Freddie's blog

Ian Bell and the tediousness of KP's rants

Is it just me that's growing tired of Kevin Pietersen's tedious rants? I'd hoped after the summer's Ashes win, and the direction in which English cricket appears to be heading, we could finally move on. But it seems, any defeat or difficult selection decision will now be met by KP's 'opinion' which of course will swiftly be followed by a similar opinion from Piers on Twitter. It's as if it's scripted! Now of course, everyone is entitled to opinions, so I thought I'd give my 'opinion' about KP's 'opinion' on recent selection decisions.

If someone had asked supporters whose place is most under threat for the tour to South Africa, many would have said Ian Bell. Here was an experienced player, whose game was all at sea and who was not scoring the runs that were needed. His batting average since his last Test ton in the West Indies is 20.

KP is apparently very, very, very annoyed. He feels it's a ridiculous decision. He can't understand how the selectors can leave someone out, with such experience, against the number one ranked team in the world. You can watch his video rant here:

Now, Ian Bell has long been a bit of an enigma. He is one of the most talented players we have produced. His technique and style are second to none, a modern day David Gower. But, he has been accused by some of not being 'up for the fight', and that he only 'scores great second innings runs'. I've always thought that was a bit harsh. I've seen many brilliant Ian Bell innings, including when the team have been under the pump, but, if England are to be successful we have to have a ruthless streak and there can be no room for sentiment. It's hard to dispute Belly has not had an excellent England career. He's won five Ashes series; he has a Test average of 42; he's scored 22 Test centuries; he scored three outstanding centuries in the summer of 2013, which saw him become a sports personality of the year nominee; he's had an England career we'd all dream of.

However, in top level sport there's comes a time when every sportsman either chooses to move on, or gets moved on. In a previous blog, I mentioned how Sir Alex Ferguson knew when the time was right to move a player on. He didn't let sentiment come into his thinking. Remember Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis, Ruud Van Nisterooy, Roy Keane - match winners for Manchester United. Match winners who were responsible for numerous league titles and cups but who were quickly moved on by Ferguson when he knew they had passed their peak. I hate Manchester United, I can't stand them, but you had to respect Ferguson's ruthless streak. He knew what he had to do to ensure his team continually evolved so it brought sustained success over a long period.

So back to Ian Bell, we're heading off to play South Africa this month, a team who KP rightly says are currently the best in the world, and who possess some truly world class bowlers; so how can we stick with a player who has averaged just 20 since he last scored a Test ton in the tour of the West Indies? Bell has failed against New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan. Three series, not one or two innings. It might seem harsh but if want to be the best team in the world we have to be ruthless. I'm not saying we leave players out after one or two low scores, but Belly has been in decline for a while. If you flip the argument, what has Bell done to justify selection for South Africa? We can't keep saying 'experience', it needs to be about 'performance'. Sadly, the time was right. What Ian Bell has to do now, if he believes he's not in a terminal career decline, is go back to Warwickshire and score a mountain of runs.

KP, unsurprisingly, made a jibe in his video about Alastair Cook and the period in which he had continued to be selected despite not scoring a Test hundred. But there was a difference; Cooky was still scoring runs, albeit not hundreds. His Test batting average in the 12 months before he managed to get that elusive hundred was 41.

With James Taylor batting like he is you cannot leave him out of the side any longer. This was the right decision. I said in my Pakistan blog, that Bell deserved the first opportunity in the UAE, but if he failed, James Taylor has to be given the chance. Bell did not perform in the three Tests.

KP, in recent weeks, also questioned the selectors' decision to leave Jos Buttler out of the final Test of the Pakistan series. Once again, having been at the Test in Dubai, we all said that the right thing to do, was to take Buttler out of the limelight. He'd played non stop cricket and everyone could see he needed a rest. He has a number of areas of his Test match game that he needs to address and I think a lot of fans back home would have agreed. While his keeping has been good, he was struggling with his batting. His average since his debut series against India is also 20. Is that good enough for a wicket keeper batsman in the modern game? It was another correct decision. His one day hundred that followed, highlighted the benefits of giving him a rest. Buttler was then left out of the first T20 game, alongside other senior players, a decision which also met with KP's disapproval. But look at it logically, we have a T20 World Cup in Asia in March. If Buttler is injured, who keeps wicket? Who keeps wicket with some recent T20 experience of keeping in those conditions? It was again absolutely the correct decision to give an understudy the opportunity to experience conditions in front of a big crowd. Billings scored runs, kept well and Buttler was back, as captain, for the next game. England won both games. Those decisions will benefit us, more so than if Buttler had been picked for that first T20 international.

What I'm liking about this current England management team is they are prepared to make difficult/tough decisions. And so far they seem to be making the right calls. Are they going to make mistakes, of course they are, but tell me a captain/coach that hasn't made a selection mistake?

So when I see tweets from KP saying "Was this another Strauss move?" followed by several sarcastic social media emojis, it doesn't make me laugh, it actually makes me sad.

I want to remember KP for those amazing 150s at the Oval, Colombo and Mumbai, but sadly I'm starting to remember this once great player as someone who just seems intent on undermining, where he can, the excellent job that Andrew Strauss, Trevor Bayliss, Alastair Cook and Eoin Morgan are doing right now. It's all very sad.

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