Time for Bell to take on pivotal England role

ENGLAND have been thoroughly outplayed in the opening two one-day internationals against India and there is every danger this series could end up being a whitewash if changes aren’t made.

I don’t want to be overly critical as India is an exceptionally tough place to tour at the best of times, and having been destroyed by England in all formats of the game over the summer, they were always going to be determined, in front of their own fans, to right a few wrongs.

Furthermore, I’ve been reasonably encouraged about the steps that have been taken to revamp the side following the World Cup in March, but there is one department that clearly isn’t functioning and that’s the opening combination.

England have attempted to go down the pinch-hitting route with Craig Kieswetter, and before him Steven Davies and Matt Prior have both tried and failed.

It’s a pretty thankless task to be asked to go out there and hit sixes from the first ball – it’s a high-risk strategy that is likely to pay-off less than 50 per cent of the time unless your name is Adam Gilchrist.

Having said that, this is a tour for experimentation and as this is essentially a young side, I feel it’s time for England’s senior batsman to be entrusted with extra responsibility, and for me that means opening with Ian Bell.

There was a suggestion that Bell had been a bit under the weather and that’s the only explanation I can offer for him having been left out of the opening two games.

England experimented with Kevin Pietersen opening the batting at the World Cup before he got injured, but right now I’d say Bell has surpassed him as our most complete batsman.

Pietersen exploded onto the scene with those three centuries against South Africa, the type of which we’d never seen the like of from an England player, but to me those days are gone.

Bell, even at his best, will never provide the same sort of fireworks but he can play shots all around the wicket and is capable of batting out 50 overs in a way that none of the top order, Jonathan Trott aside, albeit at a slower pace, seem capable of right now.

Elsewhere, the selectors have shown a tremendous amount of patience and faith in Samit Patel and as hard as he’s worked on his game I just don’t see him developing into anything more than a bits and pieces cricketer.

I championed the young leg-spinner from Durham, Scott Borthwick, last week and although pitching him in at this stage of the series would represent a baptism of fire, if you’re going to take these guys on tour it would serve them better in the long run to be out there in the middle, rather than simply taking in the sights.