Monday 24 November 2008

IR Bell: always outnumbered, always outgunned

A case was once made for Ian Ronald Bell opening in the 50 over format. 'We can bat around him,' they said. 'He gets a hundred at a strike rate of 70, we'll win more than we lose,' they said.

But rarely has a single game made any argument for a man look more redundant. In Bangalore, Virender Sehwag hit the first ball he faced for four, and the first ball he faced after a two-hour rain break for six. MS Dhoni hit his first ball for six, and Yusuf Pathan hit his only ball for six. That is the standard of the new age; of the superfreak power hitter.

Bell's 12 from 15 balls could be written off as a bad day. Except it wasn't. It was a normal day. In fact, given his strike rate of 80.00, it was a marginally better than average day. What drove pure despair further into the bones was the sad little tinky-tink his bat made as he tried, mostly in vain, to hit the ball off the square.

He has walked to the middle with that weird, pinched look on his face playing shadow forward defensives 26 times to open in ODIs. He's made 800 runs at 33.33, striking at 70 per 100 balls. He has scored precisely no hundreds. 

In his other 50 innings, he has batted down the order, made 1683 runs at 36.59 at the same rate, despite, presumably, batting in fewer power plays. In nineteen innings in 2008, his top score is 73. 

In this era of the superfreak, England are shockingly adrift. For India Sehwag strikes at 99.36; for West Indies, Gayle goes at 81.21; for Sri Lanka, Jayasuriya strikes at 91.03; for New Zealand, McCullum goes at 90.24; for South Africa, Gibbs strikes at 83.18, and for Pakistan, Afridi goes at 111.20. Adam Gilchrist went at 96.94 for Australia. With the exception of McCullum, all have scored over 5000 runs; with the further exception of Afridi, all have over 6000. Jayasuriya, who started it, has 12,785.

The closest England have come is with Marcus Trescothick, who made 4,335 runs at a rate of 85.21. And he's retired. 

What's most amazing is the near-total absence of debate over Bell's position, or over England's inability to find a player of the kind above given the resources flowing in. 


Anonymous said...

Its unfair comparing Bell with those power hitters. Bell did well at 3 against India last year when he was the Man of the series. I think Bell had to take the opening role because he had no choice, not that he chose to. If Strauss had remained any consistent, Bell could have happily batted down the order.

The Old Batsman said...

Hi 12th,

Yeah, fair point. I wasn't so much going for a direct comparison, but trying to say that a player of Bell's type is rapidly being left behind, and he's doing little to adapt his game.

the thing I find hardest to swallow is the fact our entire country can't find someone of the right ilk...

Damith S. said...

agreed. i think bell has no place in an odi team. but i think 12th man is right in saying england hav no choice but to put him in there because they simply have no other option.

what about this luke wright chap. ive heard somethings about him ?