
However, having been persuaded to concentrate on his batting for now, a compromise has been struck.
Cook said: “He’s keen to put himself forward as a batsman.
“Cover will be needed as a second-team wicketkeeper, but that just gives opportunities to local wickies. It’s a flexible contract.
“If he gets in the team it will be extended beyond next year but if he’s still frustrated about things he will have the option of moving on next year.”
Cook was speaking on the day Durham’s 2013 fixtures were announced.
This season’s schedule is much better balanced between home and away matches – but not in terms of its chronology.
Cook added: “The problems of the Olympics have been replaced by the problems of more cricket because of the Champions Trophy being in England.
“We’re starting around the same time and finishing a bit later but there’s a greater imbalance in when the four-day games are played, with four in April and four in September.
“That means half the games are being played at the time we’re a bit more susceptible to the weather.”
Durham start their County Championship campaign at home to Somerset, finishing against Sussex at Hove.