After KP, Ian Bell has Mark Waugh to look up to for steely artistry

2012-06-22 00:00

IAN Bell has made a very satisfactory start to his role as Kevin Pietersen’s replacement, but for all his willowy wizardry and dreamy batting, the fear factor Pietersen brought is something Bell can never have.

All the same, if he needs an example of a stylist with a steely streak, he need not look further than Mark Waugh.

Ian Bell has always been earmarked for great things. He has come a long way from the days of being called “Sherminator” by Shane Warne and being mentally bossed by the Australians.

I grew up drooling at the sight of Mark Waugh batting and I rate Bell to be an even more aesthetic willow wielder with an even better ability to go big.

Early in his career Waugh was often criticised for being profligate with his starts, but as his career wore on so did the stiffening of his resolve.

Unlike Bell, teams knew and were wary about Waugh’s match-changing abilities, whether it was in Tests or one-day cricket. It is correct to say that Bell’s stomach and spine for a fight have stiffened considerably as he became a fixture in the England side and has made himself invaluable to his country’s cause.

Early in his career he took advantage of ready-made platforms to nail teams and lacked the necessary mongrel to bail his country out of precarious situations.

Despite his conversion problems, with a Test best of 153* backing the claim, the younger Waugh often produced when his country needed him to.

Who can forget that 116 on a spiteful St George’s Park track in 1997 and the 126 he made in Bridgetown in 1995 when he teamed up with his brother to topple the West Indies?

He was a fearful proposition, with his country winning many matches off the back of his delightful but destructive batting.

Bell’s Test credentials are more than acceptable, but as a like-for-like replacement for the cocky Pietersen, it seems the England management are looking for easy-on-the-eye accumulation instead of blasting teams into submission.

It’s a tactic that could work against your weaker sides, but teams with better bowling attacks will find ways to tie them down.

I am not in any way rooting for Pietersen’s return, but just having one match winner in the mould of Eoin Morgan puts added pressure on an England side that has hardly set the world alight in 50-over cricket.

While teams struggled to plan around Pietersen and resorted to containment in order to blunt his effectiveness, Bell has not transferred his Test form to the one-day arena very well.

It is worth noting that he struggled in the Commonwealth Bank series after he battered the Australian punch-drunk in the Ashes in 2010, with Saeed Ajmal tying his feet to the point of being discarded in the Emirates at the beginning of the year.

At home he may be the solution. After all, he averages more than 40 as compared to 23 in away ODIs.

With the Australians being the next ODI assignment after the West Indian assignment, the five-match series will show whether Bell can successfully plug the gaping hole Pietersen has left.

I would not put it past him to make the most of his stint in home conditions, but shaking off the malice of having him open with Alastair Cook is not very easy as their similarity in accumulating won’t raise cold sweats among captains.

While Michael Clarke’s charges may still be finding their feet at Test level, they have not forsaken the ODI template laid by Steve Waugh and they are still very difficult to beat.

They have changes in personnel and may not look as formidable as past Australian teams, but they will be no pushovers.

The series may be just one in a long line of meaningless pyjama series, just like the one being played in Zimbabwe at the moment, but for the England think-tank, they will be hoping Bell chimes louder with every outing at the crease.

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