West Indies in England 2012 June 11, 2012

Flower looks to World Cup with Bell

After seemingly being moved aside from the one-day side earlier this year, Ian Bell now has another chance to cement a role as opener following Kevin Pietersen's retirement

Andy Flower has backed Ian Bell's experience and quality to make a success of his recall to England's one-day International side.

Bell will open the batting in the series against West Indies that starts at West End on Saturday, with Flower admitting the selection has been made with more than an eye to the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.

As recently as February, it seemed Bell's limited-overs international career might be over when he was dropped from the squad to play Pakistan in the UAE and England won the four-match series 4-0. Now, however, with Kevin Pietersen having retired from limited-overs internationals and a recent adaptation to ODI playing regulations meaning that a new ball is used from each end at the start of games, England have decided that Bell has the best all-round game to cope with the demands of the position.

"Ian Bell is a very experienced cricketer, even though he's only 30," Flower said. "He's got a lot of international experience and he's in great form. He is very confident at the moment.

"With the two new white balls we want great quality batsmen up front and he is one of those. We believe the man who has got the best chance of making it a success against two new white balls is Ian Bell. He's really good quality. We believe he can form a successful partnership with Alastair Cook. Of course there are alternatives and we've considered them very carefully but I'm really excited to see him take up that challenge."

Bell's recall will not be universally welcomed. He has enjoyed copious previous opportunities - he has played 108 ODIs; 28 of them as opener - without ever absolutely replicating the confidence and dominance he has shown in domestic limited-overs cricket. Overall he has averaged 34.04 with a strike-rate of 73.31 in ODIs, with one century and 19 half-centuries, while as opener he has averaged 33 at a strike-rate of 70.69 with five half-centuries.

Whichever way you look at it, there is room for improvement and it is asking a great deal of him to step into the considerable shoes vacated by the retirement of Pietersen, who has an ODI average of 41.84 and a strike-rate of 86.76.

England are not looking for Bell to try to emulate Pietersen's methods, though. Instead they hope that by giving him time to settle in the opening position, he will prosper with his own style. Bell has rarely enjoyed a settled position in the side. He has batted at every position except No. 8 and No. 10 - though he has batted at No. 3 47 times - and has often hinted at his class without producing many match-defining performances. His ability to open, and the fact that the England squad already contains several relatively inexperienced players, saw him preferred to the likes of Ben Stokes and James Taylor.

Flower admitted that, had England been facing more ODI games in Asian conditions, they might have opted for a more explosive option at the top of the order and conceded that the selectors had considered opting for a young man.

"On the sub-continent we would obviously consider whether we go with the same personnel up front," Flower said. "But there's a lot of time between now and the next sub continental one-day cricket.

"The World Cup in Australia was definitely on our mind. We had to weigh up whether to get someone younger than him in. But we think he's the best option for us and he's only 30 years old. It is safe to assume he will open. We don't want him to do a similar job to Pietersen we want him to be Ian Bell and play great international cricket."

Andrew Strauss also welcomed Bell's recall. While admitting that he no longer had any input into the selection of the ODI side, Strauss referred to Bell as "one of the best players in the world" who can "adapt to any form of the game".

"This might just be the opportunity he needs to cement his place in the one-day side," Strauss said. "I think we all know his quality and it's great for him to be back in that one-day set-up.

"He has shown plenty of times that he is capable of doing a very good job in one-day cricket, maybe he just hasn't had that one breakthrough innings that really grabs the game by the scruff of the neck and wins it for England. I think once he does that the world is his oyster. He's such a fine player that he can be up there with the very best."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roo on June 14, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    I can understand the selectors looking at Bell (but not agreeing), he has done OK in the past & with KP missing, he shouldn't bother the setup - he may just be a fill in for this summer?... Looking at some of the young guys coming through for India (&SL) in the tri-series in Oz, they could be the team to beat in 2015 - some very explosive players that are match winners... I feel that England should be looking for at least 1 or 2 such players before they can win a WC in OD'ers...

  • Roo on June 14, 2012, 6:57 GMT

    Many talking about 2 new balls & the Oz bouncy pitches for the 2015 WC... WACA & Gabba sure, but Adelaide, Bellerive, Manuka, SCG, MCG are not in the same league... You also forget that many of the matches will be played in NZ which are closer to Eng pitches without as much bounce & some of the grounds much smaller...

  • John on June 13, 2012, 16:33 GMT

    @jackiethepen on (June 13 2012, 10:02 AM GMT) If Buttler , Bairstow etc get the opportunities that Bell has had in the OD arena - what is it 100+ with only 1 century and the worst strike rate and 2nd worst average for those who have played more than 10 games then I'd be the 1st to say that these guys don't cut it. As I said before , if Bell was still batting at the same SR but averaging similar to Trott or if he was averaging low to mid 30s but with the strike rate of KP or Morgan then that would not be so bad , but Bell is neither the glue or the acceleration in the OD side. If Ravi couldn't bowl then I'd not feel so bad about Bell being in instead of him but he does.

  • Andrew on June 13, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas/JG2704 - I have watched quite a few of Bell's ODI innings & they often involve sweet timing, cruising to the 20s & 30s at a reasonable S/R, gets bogged down for 3 or 4 balls then tamely chips into the covers or lofts down the throat of the outfielders. Whilst in Tests I mainly have only seen him against Oz, (feel that he can get out that way too), his performances are of a much better standard. I think he is clueless to what he needs to do, so I acknowledge he still has it in him to play consistantly good ODI cricket, I just feel 100+ matches he should of done so by now. I really think it's about planning about how to go about things & be prepared to go thru a tough period where you may only score 3 or 4 runs off 20 balls, getting out then only makes that scenario worse. @glance_to_leg - a lot of people will agree with you. For me, as well, Tests are the supreme format, however for me I love ODIs as well, a long way in front of 20/20-baseball.

  • Jackie on June 13, 2012, 10:02 GMT

    It's all very well having the power to attack but you have to stay in. The young ones being mentioned aren't there yet in international cricket. Bairstow, Stokes and Buttler have been shown up. Can you imagine bowlers having a crack at them? They are all young, plenty of time for them to improve. India was a fiasco. If KP had been in the same frame of mind it may have been a repeat performance in the Emirates. But he was demob happy. It was the end for KP when Cook was appointed captain. Bell has been used as a reserve for the last year and a half. You can't flourish like that. Dobell harps on his past opening stats. When was that? Pre-2009 except for one solitary game at the end of the world cup. Loads of fans were against Bell's recall to Test cricket. Remember? He averages 61 since his recall, higher than anyone in the side during that period. Impressively he's got his form back through hard work. He came in twice under pressure. Good job we didn't rely on Bairstow.

  • John on June 13, 2012, 9:16 GMT

    @Meety on (June 13 2012, 03:45 AM GMT) - In the 1st WI test JTP was getting excited about Bell helping run out Bravo and didn't even mention the wickets Broad was getting. Just so you know what you're up against

  • John on June 13, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas on (June 13 2012, 05:39 AM GMT) bud , I've watched plenty and am still waiting

  • John on June 13, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    @glance_to_leg on (June 12 2012, 23:49 PM GMT), there's not really care and there's not really care. You, like many people, take great pains to post comments against a story on a topic that you say that you don't care about. The people who really don't care are not even reading the story. I love Test cricket and if I could only watch one format then Test cricket would be it. If England were to remain middle of the pack in ODIs and never win a WC then I wouldn't be unhappy. That said, I still watch ODIs andthe more of them that England win the happier I am. Personally, I'd probably rather watch a 50-over game than a 20-over game too. Maybe the balance between all-out attack and building an innings is one of the points of interest. 50-overs also gives the bowlers a bit more a chance to actually attack rather than concentrating on stopping the batsmen doing so.

  • Srinivas on June 13, 2012, 5:39 GMT

    @JG, alright mate. Just wait and watch what Bell's going to do. You will see it.

  • Andrew on June 13, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    @jackiethepen - the PMs XI game, the Oz side had players who hadn't played List A or FC games at the time. The pitch was a road. In the first T20 game, he hit (from memory) 3 boundaries off the outside edge (thick) thru point, where funnily enuff, C White had 3 fielders within about 10 metres of each other, the ball split them. In the ODIs he averaged 22 against Oz. The unfortunate problem for Bell & other England batsmen is that the Domestic List A competition is only 40 overs an innings which means that batsmen don't build innings too well in a 50 over environment. It's interesting as I maintain one of the fundamental reasons England have done so well in Tests is that a decade or so ago, County cricket went back to 4 day matches. Batsmen then had the opportunity to bat a whole day rather than going for quick runs. Despite what I think is obvious, the ECB still haven't clued up (yet, although I think they are discussing) the move for the domestic List A comp to be 50 overs!

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