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Ringing the Bell of precedence

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Ian_Bell_England_cricketAt a time when most batsmen prefer the shorter versions of the game over the conventional test format, Ian Bell separated himself from the hoi polloi by announcing his retirement from ODIs to focus more on his test form.

Yet, it’s an announcement that’s not entirely surprising.

While he’s been successful in ODIs, to the extent of being the highest run-scorer for his country in the format, Bell has had a completely unique panache when it comes to tests. Though recent numbers do seem to challenge this aspect, scoring below 15 in six out of nine innings (three in single digits) in the recently concluded Ashes, his presence lends greater depth to the English test resources. Justifying this last claim are the two half-centuries he posted in each innings of the third Ashes test at Edgbaston.

Fighting to retain his place in the test squad prior to that test, his efforts in tandem with Joe Root saw England take a crucial lead in the series after losing the second test at Lord’s. And while it was disappointing that the burst of rejuvenation didn’t extend to the remaining two tests, it was enough to keep him in healthy contention for a place in the English test squad.

 

Bell’s expertise is as invaluable as it’s irreplaceable. When he’s in form, there's not much that bowlers have been able to do to shake his rhythm. No wonder that there have been numerous instances when he’s been the bedrock upon which the English innings were formed and their wins built.

As one of the most senior members in the squad, Bell’s determination to persevere despite all his present struggles is remarkable, given how the fortunes of many of his team-mates changed after the back-to-back Ashes series of almost two years ago.

A key member of the team that convincingly won – and defended – the Ashes in 2013, only to fall lopsidedly short in the return leg towards the end of the same year, Bell is amongst only a handful of players – amongst the most experienced ones – who have managed to keep ploughing on. While few of the English players decided to hang up their boots, or rather, were forced by circumstance to step away from the sport, Bell’s continuance can also be perceived as the proverbial shot in the arm for the team that’s still piecing itself together.

This, in turn, brings matters to where everything seemingly started. By clarifying and making his intentions – and priorities – clear, Bell has also set a precedent amongst the rest of the cricketing order, especially amongst those senior members who have started to veer towards the fad of the shorter forms of the sport, overlooking test cricket’s distinctiveness.

 


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