IAN Bell believes Kevin Pietersen should be given the chance to fight his way back into England’s Test team.
But the Warwickshire batsman has thrown his full weight behind Andrew Strauss, claiming he trusts and respects England’s new director of cricket.
“Kevin is a quality player, probably the best I’ve ever played with”Ian Bell
Bell hailed Pietersen as “probably the best player I’ve ever played with” and then challenged England to shelve the Surrey run-maker’s situation for the good of a challenging summer.
“This has been dragging on for a long time,” said Bell of the Pietersen saga. “It’s a pretty packed middle order right now. But if he keeps scoring runs maybe there’s a position in time.
“Everyone deserves that opportunity now with a long summer ahead.”
New England chief Strauss told Pietersen on Monday night his Test career remains in the long grass, despite the 34-year-old blasting an unbeaten 326 just hours earlier.
Pietersen moved on to 355 not out in Surrey’s championship clash against Leicestershire at The Oval on Tuesday morning – while Strauss was battling to justify snubbing the South Africa-born showman across town at Lord’s.
Bell refused to be drawn on behind-the-scenes discussions on controversial star Pietersen’s situation, claiming he had no knowledge of captain Alastair Cook moving to block a recall for the former Hampshire batsman. Pietersen has been in the England wilderness since being sacked in February 2014 following the disastrous Ashes whitewash.
Incoming England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Colin Graves reignited Pietersen’s Test hopes by telling the player to find a county and score runs to resurrect his international career.
Strauss immediately countermanded that missive in his first public appearance as England’s new figurehead on Tuesday however, sparking widespread outcry.
Bell backed Strauss to lead England into a new era, admitting the Test squad can ill afford to linger over Pietersen’s situation with Test series against both New Zealand and Australia ahead.
“There won’t be a quick fix for us now, it will take Andrew Strauss time, I’m sure he’ll have that,” said Bell.
“As a bloke, would I have faith in him and trust him? Yes I would.
“Kevin is a quality player, probably the best I’ve ever played with. I don’t know what’s been going on in these meetings. I don’t know what’s been said. It’s no good as players us worrying about that.
“Will it harm our chances not to have him this summer? If we think about it and let it come into our dressing room and talk about it, yes it probably might.
“That’s all we can do as players, focus on what comes next.
“We haven’t been very good over the last 12 months, that’s the reality. So we have to start putting in performances now.”
Bell even conceded Pietersen would be right to feel aggrieved at his treatment, if Graves had explicitly told him top form would warrant his inclusion in England’s selection argument.
“I played ten years with Kevin, we both went through highs and lows, and went through a lot of cricket together,” said Bell.
“I don’t know that conversation [with Graves] or how that took place. If that did happen and then you get 350, of course you can be a little aggrieved, can’t you? But you’d have to ask Colin Graves about that.” Meanwhile, England have named uncapped pair Adam Lyth and Mark Wood in their squad of 12 for next week’s first Investec Test against New Zealand at Lord’s.
The first squad of this Ashes summer, and of the Strauss era, consists entirely of players who toured West Indies for much of the past month.
Yorkshire opener Lyth and Durham fast bowler Wood did not feature there in any of the three Tests of a drawn series, but both could instead make a debut at Lord’s.
Lyth, in particular following the retirement of Jonathan Trott, can be inked in as Cook’s opening partner against the Kiwis. An ECB press release spelled that out yesterday afternoon.
It read: “Yorkshire batsman Adam Lyth is set to make his debut next week when he opens the batting alongside England captain Alastair Cook. Durham pace bowler Mark Wood, who made his one-day international debut against Ireland last week, is the only other player uncapped at Test level included in the squad.”
After a meeting with Strauss yesterday morning, national selector James Whitaker added: “Adam Lyth has waited patiently for an opportunity with England, having performed consistently for Yorkshire and England Lions in the last year.
“He fully deserves his chance to cement a place in the side at the top of the order.”
Wood may have to wait a little longer, but has the chance to vie for the third seamer’s spot with incumbent Chris Jordan.