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January 2, 2008
Matthew Bell, the recalled New Zealand opener, hopes the next five years of his career are played out at the highest level. Bell's excellent domestic record this season - 722 runs at 103.14, including a double-century in the State Championship - earned him a call-up to the Test squad against Bangladesh and he attributed his success to a change of focus in during the off season.
"I've put a lot of time and effort in and it's nice that things are slowly but surely coming together," Bell told the Dominion Post. "It's just been about getting the physical side of things right as well as mentally."
Bell spent plenty of time with fitness trainer Jamie Tout and Christie van Dyk, Wellington's elite player-coach, as well as with several other Wellington-based national players during the winter. "There have been a couple of people I've worked really hard with over the winter and things have been progressing well," said Bell, whose one-on-one sessions with prominent rugby referee Lyndon Bray helped him "relax a little more". "Also having a game plan that's going to suit me and being more level-headed at the crease."
Bell, with 14 years of first-class cricket under his belt, last played in a Test in 2001 in Australia and said he learned a lot during those six years. "I guess I've reaped the rewards lately with having a more positive intent. I'm more conscious of trying to put the bowlers under more pressure rather than being under the microscope myself."
At 30, he believed his best years were yet to come. "First and foremost I've got to take the form I've showed for Wellington into these two Test matches and then hopefully look forward to England, which would be a real challenge," Bell said. "I feel as though I have a lot of experience to offer. I was introduced to Test cricket at a young age and had a few set-backs but I've learned from them.
"You look at guys like Mark Richardson, who didn't play till he was 29 or 30, and he played for another four or five years. You don't know what's going to go on further down the track but it would be great to represent and score runs for my country for a long period of time."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graeme Smith was the last of South Africa's old guard. The roots of the new one need to grow deeper