Monday, 2 February 2009

A Bell of his own making

Leo Mckinstry's Boycs is one of those rare books that you can open on any page and find a real zinger of of a story (and if you want stories, Boycott's your man) or a nugget of essential truth. 

Mckinstry spent some time talking to Boycott's batmakers. Geoffrey would not countenance anything above 2lbs 5oz, and would often swap to one of around 2lbs 3oz if he'd been batting for several hours and was starting to tire. 

His man at Slazenger said to him one day, 'Hey Geoffrey, I've got you a good one here. The ball will fly to the boundary with this one.'

'I don't want it to fly there,' said Boycott. 'I want it to roll there. I'll still get four for it...'

To me, the story demonstrates not Boycott's contrariness, but his absolute self-knowledge, his acceptance of himself and of his game. He understood intimately what kind of player he was.

All great batsmen understand this. At the heart of Ian Bell's problem (yes, him again) is this lack of certainty. He's always being told to dominate the bowlers, and you can see him trying to do it, strutting priapically - and unconvincingly - to the wicket, trying to bat like a batsman he's not.

The notion of dominance is the wrong one for Bell. You wouldn't describe, say, Shiv Chanderpaul as dominant in the traditional sense. It's just that no-one can get him out. 

If Bell is to stay in the Test team, he'd do well to watch Chanderpaul score his runs. He, like Boycott, is utterly true to himself, however odd that self might seem. All the best players are. 

NB: With aching predictability, Bell and Harmison failed to make the IPL auction cut today. Know thyselves, my friends...

4 comments:

12th Man said...

When India toured England in 2007, Bell was the Man of the series in the 7-match ODI tournament.He was in tremendous form that season and he dominated the Indian ODI bowlers without taking risk. That's probably what you plan to highlight in the comparison with Shiv...you can score at more than run a ball by playing your game instead of pretending to be someone you are not!!!

12th Man said...

I don't question Bell's skill and technique. But tell me what makes the English selectors to stick with this massive under-achiever?

achettup said...

If anything this tells me that as T20s become the bigger lure, we're going to see a lot people trying to reinvent their games. We're already hearing a lot of talk about getting into Test mode, One Day mode and T20 mode.
Boycott was frequently described as being the most selfish of cricketers in that era (the infamous "I've run you out you c**t" comes to mind) and I have to wonder if he would have been a mercenary. The era and circumstances of the time often determine how much liberty you can afford when it comes to being true to your game.

The Old Batsman said...

Hi 12th, I think if Pietersen agreed to bat at three, Bell would go. But the selectors are at the roulette wheel trying to get their investment back until he does.

achettup - very nice point. I saw him bat in a sunday league match (40 overs) at Basingstoke once, and he got twenty-odd very quickly. If he was growing up now, he'd probably have found a way to be effective in T20, a bit like Kallis maybe.