Bell committed to England cause
Ian Bell will miss the second Test with India to attend the birth of his first child, but the batsman is fully focused on his involvement in England’s tour.
Before this trip Bell agreed with team director Andy Flower that he will skip the second Test of four at Mumbai.
“I had a really good chat with Andy in the summer, and he was really supportive about me going home,” he said.
Bell will fly home immediately after the opening Test at Ahmedabad, which starts on Thursday week, and return to the tour five days before the third game in Kolkata.
It would be understandable if Bell’s mind were not entirely on his profession even now, with first-time parenthood so imminent, yet he believes he has managed to make sure it is when it needs to be.
“That’s part of being a professional cricketer,” he added. “There are some big things going on in the next couple of weeks for me, but I’m still desperate every time I put an England shirt on to score as many runs (as possible). That’s what I’ve got to do.
“At the back of my mind, there have been a lot of other things going on - things I’ve been thinking about, not just cricket. That’s exciting, but I want to perform as well.
“I’m very lucky. My wife and family are very supportive. Chantal would never be putting any pressure on me to be thinking about ’there’; everything will be very much focused on here until the day I get home. I’m very much 100% focused on what I’m doing right here.”
The 30-year-old faces significant challenges on the pitch this winter, having fallen slightly short this year of the prolific standards he set throughout 2011, and with a point to prove that he can be as effective in the sub-continent as he is elsewhere.
He expects to regain his place when he returns from his fatherly duties, but will not be taking that for granted.
“I’d like to think so,” he said. “Andy was really supportive and keen for me to go home but disappointed I will not be around.
“If we win the Test that I miss and something happens, I will have to fight like hell to get my place back. That’s the risk you take. But it is the most exciting part of my life, and I am willing to do that.
“I’d like to think I’d be able to come straight back into the team, and I hope we win the Test.”
Part of Bell might still want to journey on to Mumbai rather than Birmingham on November 19 - but he insists his young family must take priority.
“Obviously, you don’t want to miss a Test match if you can (help it),” he added. “But my family will come first, and that’s what I want to do.
“You don’t want to give your place up. I’ve been in positions before when I’ve been left out - and it’s not nice - so I don’t want to give anyone else the opportunity to take my place.
“I’m really excited about going home, but I love playing every game I can for England.”
Bell avoided a golden duck against Mumbai A yesterday, thanks to a dropped catch at backward short-leg, and went on to make his first worthwhile runs in three innings on tour with 28 not out.
Even so, he knows he has something to prove to himself and others when it comes to playing spin in India.
“I probably haven’t had as much success out here as other places,” he said. “I see that as a bit of a challenge now.
“I see my playing of spin generally as pretty good. But I haven’t scored the big hundreds out here in India that I would like. Obviously, the conditions are completely different to what we normally see and grow up with.
“The difficult thing in the middle order is starting, and trying to get through your first 20 or 30 deliveries. If you work really hard in those first 30 balls, then you hope as a group we can go on and bat big.”
England’s struggles against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last winter - when Bell made just 51 runs in six innings - have sown doubts in some quarters about how they will fare in India.
“I know obviously last winter was a really hard series personally,” he added.
“I’ve worked as hard as I can since that tour on my playing of spin, and I look forward to these challenges now.”