Ian Bell: Out of Favour or Out of Position?

BW BlackContributor IFebruary 23, 2009

Batting orders can often be very difficult things to get right. On the face of it, there appears no difference between batting at No. 3 or 4 or 5. It's still your skill and talent against that of the bowlers you are facing. However, over a period of time, matching how you bat to where you bat can be absolutely vital.

One particular position that is vital to get right is No.3 in the batting lineups. All of the most successful teams have had very productive No. 3s. Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, and Vivian Richards spring to mind as dominant batsmen at first wicket down.

They are extrovert characters who impose themselves on the opposition.

Conversely Ian Bell has been asked to do a job for England that he is not ideally suited. This is in spite of the fact he was want to bat at No. 3 and has had success there at county level. Test cricket is different.

Ian Bell is a steady run accumulator, who knocks the ball around with great technique and superb timing. If you are looking for parallels in world cricket, his style and pace is similar to Michael Clarke of Australia and Sachin Tendulkar of India.

It is a very interesting fact that Clarke and Tendulkar have never batted at No. 3. That's right, the great Sachin Tendulkar, widely regarded as a batting genius and perhaps the most naturally gifted batsmen of recent times, has never batted at first wicket down in a test match.

He has averaged 56.14 at No. 4 and yet never gone in one position higher. Clarke averages 55.30 at No. 5 but has yet to bat at No. 3.

If you look beyond No. 3 in the batting order, it is interesting to look at how England batsmen have fared in the positions No. 4 to No. 6 in the last 10 years:

 

PlayerRunsAverage100s
KP Pietersen422050.2315
IR Bell195450.108
GP Thorpe317449.599
PD Collingwood289643.228
N Hussain205137.984
MP Vaughan110133.362
A Flintoff211132.983
AJ Stewart187432.873

In other words, away from No. 3, Ian Bell averages over 50 and has been very similar in his production to Kevin Pietersen and more in line with Sachin Tendulkar and Michael Clarke. His record in these positions has certainly been far superior to his closest rival Paul Collingwood.

Ian Bell has been dropped from the England team for a poor run of form. He has manfully tried to fill England's problem position at No. 3, but it should be remembered that he can be a prolific batsman for England if he is allowed to bat in his natural position.