DURHAM’S new lead high performance coach James Franklin is predicting an exciting future as the club begins a new era with a fresh identity.
The north-east club rebranded as Durham Cricket this week with a new logo and an update of the county crest.
The announcement came in Franklin’s first week at Chester-le-Street and he is optimistic about what the club can achieve.
Indeed, the former New Zealand international all-rounder knows a few things about winning trophies after lifting the County Championship in 2016 with Middlesex before his retirement.
Speaking to The Cricket Paper, Franklin said: “There is no doubt that it has been a challenging couple of years. There’s been a few changes. But I’m really excited about what the next couple of years could hold for us as a playing group.”
Durham have endured a challenging few years. Relegated from Division One of the County Championship at the end of 2016 over financial issues, they started life in Division Two with a deduction of 48 points and also lost the right to stage Test cricket at the Riverside.
Since then, they have lost Keaton Jennings and Graham Onions to Lancashire, while stalwart Paul Collingwood retired at the end of last season.
Franklin, though, believes his squad has plenty of potential: “Looking at the playing group, obviously there’s been a few senior players leave. A couple of guys retired [but] what’s left over is an exciting group of young cricketers mixed in with some still very good senior players.
“Chris Rushworth has been an outstanding performer in county cricket for a number of years. We have Michael Richardson, Will Smith, Nathan Rimmington joined the club last year from Australia and Alex Lees has moved up Yorkshire. So, there’s a group of senior players.
“But then you’ve got some really exciting talent underneath who are wanting to make their mark on first-class cricket and hopefully they’ll show people over the next couple of years how good they are and the potential that they have to really turn in good contributions for Durham Cricket.
“So, it’s a great opportunity to come and have a fresh start, a new era with Durham Cricket and really see if we can make some good progress with this group.”
Durham moved over the winter to award new contracts or extensions to many of those younger players. Franklin believes it bodes well that so many younger players wanted to commit their future to the county.
“That’s the thing about this north east area of England. They’re very proud people that are community orientated. They want to put back into their local community whether it’s sport or business and that’s even the case with the young players.
“They’re proud of their region and want to commit to their local team.
“So, it’s up to us to identify what brand of cricket we want to play for the local people here and what sits well with us and we’ll work that out over the next few weeks.
“It’s still early days for me and I’m still trying to get to know the guys, but they’re all excited about playing for a proud club which has had a very good recent history except for the last couple of years.”
Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft will join up with the squad shortly as overseas player. The opener has recently returned to action Down Under following his nine-month ball-tampering ban.
Franklin, who has been doing some coaching work with Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash, caught up with Bancroft in Australia and was impressed by what he saw.
“What I saw in the Big Bash, he was playing exceptionally well and he’s obviously started the Sheffield Shield outstandingly well, getting a hundred and an eighty in the same game this week.
“He was extremely enthusiastic about coming over here to Durham. Excited about really contributing and trying to lead the batting group when he gets here. So, hopefully he does well at the back end of the Australian season and he brings that over here to Durham to start our summer.”
Franklin’s thoughts turn now to preparations for the club’s opening game against Derbyshire next month: “We’ve got two and half weeks now training indoors.
“Then we’re going to South Africa for 12 days where we’ve got a couple of warm-up games against Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. So that’s obviously a really important time outside.”
Commenting on Franklin’s appointment, director of cricket, Marcus North said: “Following an extensive recruitment process it became clear that James was by far the best fit.
“I am extremely excited for James’ arrival and look forward to working with him during this new chapter for Durham Cricket.”
Chief executive Tim Bostock said: “We’re delighted that James has joined us and I firmly believe he has the skills and cricket experience to drive this club forward.”
“The new coaching structure, which includes Neil Killeen and Alan Walker will give the club clearer direction and we’re delighted with the work we have done during the winter.”