Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Farewell Ian Bell

Ian Ronald Bell, the maker of Slipstream centuries, the sledgehammer of eternal justice, and the patron saint of this blog has announced his retirement from all forms of professional cricket. 

"Bell would have reached his 100 only if Cook had reached his. So all this is Cook's fault." 
One fine evening, more than a decade back, I sent in the above comment to cricinfo’s text commentary for South Africa-England Test match at Newlands. And lo and behold – the comment got published (my first ever!). And that was the impetus needed to start a dedicated cricket blog. (The debut) And Ian Bell was anointed the patron saint of "Slipstream Cricket".

Bell had developed a reputation for getting a century only when at least one other batsman had got a hundred in the same innings. This penchant for so called slipstream centuries also gave this blog its name. Of course, Bell duly corrected this anomaly after some 10 attempts, but I guess reputations stick. 

And my favourite cricket columnist/humourist, Andy Zaltzman (Twitter) gave him the lovely moniker of “the sledgehammer of eternal justice” – an apt one considering the superhero era we live in! (Reddit)

Bell ends his career with over 7,700 international runs with 22 Test centuries and a test average of 42. Not a particularly great number in an era where 50+ averages are not uncommon. But somehow, stats never seem to do justice to English batsmen. Graham Gooch had a similar average and Michael Atherton who finished with similar tally has a batting average similar to Shahid Afridi's in Test! Bell also finished with over 5,000 ODI runs which was England’s highest tally at that time. 

English cricketers are judged by their performances against the old enemy. And this is where Bell stood out. Being part of 5 Ashes winning campaigns (and 2 losing one’s) spoke of both his longevity & the increased frequency of Ashes contests. And like fine wine he aged well in the Ashes battles. From being Warne’s bunny and barely able to get a run in the classic 2005 series to three centuries in the 2013 series – that is a mark of resilience in a cricketer! 

From an Indian perspective he got his highest test score against India. But the moment which stands out is that brain-fade run-out at the stroke of Tea. The spirit of cricket had to be invoked, India withdrew the appeal, and Bell came back to bat. In a miserable tour for India, we got some points in the spirits stake at least! (BBC)

His run in the longer format may have been cut short, although he was good enough for one last recall which unfortunately never came. And after announcing his retirement post a measly domestic run, has now gotten twin 50s in his final first-class game. 

Farewell Ian Bell. That straight drive will be missed. 

P.S. the man can play a perfect straight drive to a toilet paper roll as well!