Bell takes over Warwickshire captaincy
Bell, who has represented the club at every stage of the youth system, announced his retirement from international limited-overs cricket in August and was dropped from the Test squad ahead of the tour to South Africa. While he retains hopes of reviving his Test career, he will know that, aged 33, his chances of a recall are dwindling. It is therefore anticipated that he will be available for Warwickshire far more often than has been the case for a decade.
Despite a reputation for diffidence in the England dressing room, Bell is a giant at county level. In a Warwickshire environment where he has been almost unconditionally valued, respected and supported from the start, he has batted with a confidence and dominance he has shown all too rarely at international level.
To see him captain Warwickshire, meanwhile, has been to see a man confident in his ability as batsman and leader, inspired by a love for the team and deeply admired by colleagues and team-mates. He previously led the side to the Clydesdale Bank Trophy in 2010, scoring a century in the final, and has always said it was his ambition to captain the club at some stage. Steeped in Warwickshire folklore – as an 11-year-old he attended the 1993 NatWest final at Lord’s when the club chased down 322 to defeat Sussex – this is a role he will value and embrace. It is not a surprising decision.
“The club and Edgbaston have been a huge part of my life since an early age and, in the past, I have made no secret of my desire to captain the Bears,” Bell said. “I am very proud to now be given the opportunity to lead this exciting squad and to challenge for titles in all forms of the game.”
Ian Bell could be a regular fixture in Warwickshire’s teams throughout the 2016 season © Getty Images
Chopra led Warwickshire to the NatWest Blast T20 trophy in 2014 and second place in both other competitions that season. But his form with the bat appeared to deteriorate with the responsibility of leadership – after recording 1,000 first-class runs in 2011, 2012 and 2013, he failed to do so in his two seasons as captain – and, as a result, his own international aspirations dwindled.
His captaincy also gained mixed reviews. While his calm demeanour was a fine quality when his side was under pressure in the field, in limited-overs cricket especially, it was sometimes interpreted as something approaching apathy over the course of a long season. He is not understood to be especially upset by the decision – indeed, he was party to it – though it will increase the possibility that he returns to a club in the London area in the relatively near future.
Warwickshire were fifth in Division One of the County Championship in 2015 – a modest result for a strong squad – and made it to the semi-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast. They finished the season looking oddly weary, however, and with the dressing room less content than it had been for several years.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as captain of the Bears and regard our NatWest T20 Blast success in 2014 as one of the best moments of my career,” Chopra said. “Whilst it has been a difficult decision to make, I feel that focusing on my batting is in the best interests of the team and I’m looking forward to fully supporting Ian and hopefully contributing to more success in 2016 and beyond.”
There is talk within the club that Dougie Brown, the current director of cricket, could also make way in the near future. There are those who feel that Jim Troughton, the captain when the team won the Championship in 2012, would make a better director of cricket. Brown’s record, however, is impressive – he won a trophy in 2014 – and the club have limited resources to make such a change.
While they announced record profits of £3.7m for the last year (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) earlier in the week, they face a tricky year or two, with lower-profile international fixtures to host and a huge debt to service. They recently cancelled their pre-season tour of Barbados and replaced it with a cheaper tour to Dubai.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo