Ian Bell: With rivals queuing up for my place, I really had to deliver this time
View From The Middle
Tuesday 18 December 2012
If you had told me when I was walking off the pitch after "that" shot in Ahmedabad that I would be at the crease with an unbeaten century when England won a series in India, I would have said there was more chance of Santa coming down the chimney that night.
Fast forward a few weeks to Nagpur and Kev has just been dismissed to leave us three down, there's more than 100 overs left still in the series decider and I'm walking to the crease with people whispering about my career being on the line. The game is still very much in the balance and I can feel a lot of up-and-coming batsmen queueing up for my place. I said in my column last week that I was still struggling for rhythm and my first innings had proved that. If I had got out early in those conditions in Nagpur the whole complexion of the game would turn on its head.
As we have seen with Broady and Samit missing out, reputations don't count for anything, especially when you're trying to win a series. There are so many promising middle-order batsmen knocking on the door for places at the moment, from Jonny Bairstow to Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and now Joe Root, that nothing can be taken for granted.
I also knew that with players such as Sehwag, Tendulkar and Dhoni in their batting line-up, even chasing 250 on that wicket would have been possible. You can be feeling quite comfortable in Indian conditions and all of a sudden things can change quite quickly. Me and Trotty were very keen on not getting too carried away. Even before tea on that last day, a flurry of wickets could have altered everything and I would be writing a very different column. I had to play against my natural instinct but if you want to become a quality player – and keep your place in this side – you have to be able to adapt.
There were definitely times when my head was telling me to be a bit more aggressive but I had to just hold and hold and hold and keep thinking of all those guys breathing down my neck. Once I had faced 250 balls and was set I could start to play a few shots.
You might even have noticed that I pulled out "that" lofted drive, but this time it went for six and not down the fielder's throat. After keeping it in the locker since Ahmedabad, I wanted to demonstrate that I had learnt my lesson.
Goochie played a huge part in sorting out my game ahead of the final Test. I'm lucky to have a mentor with his experience and knowledge in my corner and, I think the cameras spotted, even when I was walking off at the end, he was still providing a detailed dissection of my shot selection and technique – the man never stops!
It has been a massive whirlwind since coming off the pitch. After sharing some drinks in the dressing room, it was back to the hotel, a quick one with the Barmy Army in the hotel bar and then a mad dash to the plane so I'm looking forward to the chance to reflect over the next few days.
It's great to end 2012 on a high, especially a year that's been so incredible for British sport. Our performances at the start of the year were a big shock to all of us. It's not been our best 12 months and, until Monday, this hadn't been my best tour. But now I've got Joseph, an early Christmas present, and we've put cricket back on the map, which was important for us as a team – and me personally.
To win in India after 28 years is really special (made even sweeter for me because the Villa beat Liverpool at Anfield just before) but to do so coming back from a first-Test battering and to have lost the first three tosses as well on pitches us batters were dying to play first on, makes it an even more impressive achievement.
Everything was in India's favour: they produced wickets to order, won the tosses, had the crowd behind them. So, to come out and win in those conditions makes it just as big a high as winning in Australia two years ago was.
Speaking of the Ashes, it feels like it's really bubbling up nicely. Obviously our win in India has moved us up a gear and they've just pulled off a great win against a Sri Lanka after pushing South Africa all the way. Both teams go into the new year full of confidence and that's what you want to see. It's exactly those sort of series you want to be involved in and my century in the second innings has certainly moved that another step closer to being a reality for me.
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