DURHAM will not be changing their modus operandi in response to what is widely perceived as their harsh treatment by the ECB.

Coach Jon Lewis was aware prior to the sanctions being announced in early October that the club's popularity had sunk in the corridors of power.

But he insists: “We will continue to operate in the way we think is best for us. We don't always do things in a conformist way and perhaps it doesn't go down well in some quarters. But we are not often proven wrong.

“The club set out in 1992 to provide opportunities for local youngsters and that hasn't changed. It's something we are very proud of.”

Following their record 11-year run in division one Durham start the season at home to Nottinghamshire tomorrow 48 points adrift at the foot of division two.

They have also had two points deducted in the 50-over cup and four in the NatWest T20 Blast, which can only be seen as petty and vindictive.

Almost 2,000 objectors signed a petition which was delivered to ECB chairman Colin Graves two weeks ago. But, as with MP Kevan Jones's demand for an explanation, none is likely to be forthcoming.

Durham could have fought the sanctions in court and probably won, but they know they couldn't survive without ECB funding.

“We can whinge about the 48-point deduction or we can see it as two wins,” says new chairman Sir Ian Botham, for whom mission impossible is an alien concept.

The reality, however, is that a lean squad is top heavy with seamers and while they might bowl out some sides cheaply they could struggle for runs.

Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, who have provided more than 1,000 championship runs each for the last four years, have departed for Surrey and Keaton Jennings could be required for Test duty from early July.

It leaves an unwelcome burden on skipper Paul Collingwood, who turns 41 next month, and he will need staunch support from the Test duo sharing the overseas player duties, Stephen Cook and Tom Latham, both sons of former internationals.

Cook, son of Jimmy, will play until South Africa begin their four-Test series in this country in early July, when New Zealand's Latham will take over.

Latham's father, Rod, played in four Tests in 1992-93, the same period in which Jimmy Cook earned three caps aged 39 after South Africa emerged from isolation.

Latham junior made a few appearances for Durham seconds while playing club cricket in the North-East in 2011. He can also keep wicket, which could be an option for Durham if Stuart Poynter fails to score the required runs in early season.

They would prefer Michael Richardson to concentrate on his batting as he competes for middle order positions with Jack Burnham, Graham Clark and Cameron Steel.

After de-registering nine players last year, the overseas pair are the only newcomers on a full contract, while Steel and Josh Coughlin have been handed development contracts.

Coughlin, from Sunderland, made his first-class debut last summer against Sri Lanka A, captained by elder brother Paul, of whom big things are expected if he stays fit.

Following his 231 in the Second X1 Championship final he could move up the order, with Collingwood acknowledging: “All our young seamers can bat, so there will be some tough choices to make. We have to weigh up who is most likely to score runs at six, seven and eight.”

With Mark Wood available in early season, the pacy Brydon Carse might have to wait his turn, along with James Weighell and Barry McCarthy.

Their patience could be tested as all have made an impact in division one and other counties Durham will face this season have nothing like the same depth of seam resources.

Kent are an example as they continue to rely on 41-year-old Darren Stevens plus Mitch Claydon, and have signed another ex-Durham man in Will Gidman.

After starring for Gloucestershire, Gidman failed to make an impact with Nottinghamshire, underlining the gulf between the divisions.

That gap offers Durham hope that they can bounce back immediately, although Lewis stresses: “We will need a lot of players to have their best seasons and two to have the sort of stand-out season Keaton Jennings had last year.

“The advantage of a small, tight squad is that they can all see opportunities. Several of them kicked on last year, but they still have a lot to do to reach their ceiling. They are ready for the challenge.”