He may have been axed from the Test team for the winter tour to South Africa, but England captain Alastair Cook insists batsman Ian Bell’s international career is far from over.
Cook said he had been struck by Bell’s determination to win back his place since it was announced last month that he would not be facing the world’s No1 ranked Test side.
The 33-year-old has 118 caps, is eighth in England’s all-time list of Test run scorers, and averages 42.69 but paid the price for his failure to score a century since July 2014.
“You will miss his experience, but I think he would be the first to admit he hasn’t quite scored the runs he would have liked in the last two years,” said Cook.
“It’s a weird thing but missing a tour or missing some time might do him the world of good. I think he’s been on every tour in one sense since 2000, so a bit of time away from the game might do him good.
“I only look at the World Cup squad a year ago and how gutting it was for me to miss that. But two months out of the firing line, some time to be at home, it gave me a new level of understanding and a new lease of life.
“I have spoken to Ian, and it was an interesting phone call. All I got from it is how desperate he is to come back. It’s a great encouragement that a player of his class who has done so much is still hungry to come back at the age of 33 and still show what he can do all over again.”
Cook was speaking at Heathrow Airport on Thursday as the England team prepared to fly out for a tour that lasts almost three months and takes in four Tests, five one-day internationals and two Twenty20s.
The Essex batsman tipped injured paceman Steven Finn to join the tour “sooner rather than later”, although not before the first Test, which begins on Boxing Day in Durban.
Cook also indicated that Nottinghamshire’s Alex Hales was at the front of the queue to be his opening partner.