Category: Ian Bell (page 1 of 8)

Ian Bell will not bat like a prince before inexplicably spooning one to cover against South Africa

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

They’ve only gone and dropped him. Dropped him as if he were a cricket ball and they were him standing in the slips at some point in the last 12 months.

There’s a hideous video on the ECB Twitter feed where selector James Whitaker mouths the usual platitudes about Bell taking a break and reassessing before coming back strongly.

But he isn’t going to come back, is he? If he comes back at all, it’ll be in tears and bearing petrol shortly before torching the ECB offices. It would take more than ‘hunger and desire’ to persuade selectors to recall a malfunctioning 33-year-old who publicly floated the idea of retirement earlier in the year. We only hope that they didn’t talk him out of calling it a day back then only to make the decision for him a few months later. That would be cruel.

Then again, it would also be apt. Raising hopes, giving every impression that things are going to be just wonderful before a sudden and unheralded demise – the archetypal Bell innings.

Ian Bell continues to take his toll

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Turns out Ian Bell’s not retiring. You may have heard that he maybe possibly was. You may not. Either way, he isn’t.

The umming and ahhing does hint that his career is nearly at an end though. Soon enough, the bell will toll and watching Bell will no longer take its toll. We should probably embrace his pure, unadulterated Ian Bell-ness while we still have time.

Even earlier this summer, people were discussing whether a move to three might be the making of Ian Bell. That he is still widely considered unmade after 199 Test innings is quite something. There’s a certain art and majesty in continuing to maintain such a perception.

Always leave people wanting more, they say, and Ian Bell generally delivers in that regard. Quite how a 33-year-old veteran can still be thought of as having promise is one of the mysteries of the age. One day, many years from now, he’ll move his zimmer frame just so and onlookers will see it as an indication that he’s finally cracked this batting lark. At this point, Bell will drop dead. Always one step ahead of us, Bell; constantly finessing what might one day be revealed to be the greatest post-modern joke in the history of sport.

For now, all we can do is look on in wonder. Hopefully there will be at least one more dreamy, effortless innings cut short by an unexpected bout of seppuku. Rather than curse and wail at the moon in frustration like we usually do, maybe next time we can smile and say: “That Ian Bell – his ability to continue playing cricket like Ian Bell really is quite something.”

The latest Ian Bell update has been released and it’s full of bugs and new features

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We’re way past Ian Bell 2.0. Being as he’s 33 and batting at three, we’re going to call this incarnation Ian Bell 33.3. Hopefully that won’t prove to be its batting average.

Most of the previous Ian Bells have looked solid only to get out in infuriating fashion when you least expected it. This new version’s different. This one seems hell-bent on scoring at at least a run a ball and consequently its dismissal only ever feels a delivery away. But it’s fun while it lasts. It rattles along at a frightening rate, pinging drives through the covers and slicing back-cuts between the slip fielders like its risk-assessment circuits have malfunctioned.

It was also good to see England attack a victory target with gusto. You can sometimes inch to a win and leave the opposition feeling more uplifted than you are. This was more akin to getting a few bonus jabs in before the next round. ‘Remember last time you bowled to me and I flayed you for three boundaries every over?’ you seem to say as you walk to the middle in the next Test.

Ian Bell.

Ian Bell is only 33


Photo by Sarah Ansell

This isn’t really about Ian Bell. It’s about English cricket’s attitude to age and the impact of the international schedule as it is now.

When an England player has a spell of poor form, it is generally described in one of two ways. Young players are ‘found out’ while older players are seen as being in terminal decline.

In recent years, the latter message has been reinforced by the fact that very few England players have played on long past their 33rd birthdays. If you’re dropped at that age, it’s increasingly accepted that you’ll never come back. This then perhaps makes selectors reluctant to pick any player over 30 on the grounds that they don’t have much of a future.

Your mid-thirties run-scorer

But 33 isn’t really so old for a batsman. Sachin Tendulkar, Graham Gooch, Rahul Dravid and Alec Stewart all made over 5,000 runs after their 33rd birthdays. In recent years, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kumar Sangakkara and Younus Khan have all scored at least 3,000 runs and averaged over 60 beyond that age. Mike Hussey, Misbah-ul-Haq, Jacques Kallis, VVS Laxman – all of these batsmen and plenty more held their own in this period of their careers.

For England? Andrew Strauss can boast relative longevity, having made 1,601 runs after 33; Paul Collingwood made 944; and Kevin Pietersen made 682; but other than them, no-one. We have to go back to Graham Thorpe (1,635 runs) and Nasser Hussain (2,479 runs) to find anyone who’s made over a thousand in recent times and they retired in 2005 and 2004 respectively.

Why so few? There’s surely a tale to be told in the countless broken bodies and minds. But is it also something cultural? A growing impatient lust for the new?

Old man Bell

Bell’s currently the old guy and almost because of this, there’s a feeling that he’s on borrowed time. It’s a battle to suppress the urge to bin him and rush onto the next thing. Who knows whether Bell feels this as well and whether it has an impact on his game. Perhaps that sense that it’s almost time becomes self-fulfilling.

Bell is in poor form, no doubt, but it’s also true that the future will arrive one day and you don’t need to break into a jog to meet it early.

Australia have spent the last couple of years proving that the present matters, unafraid to cling onto 49-year-old Chris Rogers or select 35-year-old Adam Voges for a Test debut. They’ve wrung plenty out of these players – and others – long after England would surely have discarded them.

Neither team has an embarrassment of riches at its disposal, so it’s certainly possible to gain an advantage through making the most of what you have.

Ian Bell making a half-decent fist of things

Ian Bell made 187 off 145 balls against the Prime Minister’s XI in England’s latest warm-up match. Okay, so it’s not exactly the biggest match ever – Chris Rogers bowled two overs – but what’s more reassuring, making 187 off 145 balls or making 26 off 38?

This constitutes further evidence that Ian Bell is not Alastair Cook. The match also provided evidence that Glenn Maxwell remains Glenn Maxwell. You’ve got to love a man who can score 136 off 91 balls one day and be clean bowled charging down the pitch to leave the ball in a Twenty20 match another day.

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