Ian Bell has been amongst England’s consistent performers in the past decade © Getty Images
Ian Bell might be in line to become England vice-captain due to various reasons. There is no able candidate who can be entrusted with the role and Bell is also very senior in the England setup. But it could also be that Bell deserves to be vice-captain irrespective of those reasons. Shrikant Shankar believes that Bell has the potential to become a future England captain.
The Buggins’s turn principle means to award or appoint on the basis of seniority and not merit. Now one might state that this is not fair, but another may counter that and say that it is. One can choose which side of the fence to sit on, but the Buggins’s turn principle is not a rule. The person awarded or appointed usually is done so by default. If another junior person truly deserves to be awarded or appointed and still misses out due to the ‘principle’, then that is actually unfair.
If Ian Bell becomes England vice-captain, then there will be people who claim that he got appointed because of his seniority in the team. The current captain Alastair Cook made his debut in March 2006 while Bell made his England debut in August 2004. Obviously, the Buggins’s turn principle didn’t apply to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) selectors while appointing Cook as captain. In fact there is one another who made his debut much before the duo.
James Anderson burst into the international scene in December 2002. But being a bowler does not help captaincy credentials. Now with another senior player in Kevin Pietersen being kept out of the team setup, there was a chance for a few to become England Test vice-captain. Pietersen was not Cook’s deputy. That job was Matt Prior’s role. But the wicketkeeper-batsman’s form in the Ashes 2013-14 was so abysmal that he lost his place in the England team. He is expected to play against Sri Lanka in the first Test from June 16, 2014, but he himself will be thinking only of his personal form.
Stuart Broad is another candidate, but injuries and losing his captaincy from the England T20I side does not help his situation. So, that leaves Bell as the only other candidate to become vice-captain. Now he too had a poor series against Australia, but is one of the few players whose place in the England team is not under threat, at least for now. Bell is a brilliant batsman and is technically sound. He has played 98 Tests and scored 6,722 runs at an average of 45.41. He has scored 20 centuries and 39 half-centuries. These numbers are not far off from Cook’s.
With Pietersen’s exclusion, Cook and Bell will have to share the responsibility of scoring the bulk of the runs. Cook looked out of sorts against Australia, particularly while Mitchell Johnson. His captaincy over the 10 Ashes Tests did not come out with flying colours either. Cook is not a natural leader, he is more of a leader by example. For that he needs to score the runs. If he faces another two miserable series against Sri Lanka and India at home, the ECB selectors might look for alternatives as a return pounding from Australia in 2015 cannot be good for the morale.
If Bell is made vice-captain now and if Cook’s captaincy credentials come under further scrutiny in the future, the former might get awarded the main crown. It is said that Bell has impressed many with his tactics and approach to captaincy with County side Warwickshire. Cook’s main criticism from former cricketers like Shane Warne has been his lack of tactical acumen. This is not to say that Bell will succeed as a captain of England, but one will not know until he is given the chance.
Bell might become England vice-captain due to the Buggins’s turn principle as it looks like a default decision. But it could also be said that Bell deserves to be given that role. Looking at his international experience, one could wonder why his name was not mentioned before. Even if the ECB wants to look at a young captain for the future, Bell should definitely be a possible candidate to become England captain.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)