IAN Bell insists he will embark on the 2018 season this week refreshed, rebooted and having “given myself the best chance to have a great season,” writes Brian Halford.
Warwickshire face Sussex in the season-opener at Edgbaston on Friday and as the club prepares for its first season of Division Two Specsavers County Championship cricket since 2008, Bell’s challenge is to bounce back from a personal nightmare 2017 season.
He scored just 596 championship runs at 25.91, looked a shadow of the player who has scored almost 8,000 Test runs for England and resigned the captaincy mid-season.
But after a first winter without competitive cricket in almost 20 years, he feels rejuvenated and ready to be a big contributor under new captain Jeetan Patel in 2018.
“Last season was tough,” he said. “Personally, I have always set such high standards and not to hit those standards was disappointing.
“When you come out of an England side that you have been part of for 12 years it’s a very different situation to go through that cycle back into county cricket.
“There were many reasons for what happened last season, but now I feel in a good place in terms of controlling what I can control.
“I’m going into the season knowing I have done absolutely everything I can. You always know that, as a batsman, you are going to have some poor games and get some low scores but I have given myself the best chance to have a great season.
“I’m just looking forward to the season, helping to support Jeets any way I can and leading from the front, whether that’s by scoring runs or with my behaviour and preparation and how we talk about the game and how we play the game. Basically what I have done throughout my whole career.”
First up for Warwickshire, on Friday, is the championship opener against Sussex at Edgbaston.
Bell has some happy history against Sussex, his career-best 262 not out came against them at Horsham in 2004, but knows they will present a tough challenge for the Bears, as will Division Two as a whole this year.
“Sussex are a good side and there are plenty of good sides in Division Two,” he said. “We have to show a lot of respect to opposing teams but also play with the confidence that we are a strong side.
“We have a stronger squad this year and everyone is fully fit which is different to the last couple of years.
“That respect we show is going to be very important. We can’t just believe we will automatically get promoted. You see teams in football make that mistake and they come a cropper. “