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Cameron Bancroft 'is a different person now' - Marcus North on Durham captaincy call

Durham's new director of cricket Marcus North has expanded on his decision to award the county captaincy to Cameron Bancroft less than three months after his return from a nine-month ball-tampering ban.

North, who represented Australia in 21 Tests, even judges that Bancroft will prove himself to be from the same mould as Michael Hussey, another Western Australian who briefly played for Durham in 2005, whose abiding love for the game led to him becoming one of Australian cricket's most respected figures.

Bancroft endured widespread condemnation for his part in a ball-tampering escapade in which he used sandpaper to damage the ball in a Test against South Africa at Cape Town last March, leading to a ban alongside his more senior team-mates Steve Smith and David Warner.

His ban ended in December and he played in the Big Bash League before scoring a century on his red-ball return for Western Australia against New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield in Sydney in February.

"I know Cameron Bancroft very well," North said. "There's a lot of people I trust in Australia cricket and Western Australia cricket who I've spoken to over a period of time about Cameron. I've spoken to him in depth as well.

"This is a guy who is a different person to what he was 13 months ago. He's had a lot of time to reflect, done a lot of work away from the game, matured a lot. His perspective on the game, on life, on cricket has changed a lot.

"He's always had great intelligence on the tactical side of the game, his work ethic and professionalism as an athlete is second to none. I liken him to a fellow Western Australian is the guy we used to call 'Mr Cricket', Michael Hussey. The way he would go about his day-to-day business was exceptional and Cameron is from that mould.

"I get there's been questions, bringing someone in to captain a side when 13 months ago they weren't really showing great leadership skills in the decisions he made. I get that, but he's a different person, he's learned a lot."

North does not believe that the captaincy will be an unwanted burden on Bancroft as he rebuilds his career - and reputation - after a misjudgement that put him under prolonged personal pressure. Australia's cricketing culture became a topic of conversation throughout the nation, with leading politicians - including the then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull - also passing judgment.

"If I didn't feel Cameron hadn't learned from that experience or developed as a human being or a person, I wouldn't have considered him for the role," said North.

"You could argue in the position Cameron is in now, after going through that experience, there's probably not too many people better to advise younger professionals on the ramifications of making poor decisions."

North says that he recognises that the decision to give Bancroft the captaincy will "split opinion", but points out that Durham are short of options having lost recognised leaders such as the veteran Paul Collingwood, who retired at the end of the last county season, and Keaton Jennings, now at Lancashire, whose England career has been propelled in part by the recognition of his captaincy potential.

North said: "The club is in a position where there were probably five senior players who were all very much thought about in succession planning - Paul Collingwood, Keaton Jennings, Paul Coughlin, Mark Stoneman and Graham Onions...all guys you would naturally see as captains. Take those players out in a very short period of time and where are we with our leadership team?"

Alex Lees, the former Yorkshire batsman, will stand in for Bancroft for the opening Championship match against Derbyshire in Derby, which begins on Friday, but Lees struggled to adapt to the responsibilities of captaincy when he had a taste of leadership in the T20 Blast, becoming one of the youngest captains in Yorkshire's history in the process, and his priority is to resurrect a faltering batting career.

"We've got some players with very good leadership qualities but the majority of the squad are still establishing themselves as consistent first-class cricketers," North said. "To put a burden of captaincy on someone who is not necessarily guaranteed selection in all formats was a choice we weren't prepared to take.

"Alex is one of a few. Definitely someone we had conversations about. He's had experience of doing it at Yorkshire but he's in a position where he wants to concentrate on playing good cricket again. If he has a good year he'll be someone who will be talked about as playing a key role."

A prolific county season, however, could propel Bancroft into Australia's squad for the Ashes series in England which follows quickly after the World Cup. He has played eight Test matches for Australia, scoring 402 runs at an average of 30.92 and made his debut against England in 2017, scoring a Test-best 82 not out.