Ian Bell fears the domestic fixture list may undermine his attempts to persuade England’s selectors he has earned a recall into their Test line-up in the near future.
The 27-year-old Warwickshire batsman was overlooked for England’s first Test squad of the summer yesterday, despite returning from the Caribbean and scoring two centuries already this season in domestic cricket.
Instead of recalling the in-form Bell or the experience of former captain Michael Vaughan, England chose Ravi Bopara as the man to fill their number three spot for next week’s opening Test against West Indies at Lord’s.
Assuming the selectors give Bopara time to establish himself in that position during the two Test series against West Indies, it leaves Bell and the other candidates needing to grasp every opportunity available to them if they are to force a recall.
“The problem I have now is the way the fixtures are set out,” said Bell, who was dropped after the first Test defeat at Jamaica after averaging just 19.45 in his previous six appearances.
“I have this four-day match with the Lions, we have a championship match against Yorkshire next week and then there is a month of Twenty20 cricket so there’s not a lot of time and opportunity there to go and score big hundreds in four-day cricket and push to get your place back in the Test team.
“Looking at the fixtures ahead, there’s a lot of one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket which hamstrings you a little in trying to get back into the Test team.”
Once that one-day schedule is completed, Bell does have two further championship matches to impress – and a fixture at Edgbaston starting just a week before the first Ashes Test in Cardiff between Warwickshire and an England XI.
England’s recent run of injuries would suggest another opportunity will present itself and Bell has not given up hope of facing Australia in the Ashes again this summer.
“It’s a long summer and there’s a lot of cricket coming up,” said Bell. “Just because I’m not picked in this Test match now doesn’t mean I won’t be playing in the Ashes and I’ve got to keep believing that I can and believe if I keep scoring the runs then I’ve got a chance of playing.
“The message I got coming back from the West Indies was to score big hundreds and make sure you hit the ground running, which is what I thought I’d done so I thought I was in a good position, but I now have to keep working and keep scoring runs in county cricket.”
Bell’s attempts to impress the selectors further by taking more responsibility has, however, ended in disappointment when Warwickshire coach and England selector Ashley Giles rejected his request to lead the side after captain Ian Westwood was ruled out for several weeks with a wrist injury.
Warwickshire are believed to have denied Bell the opportunity because they believed he would be playing for England and instead gave the captaincy to Tim Ambrose, although he did lead them for a time in the field against Somerset at Taunton recently when Ambrose was off the field.
“I did ask the question and it didn’t happen, but I have tried to help as much as I can at Warwickshire and try and use my cricket brain,” added Bell.
“I don’t know if they wanted me to concentrate on scoring my runs or whether they thought I wasn’t going to be around for very long, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s going to happen now – I’m going to be around as much as anyone.
“I don’t just want to stay as a promising young batter, I want to develop my other skills as well as just becoming a batsman.”