Warwickshire skipper confident of successful season as they commence campaign against Surrey at The Oval, writes Huw Turbervill
Fans of the batting artist known as Ian Bell will be delighted that he has signed a three-year contract extension at Warwickshire. He insists, however, that he has not given up on England.
The Bears captain, 34, has scored 7,727 Test runs at 42.69, but his last appearance was against Pakistan in Sharjah in November 2015.
“I still want to get back in with England but I know the worst thing you can do is strive too hard,” he told The Cricketer. “My focus is to score runs and win games for Warwickshire and if something with England came off the back of that, that would be good. If I stay fit then I will never lose that dream.”
Bell will lead Warwickshire out at The Oval invigorated by a winter playing in Australia. “To be involved with the Big Bash, with its sell-out crowds was quite special,” he said. “It was good and interesting to be involved with a different environment playing with and against a lot of players who I had been involved with in Ashes cricket.
“People were friendly and Perth Scorchers were impressive. It’s a bit of a concern, actually, if Justin Langer is the next to take over Australia because I rate him particularly highly. He was outstanding. It was my first taste of franchise cricket and it was organised incredibly well and I learned a lot that I hope to bring to Warwickshire.
“Initially I thought I was going to open, which is the role I have done for Warwickshire, but Shaun Marsh ended up playing more than was expected. So I batted at No.3 and sometimes 4 and 5, so I have learned about different roles and skills, batting at different times, and it was a worthwhile, enjoyable trip.”
It was a difficult first year in charge of Warwickshire for Bell, although they did win the Royal London One-Day Cup. “I came back at Christmas 2015 and I knew I wasn’t going to South Africa [with England]. There were a few things going on behind the scenes at Warwickshire which I don’t want to go into and I think it’s better that they stay there. The captaincy was offered to me, and when your boyhood club comes calling I had to think a little, but it did not take long to think I wanted to take that challenge on. It was something I always wanted to do, certainly after my England career.
Bell's Perth Scorchers won BBL|06
“Only a handful of clubs would look back and say, you have won a trophy, but you are still disappointed at the end of the year. A majority of clubs would say we have won a trophy, we stayed in Division One, and we are happy about that, but it says a lot about the expectation about Warwickshire internally and externally. It was the first trophy I’d won as official club captain, although I’d won a few as stand-in.
“There were quite a lot of things thrown upon me. I could have said, no, now is not right, I want to get back in the England team. I accepted some of those things, probably to the detriment of myself. Part of the backroom staff’s job is to take a little of the pressure off the players.
“I enjoyed working with Doug (Brown); he’s a good man, a Warwickshire man through and through. He won two trophies. He can walk away with his head held high. Sometimes you need a little change, you see that in football.”
Bell is excited Ashley Giles has returned as sporting director, and is also enjoying working with first-team coach Jim Troughton. “We have a lot of older players and a lot of juniors so there will be a big overturn… but hopefully over the next couple of years we can win trophies and bring younger players coming through.”