Ian Bell's View from the Middle: It'll be hard to focus with the Himalayas beyond third man
After our day off in Dharamsala I've realised there is only one person more famous than the Dailai Lama around here - Kevin Pietersen
Friday 25 January 2013
The entire England squad has been snubbed, by the Dalai Lama no less. Seriously, though, today we took advantage of a day off to soak up the spirituality of Dharamsala. After our trip up to McLeod Ganj, I've realised that there is only one person more famous around here than the Dalai Lama – and that's Kevin Pietersen. We were mobbed so much that in the end we had to beat a retreat back to the team hotel.
Although that wasn't really too tough. Dharamsala is the most astounding place that I've been on a cricket tour; it has to be seen to be believed.
I remember the first time I flew from island to island in the Caribbean; that was pretty spectacular but this is something else. It's definitely a privilege to be part of the first international here, especially as there's every chance that we could be the only England team to play here in my generation. It's just an incredible place to come and play cricket, completely different to what I'm used to from my experiences of touring India.
From the terrace of the team hotel, I can look down the valley at the ground and now that we're here I can't wait to walk out to bat there. It looks like the toughest thing is going to be focusing on the game, with the Himalayas staring down at you from beyond third man.
It's the final match of the series and it feels like I've been playing cricket on the subcontinent for an age. Between me and you, I'm pretty excited about getting to those fast, bouncy Kiwi pitches.
I'll be heading back home for a short break after Sunday's match. You've got to use that time to completely detach yourself from the game. I wasn't so good at that when I was younger but with the intensity of international cricket you need an escape.
Spending time with the young guys has made me think back to my younger days. It's been great to watch the rise of Joe Root but I would offer him a word of caution, based on what happened to me when I first burst onto the scene.
The international game, perversely, is almost at its easiest when you first break through. When you first come on the scene, people know little about you. The more you play, the more bowlers prepare for you, they see your strengths, they see your weaknesses.
Another player who's about to make that step up to the Test squad is my county colleague Chris Woakes. He was out playing in Wellington before Christmas so he'll certainly have a good local knowledge that we'll be able to pump him for, which raises an interesting point. With the Academy set-up these days the one drawback is that the young guys don't get to play domestic overseas cricket.
I got the chance to have a full season of grade cricket in Australia when I was 20. It really transformed my game and the next year I was playing Test cricket. I was out in a strange place, living by myself, doing my own cooking and washing; I really had to grow up and stand on my own two feet.
Speaking of playing abroad, Dharamsala is an Indian Premier League venue and it's impossible to ignore the tournament. It's a big attraction for a number of reasons but you won't be seeing me in the IPL for at least another two seasons.
It's going to be physically quite hard and mentally even tougher over the next 18 months. If we win a lot of games in the next few years, we'll have written another incredible chapter in the history of English cricket.
Back to the here and now, if I had to fill in a report card for this tour, I'd give myself a B-minus.
I started on fire and still feel in really good form now. My personal moment of the series was the six I hit over extra cover off Jadeja in the first match. It was a shot where everything felt completely in order and it's always fun for a little guy to see the umpires raise both arms.
The surprise of the series has been how much the ball has moved around in the first 10 overs. My player of the series has to be M S Dhoni; come that second one-dayer he just took it upon himself to turn the series on its head.
Off the pitch, we've been a pretty well-behaved bunch and as middle-aged as it sounds my stand-out moment off the pitch has been arriving here in Dharamsala. I can think of no better way to finish a tour; now we just need a win to match the surroundings.
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