June 16, 2012

Ian Bell

Who Ian Bell should be like

Andrew Hughes
Ian Bell was struck on the chin in net practise, West End, June, 15, 2012
Ian Bell's attempt to channel the West Indian legend's spirit by batting helmetless didn't work out too well  © PA Photos
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Wednesday, June 13th Murali thinks the English Twenty20 competition is old-fashioned. I’m not quite sure he’s got the hang of England yet. Old-fashioned is what we do. If we wanted to organise our cricket properly it would be based on the cities, where the people live. But we don’t do organised. We prefer an organic approach, partly because it preserves the accumulated wisdom and heritage of our ancient isle, but mainly because it means we don’t have to do anything.

And his idea of merging counties is a lousy one. Combining Gloucestershire and Somerset? Into what? The Somershire Mutants? The Gloucesterset Freaks? Where would the YorkLancs monstrosity play their home games? I suppose joining Leicestershire and Northamptonshire would at least contain the tedium in one place and Middle Surrey has a nice ring to it, but Hampsex and Kentsex sound positively unpleasant.

Franchises aren’t going to work either. English people are generally well-disposed towards cricket. They are pleased in a vague sort of way that it’s there and come the soggy season they might even consider going to a Test match, until they see the prices. But that’s as far as it goes. I can’t see Katie Price or Anthony Hopkins stumping up £100 million for the privilege of owning the Birmingham Bores or the South London Gangsters.

Murali obviously doesn’t understand how sport works in England. Long ago, it was written that there shall be a thing called football, that it shall be a wondrous thing, flowing with milk and honey and that all that is football shall be forever bathed in sunlight, but all that is not football shall be in outer darkness.

If you sold all of the county car-parks, county players, county chairmen and county chairmen’s personal assistants, you’d just about raise enough money to be able to employ Samir Nasri’s cleaner or perhaps Wayne Rooney’s enigmatic cousin Dwayne for a couple of weeks. Tycoons, despots, mafia dons and intergalactic fugitives are squabbling over the ownership of second division football clubs like frenzied pensioners at a jumble sale. But I’m afraid no self-respecting porn star would be seen dead buying an English cricket team.

Thursday, June 14th Prepare yourself for a sentence bewilderingly overloaded with big names. Viv Richards has compared Kevin Pietersen to Muhammad Ali. He’s right. When KP trolls down the pavilion steps, there’s a hum of excitement as spectators put aside the crosswords, shopping lists and maths homework with which they entertained themselves whilst Trott was in. Even sitting on the dressing-room balcony picking his nose and reading the Daily Star, KP is box office.

So who on earth can replace him in the one-day team? Well, at a time of national cricket crisis, we naturally look to our elder statesmen, reliable men of substance and experience, men like Alec Stewart. Alec is a little like the monarchy: a bit old-fashioned, slightly wooden, not particularly comfortable talking in public, but somehow immensely reassuring.

Alec has the answer. Ian Bell. Yes, really. He also claims to be Ian Bell’s biggest fan, which makes you wonder how much support Ian is getting from Mrs Bell. Perhaps she prefers KP.

But Ian’s No. 1 fan does have a suggestion. He thinks that Ian should bat like Ian and not try to be someone he isn’t. Instead of asking the dressing-room mirror how he can be more like Kevin Pietersen, he should be asking his reflection how he can be more like Ian Bell. This is, I’m afraid, a slippery slope and leads inevitably to talking about yourself in the third person, a diagnosis of galloping egotism and a position in the IPL commentary box.

Besides, it isn’t true. We all remember running in to bowl imagining we were Dennis Lillee or Imran Khan, or in my case, Neil Foster. We almost always bowled faster or smashed the ball further if we pretended to be someone we weren’t and I bet even Dennis sometimes pretended he was Ray Lindwall. So my advice, Ian, is to forget all that nonsense about being yourself. Get a maroon cap, practice chewing seven sticks of gum at the same time and swagger to the crease like it’s 1976. Yeh, talk nah Mrs Bell.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by BSimon on (June 18, 2012, 4:33 GMT)

Excellent Andrew. Just a smidgeon of reality always makes the fictionally fantastic all the more hilarious. KP as Ali - and from the lips of Viv, no less! Then to extend the mirth to side splitting lengths, we're expected to believe that with a hundred international players to choose from, that Bell is anyones favourite, let alone a FEC.

Posted by Praxis on (June 17, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

People will tell you cricket is the most popular thing in subcontinent. However, that's not entirely true. The very recent ENG vs WI ODI match, Bell was about to make that century & I was eager to follow it ball by ball. Yet my roommates insisted that something is definitely wrong with me because some Euro match was probably going one, or some channel showing some highlights.

I can only imagine what a true cricket fan from England may feel.

Posted by Sagir Parkar on (June 17, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

dont worry about JackieL's comments Andrew.. today while listening to the commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, someone compared Bell's batting to a dominant Roger Federer crushing his opponents..

Posted by fraja on (June 16, 2012, 23:59 GMT)

Yeh, talk nah Mrs Bell!!!! After his 126!!!

Posted by Jin on (June 16, 2012, 19:32 GMT)

Those county mergers might lure some big names out of retirement. I bet Shane Warne would be up for joining in with Hampsex

Posted by northants on (June 16, 2012, 16:36 GMT)

How easy is it for people like you to sneer at the "lesser counties". I have followed Northants for countless years and although the trophy room might be slightly empty we have provided cricket and cricketer lovers (not you obviously) with delight. The same goes for Leics, Gloucs, Somerset and many other "lesser counties". If the Athertons, Vaughns and the Flintoffs of this world would have their way country cricket would be reduced to about 6 teams vying for everything . Pah. Bet you are a Manure fan to boot

Posted by Jason Radley on (June 16, 2012, 16:11 GMT)

Up to your usual high standard. You're the funniest Page 2 writer by a country mile.

Posted by Usama on (June 16, 2012, 10:17 GMT)

Loved it lol

Posted by S A Raja on (June 16, 2012, 9:20 GMT)

"If you sold all of the county car-parks, county players, county chairmen and county chairmen’s personal assistants, you’d just about raise enough money to be able to employ Samir Nasri’s cleaner or perhaps Wayne Rooney’s enigmatic cousin Dwayne for a couple of weeks."

Ha Ha Ha, Hilarious Andrew, Almost fell of my chair in the office. Keep It Going Andrew!!!

Cheers!!! Raja

Posted by Andrew Hughes on (June 16, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

JackieL, I'm not sure how you interpreted the above as an attack on Ian Bell and if only you'd offered that bet at the time, I'd be writing this from my luxury yacht. The implication that Ian Bell might be as good as Viv Richards is, though, an eye-popping one and I salute you for having the courage to make it in public.

Thank you also for your refresher on the history of association football, though I'm not sure how it relates to the point I was making, that football is now the dominant force in English sport.

Yes, the sale of cricket pitches was a decidedly bad thing but that has nothing to do with the organisation of the English first class game, which might just as easily be based on cities as counties. County cricket is, in any case, played almost entirely in cities or towns.

The early history of English cricket is indeed fascinating. I found Derek Birley's excellent book 'A Social History Of English Cricket' well worth a read, particularly Chapters 1 to 7.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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