Ian Bell can’t wait to return to a packed-out Edgbaston on Sunday, although he admits it’ll feel ‘strange’ that he’s in the away dressing room. 

The renowned cover drive king, who embarked on a 22-year playing career with Warwickshire and England, will return to the place he’s called home since a fresh-faced ten-year-old from the village of Dunchurch, near Rugby arrived at the Edgbaston youth system.

From boy to man, Bell became one of the most decorated batters in Warwickshire’s history, winning six trophies across all formats, including two County Championships, and he’s the only Bear to have won more than 100 Test caps for England.

On the international stage, Bell is also one of only three English men’s cricketers to have won the Ashes five times and only two batters have scored more than his 5,416 runs in ODI cricket.

In 118 Test matches for England, he scored 7,727 runs at an average of 42.69, including 22 centuries.

But since retirement as a player, opportunity knocks. 

The 41-year-old is now embarking on a coaching career that has seen stints at Derbyshire, Hobart Hurricanes, England U19s and Lions as well as his current role with the Birmingham Phoenix.

His next challenge is with New Zealand, where he will be joining the coaching staff for the white-ball tour to England.

“The opportunity to join New Zealand ahead of their tours to England and Bangladesh is very exciting,” said Bell. 

“I got to know Gary Stead (Head Coach) last year and I know Simon Inslie (New Zealand Manager) from Hobart Hurricanes. Luke Ronchi is the assistant coach, who played for Warwickshire, so there’s a lot of familiarity. 

“With the busy schedules, it’s pretty common to not only see players rotating in and out, but coaching staff too. I’m looking forward to it, to be honest, and I’m just looking to help the group in the best way I can.”

Bell will join the Black Caps as Gary Stead’s assistant for the T20 series against England later this month before taking on the role of batting coach for the four ODIs. 

The first T20 takes place in Durham on Wednesday, with the second following on Saturday in Manchester. A sold-out Edgbaston welcomes the two sides on Sunday (2.30pm start).

“Since I’ve retired, I’ve tried to be as busy as possible,” Bell added. “Just like being a young player, you have to put in the hard yards and get out of your comfort zone, whilst encountering several different environments.

“Hopefully, one day the right role at the right time will come up, but at the moment I’m loving the opportunity to work with the best coaches and players around the world. 

“When I came to Edgbaston this year with Derbyshire it was certainly very strange not being on the Warwickshire side and I’m sure it’ll feel even stranger putting on that New Zealand tracksuit for the first time. 

“But to be honest, I feel like the overlap between franchise and international cricket has certainly elevated since I started so this is a lot more common. I’m a big admirer of the New Zealand set-up and I think they tactically and culturally get things right.

“They play hard, but in the right spirit and I’m looking forward to being a part of a well-respected group.”

Without a spare seat in the house, Edgbaston will be electric. On the back of an Ashes summer that saw drama on and off the field, there is certainly a buzz around English cricket. 

Both sides may have eyes on a bigger prize – specifically the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in India in India in October – but they’re desperate to prepare on a positive foot.

“Any tour of England is a great tour and I know they’re excited to continue their preparations against a strong side,” concluded the right-hander.

“Having called Edgbaston home, I know what that atmosphere can create in terms of drama or key moments. It’s a fantastic venue to play at and the England squad would always say that when they came here. 

“The support that England, Warwickshire and now Birmingham Phoenix receive is incredible and I’m excited to return and enjoy what will be a fantastic spectacle. 

“I just hope the Edgbaston faithful go easy on me if I have to drop a water bottle around the boundary!”

Additional tickets released for first three days of West Indies Test

A small number of tickets have been released for the first three days of our Men’s Test against West Indies this summer (26-30 Juy).

Tickets are limited for these day and are expected to sell quickly. Early Bird tickets for Day Four are still available if purchased before midnight on 31 March.

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