Durham have signalled that they will be taking the Twenty20 Cup very seriously this year by seeking another world-class player to feature alongside Herschelle Gibbs.
They took the cheaper option by signing little-known South African batsman David Miller last season and after scrambling into the quarter-finals they lost heavily to Hampshire at the Rose Bowl. Durham also surrendered meekly at the same venue in the semi-finals on their one visit to finals day in 2006.
“If we can get hold of another top-class player we will,” said Durham coach Geoff Cook. “I think our policy to try to encourage our own players in the longer forms of the game is the right one, but in Twenty20, which is more about entertainment, excitement and individual performances, we think it’s OK to sign overseas players.
“The Twenty20 acts as a bit of a break in the season and getting some good high-profile players can act as a catalyst.
“The international calendar is tending to squeeze out a lot of people. To get a top-class bowler would be ideal but the opportunities are even more restricted than for batsmen.”
Gibbs featured alongside Paul Collingwood in the Perth Scorchers team which lost the Australian Big Bash final against Sydney Sixers and Durham will hope he feels he owes them something.
He signed to play for the North-Easterners in 2004 but Durham encountered difficulties in persuading him to confirm his availability and in the end he was pulled out by the South African board.
With Michael Di Venuto playing under his Italian passport in what could be his final season, Durham will continue without an overseas player in the County Championship.
The Tasmanian forced his way back into the one-day line-up towards the end of last season, but his chances of playing Twenty20 cricket this year look limited with Gibbs likely to open with Phil Mustard.
With Collingwood, Ben Stokes, Ian Blackwell and Dale Benkenstein in support, Durham will boast a powerful top six. Gibbs, who has previously played Twenty20 cricket for Yorkshire and Glamorgan, has moved on from his spell with Perth Scorchers to play in the Bangladesh Premier League for Khulna Royal Bengals.
Cook added: “Herschelle is a destructive player and hopefully he will be available for all the matches with his international career now seemingly behind him. I’m sure when the opposition see him and Phil Mustard coming out to bat they will expect to be in for a tough day.”
Mustard is also in Bangladesh after being signed by Barisa Burners. He hoped to open the innings with Chris Gayle, but hasn’t featured in the team’s opening two wins.