Ian Bell is only 33

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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.


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  1. He’s still in the team while Gary Ballance is out of it. He’s still in the slip cordon while Adam Lyth is out of it. Neither of these things are currently endearing I. Ron to me.

  2. The Sledgehammer of Eternal Justice still has so much more Sledgehammering to do. And when he does, I’m going to find all those who called for his head and rub it right in their stupid faces.

    I love you, Ronald.

  3. Well yes and excellent and all that. I agree in 100% completeness with the point about older players, but on the other hand, age shouldn’t be an excuse for continuation either. Since the end of the last Ashes series in England (which he won single-handedly) Ian Bell has played 19 tests, scored two 100s, had twice as many single-figure scores as over 50s, and scored a total of 940 runs at an average of 28.

    There are only two relevant questions. Would any other player still be in the team with this record, and is there anyone who can replace him? I suspect that the answers are no and no in that order, hence he remains. I hope he is able to use this extended opportunity of a lack of place competition to get his form back quickly. In particular, I hope he gets it back at his home ground, on Day 3, as I have just been given a corporate ticket for free. Apparently I am interested in logistics solutions for consumer items, but I can let you in on a little secret – I’m not in the slightest bit interested. I do have to wear a jacket, though.

    1. If you can blag your way into the Raglan stand, come and visit us in the front row. There’ll be ten of us, mostly in purple Heavy Rollers shirts. Hard to miss.

      Then we can say hello to each other in person at last.

      And the Heavy Rollers can have a giraffe at your jacket.

    2. Splendid. I’ll see what I can do. Perhaps when the logistics discussion has naturally exhausted itself, I’ll have a trot across.

      How long can suppliers of logistics solutions for consumer items talk about logistics?

    3. I’ll expect you any time between the start of the third over and the afternoon session drinks break.

      If you haven’t shown up by then, I shall alert the emergency services. It is possible for decent folk to die of boredom and our emergency services must be called upon to intervene and prevent such tragedies.

    4. This could be colossal. Ged and Bert meeting for the first time. This is as significant as anything the Large Hadron Collider in Cern is experimenting with, in terms of deliberately forcing bodies to collide. What types of particles might be generated in this collision of minds? And what will they be called? Gerts? Beds? Gedberts? Their match reports (I expect no less than two) will go down in the annals of King Cricket history, if there is such a thing.

    5. It’s called the archives. Their respective match reports will go into the website’s archives, same as every other article.

    1. I’m sure what you meant to say was “Junaid Khan is back”.

      I’m sure you then intended to point out that you mean that he is returning to County Cricket and reassure us that he does not have ankylosing spondylitis or similar.

    2. No, he meant to say “Junaid Khan’s back” otherwise it doesn’t really work.

    3. Quite right, KC;
      Several naughty boy verbal nets for me.
      But ‘tho’ my literary brain cells are now very few;
      At least I can still clerihew.

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