Out-of-touch Bell hoping to end Asia jinx
The runs have dried up and he admits he hasn't always been thinking about cricket
England arrived in Ahmedabad yesterday in search of decent opposition. The likelihood is that they will be disappointed when they meet Haryana tomorrow in their third and final warm-up match before the serious business of the Test series against India next week.
Haryana were bowled out for 55 and 183 in their last Ranji Trophy match which ended on Sunday and may decide to rest some players for the encounter with the tourists. England would wish it otherwise but it is a case of what goes round comes round given the frequently parlous state of the county sides offered as opponents to touring teams to England.
They may console themselves in the belief that any time in the middle is more constructive than effort spent in the nets, except that in the case of batsmen it can still be over in a trice no matter who is at the other end.
Ian Bell is one of those in need of an innings, which was only marginally diminished by his 28no at the fag end of the match against Mumbai A. With his experience and record, Bell may still be in good order come international day, but two factors are now playing on his mind.
First, his wife Chantelle is due to give birth to their first child days after the opening Test. Bell will be present at the birth, missing the second match of the series before returning for the fourth.
Added to this distraction is his extremely moderate record in the sub-continent, which his poor start to this trip will have done nothing to improve. A relatively lean year has featured no hundreds since his 235 at The Oval in August 2011.
"At the back of my mind, there have been a lot of other things going on – things I've been thinking about, not just cricket," said Bell. "But I'm still desperate every time I put on an England shirt to score runs, that's what I've got to do."
Bell will see his first-born for a week, finish the Test tour and then be at home for 10 days at Christmas before embarking for India and New Zealand for three months. It is the lot of the modern cricketer. Five of this party have become fathers while playing for England.
Bell's returns in Asia don't exactly help to ease any concerns. His Test batting average is 46.84, but in Asia it is 35.91 and, if the cheaper runs in Bangladesh are removed, it falls to 29.60 from 31 innings, which is plenty of practice. As the side's most accomplished batting practitioner, it is a mystery.
"I don't really know why," he said. "Obviously, the conditions are completely different to what we normally see and grow up with. The difficult thing in the middle order is starting, and trying to get through your first 20 or 30 deliveries.
"In England, you can obviously hold a little bit more at the crease. The importance out here of footwork is going to be massive. Our footwork has got to be really good from ball one. If you're going to come forward, you go right forward, back you go right back."
The series is already embroiled in controversy. Sharmila Tagore, the widow of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, has written to the Board of Control for Cricket in India asking it to ensure the rubber is played for the Pataudi Trophy, put up by the MCC in 2007.
So far the BCCI has failed to recognise it. The trophy was presented in honour of the Nawabs of Pataudi, father and son, the first of whom played in Tests for England and the second for India, who he led 40 times.
Away-day blues: Bell's record
Tests 80 Runs 5,527
Average 46.83 100s 16
Away from home:
Tests 36 Runs 2,404
Average 39.40 100s 5
In Asia (excluding Bangladesh):
Tests 18 Runs 888
Average 29.60 100s 1
Tests 5 Runs 180
Average 20 100s 0
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