Ian Bell hopes the England management will restrict their controversial rotation policy to the bowlers, as he aims to consolidate his opening partnership with Alastair Cook ahead of the five-match one-day series against Australia which is now looming large in his thoughts.
Bell said he has "some sympathy" with the Yorkshire cricket followers who have bought tickets for Friday's game against West Indies at Headingley but will now be denied the chance to watch the local favourite Tim Bresnan as well as Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann after Andy Flower's decision to rest them with the series already won.
He quickly toed the party line, stressing the importance of resting those players with the heaviest workload, and of giving more experience to younger bowlers such as the Surrey pair of Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker, who are expected to replace Broad and Bresnan. But after marking his return to the one-day team with a century in the opening match of the West Indies series in Southampton, followed by another stylish 53 on Tuesday at The Oval, — despite suffering from a hairline fracture in his jaw which has made soup a better option than steak for the last few days — Bell made it clear that he has no desire to take a break.
"For me, the more I play, the more I learn," he said, suggesting that the lack of match practice he had ahead of last winter's disastrous Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates was a major factor in the nightmare he endured against Saeed Ajmal. "Going into the UAE series, we'd had two or three months off and I felt I'd lost my rhythm completely. It's out of my control if Andy [Flower] was to give me a game off. But, personally, from a batting point of view, if I'm out in the middle scoring runs, I want to stay scoring runs, definitely.
"I wanted another crack at the top of the order. It has started nicely and now I want to continue improving and keep the relationship and partnership with Cooky going. We've always had a good relationship in Test matches batting together. I think we've played 70-odd Test matches together so we know each other inside out, and I think we complement each other well. Being a left-hand, right-hand combination, hopefully we can work together over a period of time now."
He concedes that it is different for the bowlers, especially with that series against Australia starting at Lord's on Friday week. "There's a heavy schedule coming up. We need to look after these guys. The key to our success in one-day cricket is having five out-and-out world-class bowlers so if we want to beat the Australians, we want these guys fit and fresh and ready to go.
"Australia will also be strong, with some young cricketers who have things to learn and will be excited playing against England. They are still ranked number one in the world — it's going to be a tough series. For me, it's another challenge, another opportunity to confirm myself at the top of the order with Cooky and to keep learning. There's no better way than playing against Australia. To see some of these young bowlers will be good — to face them and see them front-on.
"Of course, I have some sympathy [with the supporters]," he added, returning to the subject of those notable absentees. "It has slightly weakened our attack but I still think it is a team that can go out and beat West Indies. There's no doubt people want to come to see the Broads, Andersons and Bresnans but they will be seeing young, exciting guys who will be big players for England over the next few years."
Meaker, the 23-year-old who made his ODI debut in India last winter and is regarded as possibly the fastest bowler on the county circuit, posted on his Twitter account that he and Dernbach "have been given a chance to play this Friday for the memory of Tommy Maynard" – their former Surrey team-mate whose death stunned cricket this week. Dernbach, who was selected in England's original 14-man squad, had been given the option of taking compassionate leave for the remainder of the series, but is understood to have travelled to Headingley.
The omission of Bresnan, who has only made two international appearances at Headingley, and England's 2-0 lead in the series will not make much impact on the attendance, as around 15,000 tickets have already been sold leaving the ground only 1,000 short of its new capacity. Jonny Bairstow, the other Yorkshire player in England's squad who has been omitted from the first two matches, would also seem unlikely to figure unless Flower does make changes to the batting line-up.
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