Ian Bell: Time to put away the golf clubs and find an answer to India's new tactics
View From the Middle: Keeping wickets in hand for those final overs is now the name of the game
Thursday 17 January 2013
Today, readers, I am a frustrated golfer. A bunch of us tried to escape the team hotel here in Ranchi – not an easy task, given that fans are camped outside round the clock – for a nice relaxing 18 holes. But it turned out that the course is owned by the Government and you have to give 24 hours' notice to play – sometimes not even being an international cricketer opens the right doors.
Not being able to play as much golf is one of the frustrating things about the one-dayers. Before Christmas we had three or four days before and after each Test to hack our way round India's courses. My game's at a pretty good standard but, unfortunately, there just isn't time to drag that handicap down. Luckily, none of us get to play enough, so we're all at a similar standard, although Eoin can certainly drive the ball a long way; he could give McIlroy a run for his money.
Seriously, though, it's been a lot of fun playing in this new environment. With four senior players resting up at home, it's given these younger guys opportunities to work on their game with the best coaches in the business. A lot of them have known only success in their short careers, so to experience a high-profile defeat is a valuable lesson, and I also think it will help them to learn from me, Cookie and KP.
Spending a lot of time together in somewhere like Ranchi is one of the advantages of touring here as opposed to Australia or South Africa, where people often go their own way in small groups. For example, after we won the first game, we all stayed together in the team room and had a few beers rather than some heading out, some going back to the hotel. On these tours, in particular, you get to know people just that little bit better.
As we're going off the beaten track we're getting to see parts of the country tourists don't often see. You can tell they don't get that much cricket in Ranchi, because the fans are completely crazy. It makes you realise how far Dhoni has come. I imagine the level of adulation he receives is like being a Premier League footballer, he's always on the brink of being mobbed. We just get the celebrity treatment for six weeks and then go back home, pop down to Tesco (not for horse meat) and maybe just get the odd wave.
That last game in Kochi was probably the best atmosphere I've ever played in. I played in the tied match against India at Bangalore during the World Cup and that was pretty special, but I can't remember anything in my career being louder than Kochi. You expect a lot of noise in India but to have 75,000 people rammed into the ground two hours before the game was awesome.
It's great for the younger guys in the squad to experience hostile conditions like that; they can only learn more about themselves and their game in this sort of environment. Although that sort of crowd can affect your batting, I think we kept our cool well during the first match and we did well for large parts of the second game. There were really only two periods that cost us the match: the last 10 overs of their innings and that spell when we lost Cookie, KP and Eoin so quickly.
But that wasn't just because of the crowd – the Indians played exceptionally well at those moments. If the crowd played any part it was more a case of India being lifted by them. We see home advantage in all sports and that was the perfect example.
Having said that, the depth we now have in the batting means I'll have to make sure I don't nick too many more wide, swinging half-volleys like the other night. It would have been nice to have stroked that for four but sometimes that happens in one-day cricket and it's not going to stop me from playing the shot again – and again.
One thing we have seen over the first two games is how these new regulations are changing the game. How unusual was it to see Dhoni just patting balls back to the bowler for the first half of his innings? Keeping wickets in hand for those final overs really is now the name of the game, and India did that well.
But a lot of people expected us to come here and lose 5-0, so to win the first game was an incredible effort. What we've got to do now is put away the golf clubs and front up for tomorrow's match.
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