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ICC World T20 2014: Is Ian Bell’s selection in place of injured Joe Root justified?

Ian Bell has not played a single Twenty20 match in more than three years now, and is not getting any younger by the day © Getty Images
Ian Bell has not played a single Twenty20 match in more than three years now, and is not getting any younger by the day © Getty Images

By Sudatta Mukherjee

The last time Ian Bell had played a Twenty20 match was in January 2011, against Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). He had opened the England innings along with Steven David and had scored 39 runs off 30 balls before Mitchell Johnson bowled him. Since then, Bell has not been part of any T20 match, be it international or domestic. His last domestic T20 match was for Warwickshire, where he had scored only two runs. Despite such record, Bell was selected as the best possible replacement for an injured Joe Root, whose T20 average is 0.52 better than Bell’s (Bell’s average is 25.02).

He was a part of the 15-member squad that played the warm-up match against West Indies, which England lost by seven wickets. However, minutes before the start of the match it appeared that Bell would not participate in the match.

It is quite intriguing why Bell, of all the people in the present England squad, has been selected in the place of Root. It is a known fact one of the world’s best Twenty20 player Kevin Pietersen would have never got the chance after his relationship with the national side went astray.

The other options were Michael Yardy, Steven Davies, and Craig Kieswetter, players who have played for England in T20Is. Yardy’s last appearance for England in T20 was the same match as that of Bell’s. Even though he continues to play T20 for Sussex, he has not been much of a success in the shortest format of the game for the selectors to consider him.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Davies had also last played for England in January 2011, the same match as Yardy and Bell. Even though he has a better average than Yardy he does not appear as someone who could be in consideration for the long run. He has a far better average in First-Class matches.

Craig Kieswetter (in picture) is a proven customer for England in T20Is and deserves a chance ahead of Ian Bell © Getty Images
Craig Kieswetter (in picture) is a proven customer for England in T20Is and deserves a chance ahead of Ian Bell © Getty Images

This leaves us with Kieswetter. The 26-year-old wicketkeeper from Somerset has played more than a hundred T20 matches. He has played 25 T20Is for England, averaging 30.70, much better than both Root and Bell. He has been regularly playing for Brisbane Heat and has scored two half-centuries for them this season. In 2013, Kieswetter scored 500 runs in the domestic Friends Life T20 tournament.

The question might be whether England would need another wicketkeeper in the squad. There is no harm in having a back-up wicketkeeper in the side or playing two wicketkeepers. What matters for the team is that if Kieswetter can perform with the bat. South Africa have been playing both AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock.

Moreover, it is always better to have a player who has been playing T20 regularly than a senior player who has not been a part of any T20 side for more than three years now. In addition, Bell is almost 32 years old, whereas Kieswetter is 26. There is high probability that Kieswetter has more years of cricket in him than Bell.

All this discussion comes at a time when England is trying to build a side without Pietersen. Today Root is injured, tomorrow someone else may be, how would England handle the situation then? England need to give more opportunity to players like Kieswetter. Even if Bell is not part of the playing XI in the ICC World T20 2014‘s main draw, his presence in the squad is quite baffling.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)

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