Phil Mustard loses Durham captaincy

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PHIL Mustard has paid the price for Durham’s woeful start to the season after being stripped of the captaincy.

Former England all-rounder Paul Collingwood has been handed the reins in the County Championship as the county looks to stave off relegation to Division Two.

Sunderland-born Mustard answered the club’s SOS back in 2010 after Will Smith was deposed as skipper.

While others appeared to shy away from the challenge, Mustard stepped into the breach, and helped Durham finish in a healthy fifth place by the end of the 2010 campaign.

Last season, the county ran Champions Lancashire a close race, eventually finishing third in the table.

Mustard was the first to admit he was learning all the time as skipper, but felt he was starting to come of age in the role, and despite some tough times this seasons wasn’t ready to back down from the challenge he faced.

The 29-year-old won 11 County Championship matches as skipper, a third of the 33 matches he has been at the helm for. Nine of those games were lost with 13 drawn.

On a personal level, he averaged 38.56 with the bat during his time as skipper.

But a shocking start to the current season has found Durham languishing at the foot of the Division One table, and without a four-day win. Durham clearly felt something had to give, and that something was Mustard’s role as captain.

While disappointed to lose the role, Mustard was quick to lend his support to his successor, posting on Twitter “Good luck to @Colly622 (Collingwood). A great man for the job”.

The timing of the announcement seems surprising, given that Collingwood is still recovering from a broken hand suffered in a four-day game against Warwickshire at the start of last month.

However, the 36-year-old, could be ready to return when Durham’s County Championship campaign resumes away to relegation rivals Worcestershire a week today.

The New Road outfit are six points ahead of Durham, who are on 36, with third-bottom Sussex, who host Geoff Cook’s side the following week clear by 20 points.

Despite deciding to strip Mustard of the captaincy, Cook insisted that the wicketkeeper/batsman still has a role to play for the county.

In a statement, Cook said: “We are grateful for Phil Mustard’s efforts as captain, and he remains an integral part of the team as a key contributor behind the stumps and with the bat.”

Collingwood, who led England to World Twenty20 glory, is seen by the Durham hierarchy as the man to turn around their fortunes.

Cook said: “We’re delighted that Paul has agreed to take on the captaincy, and lead the side in the four-day competition. Paul’s international experience is an excellent asset to the team, at a time when we need to be delivering our best results.”

There is no doubt that Durham needed to do something to halt their shocking Championship form, but many feel that changing skipper is merely papering over the cracks.

On far too many occasions this term the whole squad has failed to fire, which would suggest a far deeper problem than simply who is leading the side on the field.

Durham’s season was dealt a further blow with the news that influential opener Michael Di Venuto may not play again this season because of injury.

It remains to be seen whether the batsmen will play for the club again with his contract up at the end of this summer.