Hong Kong: Ian Bell is hoping success in Twenty20 cricket will help convince England’s new hierarchy he’s ripe for a return to the national team — and a tilt at a remarkable sixth Ashes series victory.
The middle-order batsman hasn’t played a Test for more than a year but after a stint in Australia’s Big Bash League, he’s turning his attentions to this week’s T20 Blitz in Hong Kong.
Bell, 34, averaged 33 in 10 Big Bash games for Perth Scorchers — including a vital 61 on debut — and he knows runs on the board are the only way to force his way back into the England reckoning.
“I’ll have to start the [County] season well,” Bell said on a cool afternoon in Hong Kong, where he is among several big names to play the T20 Blitz’s second edition.
“I’ve had conversations with England so the door, I know, isn’t shut, so maybe there’s a couple of places up for grabs.
“So if I can start the season well, which is one of the reasons I wanted to come here... by the time I get back in April, hopefully, I’m a bit further down the line.”
While Bell lines up for HKI United at Hong Kong’s modest Mission Road ground, his former England colleagues are wrapping up a three-match one-day series in the balmy West Indies.
Bell saw Joe Root and Ben Stokes, England’s new Test captain and vice-captain, at a recent function, and he said he was watching their impact on the team with interest.
“It’s going to be intriguing, especially with an Ashes series round the corner this time next year,” said Bell.
“With [Root] and [Australia’s] Steve Smith you’ve got two of the best young players of the world, who are captains as well.”
The T20 Blitz is one of a number of new Twenty20 tournaments around the world, which are giving fresh opportunities to players on the fringes of national selection.
Darren Sammy, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Misbah-ul-Haq are also among the foreign players at the five-day Hong Kong tournament, while Brian Lara and Shahid Afridi are acting as team mentors.
“It’s an opportunity to get out of the cold in England and come and play some good cricket on some grass surfaces, which is important,” said Bell.
“I’ve been very lucky to have played for England for 12 years. This winter is the first winter I haven’t been with England so it’s opened a few of the doors to do things like this,” he added.
After Hong Kong, the Warwickshire captain will start his pre-season in Dubai, before the County season opens in early April.
Bell needs to make a quick impression with the next Ashes series starting in November — where he is aiming to outstrip England great Ian Botham with his sixth Ashes win against Australia.
“If I’ve still got aspirations to get back in the England team, which I have, to get out and get in middle and score some runs is always a good thing,” added Bell.
“Through my career I’ve predominantly played a lot of red-ball cricket and Test match cricket, so it’s good for me to try to get better and work on these T20 skills because, hopefully, in the next two or three years I’ll play a lot of T20 cricket,” he said.