A NEW era for Durham Cricket begins today. When James Franklin leads his side into opening day action at Derby in the Specsavers County Championship, it signals a fresh start for the county.

A new hierarchy at the top and a fresh look to the squad means it’s all change at Emirates Riverside.

A positive pre-season trip to South Africa has set the squad up for, what new head coach Franklin hopes, will be a successful season.

Franklin has had seven weeks in charge since his appointment, seven weeks to get his message across and introduce his ways and means to the squad.

“First impressions have been good,’’ reflected the New Zealander. “My first two weeks were indoors and we changed the structure a little in terms of what we did and how we did it.

“South Africa was an important trip. I was a little late arriving in pre-season and it was important to see the guys in training and how they work, then we had two good competitive games against Notts and Yorkshire.

“It was good to see the guys socially, away from cricket, to see how they are as characters and how they deal with cricket going well or not so well.’’

With three teams promoted to Division One this year, Durham are quietly confident of making an impression after a couple of seasons of suppression.

“I think there’s always an air of anticipation around all teams at this time of the year and we are no different,’’ he admitted.

“I want to do well for the region and do the county proud. It’s been a tough few years and we spoke previously about a change at the club in terms of officials, the rebrand, me and Northy coming in – so these guys feel it’s their time to move the club on and create their own legacy hopefully.

“Durham is a tight-knit unit, the guys get on very well and we have already had some tough talking, some honest chat and I want that. I want them to communicate clearly. Let’s be honest, not hide anything. It’s about the team and club moving forward.

“I don’t think I’ve had any surprises, but I’m excited. A high proportion of the squad are under 25 and if we are talking long-term and mould them into very good cricketers then it will stand themselves and Durham in very good stead.

“We want a winning team and players to get in contention for individual honours.’’

With Marcus North in place as director of cricket and Franklin head coach, there’s been plenty of headlines generated over the decision of who will captain the side.

Cameron Bancroft will arrive from Australia over the weekend to meet his team-mates at Derby and take control for next week’s first home game with Sussex at Emirates Riverside.

Bancroft returned to the game with a bagful of runs for Perth Scorchers and Western Australia following his nine-month suspension for ball tampering with the Australian Test side.

It was a decision not taken lightly at Durham, but Franklin insists they a thorough thought process and are confident he has matured both professionally and personally from his misdemeanours.

“When I first turned up we needed to appoint a captain - Colly has ran the show here for a number of years,’’ said Franklin.

“I sat down with Marcus and others and worked through potential candidates. Some local guys we spoke about but the timing wasn’t quite right for them.

“We spoke about Cameron and the conversation kept coming back to him about what we want from a leader.

“For sure, he made a pretty big mistake and we are all humans and make mistakes – but his was on a very public level. He has come back to cricket very strongly and is very excited about coming here.

“Remember Durham were the first club to sign him up for his return to cricket and I know he is hugely excited about coming here and captaining the club.

“He is an experienced first-class cricketer with international pedigree and he was the obvious chance.’’

Durham could actually lose him during the summer. There’s the possibility of a call up for Australia A which precedes the Ashes series beginning in August.

There’s sure to be plenty of hype around Durham in the next few weeks especially, but Franklin said: “Does it put pressure on him? He’s an Aussie turning up to play in England in a World Cup and Ashes year, so whatever he’s been through he is going to cop it in County Cricket.

“I don’t see captaincy as an added burden, but perhaps something to focus on and all the outside talk becomes white noise for him.

“The dressing room has been good and the guys are very positive about him turning up – although there’s a little frustration in the fact he misses the start on Friday.

“He’s held back for an awards evening in Perth and he’s frustrated, but he will turn up at Derby for the first game. He will see the players, see how they play and start to make his own ideas.

“As much as the coaches can put things in place, it’s important that Cameron has his own ideas as he takes them out on the field.

“He started well on his return to the game and if you aren’t going to grow up in after what’s happened then you are never going to grow up in terms of maturity and what’s gone on.

“As a cricketer and a bloke. He will have reflected a lot on it and talking to him and Northy who has known Cameron since he was a kid then he is pretty much at peace with himself now.’’