Thursday, 9 February 2012

Ian Bell's ODI headache.

There's no doubting Ian Bell's class. Perhaps the most technically correct player in international cricket, at times he can make the most potent bowling attack look distinctly ordinary. A master of the cut, a connoisseur of the cover drive, when Bell's in form, the bowlers suffer. Why is it then, that having been a key component of England's test team for almost 6 years, has he once again found himself excluded from the one day side?

Averaging only 34, with a solitary hundred in his 108 ODIs to date, it's clear that Bell's potential is far from realised. Indeed, despite some breath taking performances, most notably against India at Southampton in 2007, and Bangladesh at Nottingham in 2010, a quick perusal of his career ODI scores reveals that Bell often fails to kick on after establishing himself at the crease. In his 103 ODI innings, Bell has lost his wicket 30 times between the scores of 30 and 49. Compare this with only 11 in his 122 test innings, and it's clear that going on to obtain that big, match-winning score in ODIs, has provided something more of a challenge for Bell. At first glance, this might suggest a problem in his mentality; a lack of concentration, a lack of hunger or a shirking of responsibility. To a certain degree, this is true, but i'd argue that Bell's predominantly orthodox approach to batting is his main downfall. As the game is developing, purity is regrettably becoming obsolete. A deeper analysis of the game, a greater deal of tactical nouse shown by captains and more athleticism in the field means that batsmen have had to develop and re-mould their game to ensure continued success; perhaps this has something Bell has failed to do. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Bell can't succeed unless he reverse sweeps and/or Dilscoops everything that comes his way, yet it semms that his strike-rate languishing at a mere 73.31, would suggest that his desire to play 'correctly' can often lead to him getting bogged down at the crease, struggling to rotate the strike, and inevitably piling pressure on both himself and his teammates. Perhaps the pressure of his slow scoring rate can lead to him attempting something out of the ordinary to remedy the situation, thus giving away his wicket (indeed, 'Ian Bell' and 'soft dismissal' aren't exactly an incongruous pair).

Jos Buttler reverse sweeps.
Now 29, and with the likes of Jos Buttler impressing the selectors, perhaps Bell has played his last ODI for England. Andy Flower has made clear that Bell is 'not too old to fight his way back into the side', but for me, it seems wholly unlikely that he will. The only slot available would be at number 6, yet Bell's style of play wouldn't exactly suit the more agricultural approach needed lower down the order. He should focus on regaining his form in the Test arena, where he has much to contribute, and leave the youngsters to take on the white ball.

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