Roseberry in a hurry for glory

CRICKET '95: Durham's new captain believes his native county is ready to challenge for honours. Jon Culley reports
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To the more cynical outside observer, Mike Roseberry's return to his roots to captain Durham this season probably carries the suspicious smell of a cosy arrangement.

After all, Roseberry's wealthy father, Matty, was one of the driving forces behind Durham's launch as a first-class county three summers ago and is now a director of the club with no little influence.

But the notion that the 28-year-old opening batsman, 10 years in the ultra-competitive environment of Middlesex, might be buying a ticket to the comfort zone with his five-year contract could not be less accurate.

Roseberry's ambitions for the county of his birth burn so fiercely, in fact, that he fears his impatience might get the better of him if Durham, after three years of unequal struggle, do not now begin to make their presence felt.

"People say to me, `Be patient, you've got five years' but that's too long for me. I expect things to happen now, not in five years," he said.

"Perhaps I'm a little bit unrealistic. Maybe I do get a bit carried away with what I want to achieve but, coming from Middlesex, I walk on to the pitch expecting to win. It is not arrogance, just competitiveness and I think it is important.

"Hopefully, I'm going to bring something of that attitude to Durham cricket. You can't rest back and say, `Oh, I've got five years.' You have to be pushing yourself from the off. That's what we are trying to instil, a bit of competitiveness."

The first signs appeared in Sunday's opening Benson and Hedges win against Leicestershire, and Roseberry will be looking for a repeat against Warwickshire at Edgbaston today.

Roseberry's arrival enables him to realise two ambitions at once. He has hankered after captaining a side for three years, ever since Middlesex chose John Carr ahead of him to be Mike Gatting's No 2. Any offer of a captaincy would have tempted him to leave Lord's. Given his background, all the better that it was Durham.

"When I was growing up, we always used to talk about having a first-class team," he said. "We used to say, `Wouldn't it be great if Durham and Northumberland could get together?' But it seemed so far away.

"I'm a Durham lad and, because of my father's involvement, I've always had a close connection with the development of the county. So, for me, it was tremendous to see first-class cricket starting there. When the opportunity came to captain them, I just had to take it."

A new ground at Chester-le-Street, planned as a future Test venue and with facilities as good as any can offer, will reinforce Durham's grand vision, as will the £500,000 sponsorship deal just signed with Newcastle Breweries. But can Roseberry spearhead a genuine challenge for trophies?

"The last three years have been very difficult. We've been forced to sign players who are not A-registered, which largely means older players who are just about finished, who maybe aren't going to give their all for the club.

"But now that the young lads are coming through I think there will be a big improvement. We've got great prospects like Jimmy Daley and two tremendous young bowlers in Steve Lugsden and Melvyn Betts."

With the addition of his own proven talents to those of John Morris, Phil Bainbridge and the evergreen Wayne Larkins in the batting line-up, and with Simon Brown and John Wood now reaping the benefits of their experience as front-line bowlers, the seniors look a more convincing proposition now, too. And then there are the newcomers: James Boiling, the off-spinner from Surrey, and Manoj Prabhakar, who replaces Anderson Cummins as overseas player.

"In Prabhakar we have someone who, I think, can do a magnificent job in county cricket," Roseberry said. "When you've got a guy who has opened both the batting and the bowling for India, then you've got a chance, haven't you? He is the sort of influence we need. With Larkins, Morris and Mark Saxelby, who are all big shot players, you need someone to get stuck in and Prabhakar is a little bit like that."

For all that he wants to see progress made quickly, he is not so unwise as to make bold predictions. But he expects to make an impact somewhere and is unlikely to tolerate standards among his colleagues that fall short of his own.

"I don't agree with just plodding along for the sake of it," he said. "I don't think English players are pushed hard enough and attitudes are a little bit dodgy with a lot of individuals. It is too easy sometimes and that's probably what's wrong with English cricket a little bit."

In the hard school at Lord's, Roseberry learned that real success never comes easily. As a schoolboy prodigy perceived as having England potential, he tended to think riches would come automatically. "Eventually I did all right but the first few years were a struggle and it was partly my own fault. When you get runs and things are happening you just expect to carry on."

One disappointing A tour is the extent of his international career but he will not have it that his chance has gone. Indeed, he feels his new job can only help. "I don't think it will do me any harm. If we get a bit of exposure, maybe get to a final, that cannot be bad for me if I'm scoring runs. The day I can't see much hope of playing for England I won't see much point in playing at all."