I must admit the last couple of weeks have been strange. Two emotions which would not normally occur together – relief and disappointment – have been at the forefront of my mind.
It is very hard to take in the fact that I am no longer Durham captain, but on the other hand I am greatly looking forward to another new stage of my career: a relaxed, determined and fresh stage that will hopefully see me become the kind of prolific, reliable batsman I have always aspired to be.
I wasn’t really thinking about resigning the captaincy, but when the suggestion was put to me I couldn’t really see any way round it. Big decisions are not easily taken and if the club saw that as the best way forward I had to respect that and go about what I do as best I can to help Durham.
I hope the decision will turn out to be to the benefit of both parties. It’s not something I looked for because I wanted to fight through a tough period, but it’s a chance to be a bit more relaxed.
I was enjoying how I was as a cricketer two years ago and if I can get back to that I will be very happy. I’m a proud man and I need to look after my own game and my own situation.
It was very flattering when Dale Benkenstein nominated me to take over from him, and apart from my own form falling away results went really well in my first season.
The highest stand against us in the County Championship was 197, but it suddenly became much tougher this year when Jaik Mickleburgh and James Foster put on 339 against us in the first match, Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams opened up with a stand of 183 in the second, and then Jacques Rudolph and Anthony McGrath put on 206 in Yorkshire’s total of 610 for six.
Despite that opening stand, we still managed to beat Hampshire and draw the others so it hadn’t been a total disaster. The defeat at Trent Bridge was our first for 23 games, but obviously the manner of it prompted the change.
It’s disappointing but I’m sure the club wouldn’t have made such a big decision without good reason. You can’t make excuses and blame outside influences. If I had been scoring heavily this would not have arisen. It’s largely down to a lack of runs, which is something I’m in control of.
Last year I would pop up every now and again in tough situations and score important runs, but I need to get back to the level of consistent run-scoring I had two years ago.
The second team fixture list isn’t ideal. I would have preferred a few four-day games coming up, but I will just have to make use of whatever type of cricket I play in.
One such game came about on a fine Bank Holiday Monday in deepest Cheshire. Neston Cricket Club was packed to the boundary ropes with people enjoying a Lancashire 2nd XI v Durham 2nd XI 40-over game. Except this was no ordinary 40-over game – it was split into four sections of 20 overs, as each side had two innings of 20 overs.
I’m not sure if it will catch on, but it’s opportunities like this which I will enjoy and try to get as much out of personally as I possibly can. Sunny Bank Holidays are there to be enjoyed, after all.
Finally, I would like to say how pleased I am for ‘The Colonel’ (Durham’s new captain, Phil Mustard). He has worked incredibly hard at his game over the course of his career and has a really sharp cricket brain, allied to his effervescent personality.
I am sure he is just the man to take Durham CCC to new levels. Hopefully the club now have a local lad to remain at the helm for as long as possible, and I hope he receives all the backing he deserves.