England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl July 27, 2014

Bell debunks the England theories

England's decline has been the subject of fevered debate. But not for Ian Bell

Play 05:38
Butcher: Bell would make a good captain

Theories surround losing teams like flies gathering on a cow pat. Ian Bell, one of the England senior players who have been under-performing this summer, now finds himself the oldest in the team, never a good look, but that does at least qualify him to consider these theories with a certain amount of wisdom. He doesn't agree with any of them.

There is the theory that England's senior players have been broken by their Ashes whitewash, a proposition that is likely to be favoured by psychologists with a few hourly sessions still to fill.

Then there is the theory that the departure of Andy Flower, a domineering coach, has left a vacuum in the dressing room. This one does not delight defenders of democracy, who prefer to believe that decisions are reached by group discussion, but plays well with video games obsessives who know how things can go wrong if the tyrannical ruler is ever obliterated.

How about the suggestion that the pace of change has left senior players unsettled? People who love that one tend to grow roses and run the village fete: always more content in an unchanging world. As for the one that England's players are spooked by the short ball? That appeals to those who have felt physical pain.

And so the theories go on. As far as Bell himself goes, there is the premise that his batting form has deteriorated because he is feeling the pressure of Kevin Pietersen's enforced departure, which has landed him with the need to play the role of crowd-pleasing star in the middle order. "I've never heard that one," he ventured. These people suspect the shallow age of celebrity and prefer BBC Radio 4.

Of those who wonder whether Bell himself would secretly quite like the captaincy, or that the captaincy would scare him to death, there is no hope. These people are politicians and not to be trusted.

It was fun to watch Bell dismiss all these theories in turn. It was a beautiful innings: he drove some exquisitely through the covers, cut one or two, and pushed a couple back. He played them in his sleep.

As he shook his head graciously, it was possible to imagine Bell time travelling through history, shrugging off the more outlandish theories of the age in inoffensive fashion. On balance, he would have known instinctively that the planet Vulcan did not exist, that the earth was not expanding, that there were not canals on Mars, that people were probably not born with a "blank slate" personality, that cold fusion was not possible, and that it was best to avoid the internet site that claims you can achieve a six-pack in seconds while watching TV. There again, when he was a kid trying to make his way he did own a Bullworker.

In denial mood, he would also dismiss a few truthful ones. In this mood, he could be a government information officer.

Ten debunked theories

India are bowling differently:
"I think we know that India have probably been bowling in better areas than we have - they have bowled very well - hats off to them. But I don't think they've done anything differently. It is Test cricket - you expect periods where it is going to be hard work. The important thing is taking our opportunities.

"The last four games we have actually been in positions to win all four of those and we haven't taken them. And at this level that hurts you. We need to get back to being ruthless. When those opportunities arise we have to win those key periods. Last summer against Australia, we didn't necessarily play our best cricket but we did win the key moments and you have to do that against world class sides. "

Matt Prior's departure now leaves Alastair Cook isolated:
"There has been a few of us for Cookie to go to - I have been lucky enough to be VC for a couple of games and I have enjoyed that. I have enjoyed being part of the discussions and making plans.

"But we have guys there with 250, 300 Test wickets - they know what they want to do in the field. There is plenty of experience - and a lot of guys with good cricket brains. There are a lot of people out there to help."

England's side has changed so quickly it has been disturbing:
"How it has changed is surprising and it's a massive change and whilst we are in a bit of difficult place it's also an exciting place - there's a lot of very good young players."

England's struggling players are suffering the fallout from an Ashes whitewash:
"I don't really buy that - the senior guys have been on tours before to Australia where we have lost and we have all come out the other side okay. After 2006-07, it was the same result and we went on to have one of the best periods of success in English cricket.

"I believe you can learn a lot from bad times - it has had no effect on what's happening to me now. I just love playing for England."

Bell would love to be captain:
"I've not really thought about it - I'm just focusing on my batting. If I am scoring runs it is good for the team."

Bell wouldn't love to be captain:
[Same answer really]

Pietersen's departure has saddled Bell with the role of entertainer:
"It has been different since KP left - when you have relationships in the middle it becomes instinct and now I am having to learn about batting with Gary Ballance and Sam Robson and others. We are doing this for the first time. We are learning very quickly. These things take a bit of time

"I have never really thought about whether I am now the entertainer in the top six. I just want to be myself. Actually, for the last couple of years I've gone the other way. I am not bothered about a glorious cover drive, I just want to score runs."

Bell can't concentrate any more:
"It doesn't feel like that. Sometimes it happens like that. The series before last year's Ashes - the NZ series, I was doing the same thing - getting to 30 and then getting out. Sometimes getting to 30 takes a lot of energy out of you and sometimes the game goes nicely for you but there are no excuses.

"I have had a couple of leaves which have gone to first slip which is odd for me. Some strange dismissals. At Trent Bridge, I was flying - I was 25 off 30 balls, I felt like everything was going perfectly but I am finding ways to get out."

The departure of Andy Flower has left a vacuum in the dressing room:
"There have been a lot of changes so it's always going to take a bit of time. It does feel different in the dressing room but not in a bad way. Peter Moores has a different style to Andy Flower. Paul Farbrace has a different style to Richard Halsall.

"Andy was a hard-working, tough guy as a player and he was exactly like that as a coach. He was very honest with you, either praising you or bollocking you. But, yeah, he was a tough guy. That is what allowed him to be number one in the world as a batter. That shows he's a ruthless guy. He brought that to England."

England are spooked by the short ball because of Mitchell Johnson:
"No, I don't think so. But it isn't the ideal way for us to be getting out - three guys caught on the hook. They will throw that challenge at us again this week, no doubt, but we have to find a method of either getting out of the way of them or keeping the ball down.

"In England, you expect people to pitch the ball up and challenge your forward defence, not so much bounce you. We have spoken about it now and it should never be a shock in Test cricket if someone goes round the wicket to you and tries the short ball on you."

The Bell conclusion? "Stick to your guns, work hard and things will work out."

It is not a theory that will start a revolution. But then revolutions have never really been Ian Bell's style.

Investec, the specialist bank and asset manager, is the title sponsor of Test match cricket in England. Visit investec.co.uk/cricket or follow them on Twitter @InvestecCricket

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 158notout on July 28, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    Patchmaster - last two years? really? What about the 3 centuries in last years Ashes that left him with the Man of the Series award. If he had been one of the players the media latch on to there would already be DVD's of "Bells Ashes".

    It is a testament to the character of Ian Bell that he has managed to come back from various periods out of form and finds himself pretty close to the top of Englands all time century makers (I think he will finish his career behind only Cook) and not far behind in the Test runs either.

  • jackiethepen on July 27, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    The problem Real_Nick is that both Bell and Cook performed very well for their teams, Warwickshire and Essex before the Tests. As soon as they go back to County level they show their class. Ups and downs in Tests are due to the tough level of the game and the longevity of their careers. They are not in a honeymoon period. Their weaknesses were found out long ago and reappear every now and again when form dips or they get a run of bad luck or a combination of the two. Ballance has been outstanding. Surely the pick of the batsmen and he is on the crest of a wave. But he will only be truly judged when the bowlers start probing his weaknesses and he has a lean run. How he comes back from that will prove whether he is a Test batsman or not. Root has just come through such an experience. Root had a rough time of it after an impressive start, but now he's in good shape. Cook has just got runs again. Did anyone really doubt it (captaincy another issue)? Bell has got the same pedigree.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 27, 2014, 15:08 GMT

    I have a theory that has not been answered, and it simply states that guys like Cook, Bell and Prior are human beings that will go through tough periods like this one. There should be no shame attached to taking time away from tests to try and rediscover form/confidence in the County circuit (and in the likes of Prior's case, get stitched back up!). This would invariably by the way give opportunities to new/young players.

  • Patchmaster on July 27, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    Under performed this Summer ? You mean under performed for the last two years. Bel needs to get a cab back to County cricket, along with Cook, Stokes and Broad. Bored of these excuses, time to blood some younger more enthusiastic cricketers that might develop some back bone. Bell and Cook etc, we out thought and out muscled by Aus, and will never recover.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on July 27, 2014, 5:50 GMT

    What can one do except bow one's head....

  • 158notout on July 28, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    Patchmaster - last two years? really? What about the 3 centuries in last years Ashes that left him with the Man of the Series award. If he had been one of the players the media latch on to there would already be DVD's of "Bells Ashes".

    It is a testament to the character of Ian Bell that he has managed to come back from various periods out of form and finds himself pretty close to the top of Englands all time century makers (I think he will finish his career behind only Cook) and not far behind in the Test runs either.

  • jackiethepen on July 27, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    The problem Real_Nick is that both Bell and Cook performed very well for their teams, Warwickshire and Essex before the Tests. As soon as they go back to County level they show their class. Ups and downs in Tests are due to the tough level of the game and the longevity of their careers. They are not in a honeymoon period. Their weaknesses were found out long ago and reappear every now and again when form dips or they get a run of bad luck or a combination of the two. Ballance has been outstanding. Surely the pick of the batsmen and he is on the crest of a wave. But he will only be truly judged when the bowlers start probing his weaknesses and he has a lean run. How he comes back from that will prove whether he is a Test batsman or not. Root has just come through such an experience. Root had a rough time of it after an impressive start, but now he's in good shape. Cook has just got runs again. Did anyone really doubt it (captaincy another issue)? Bell has got the same pedigree.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 27, 2014, 15:08 GMT

    I have a theory that has not been answered, and it simply states that guys like Cook, Bell and Prior are human beings that will go through tough periods like this one. There should be no shame attached to taking time away from tests to try and rediscover form/confidence in the County circuit (and in the likes of Prior's case, get stitched back up!). This would invariably by the way give opportunities to new/young players.

  • Patchmaster on July 27, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    Under performed this Summer ? You mean under performed for the last two years. Bel needs to get a cab back to County cricket, along with Cook, Stokes and Broad. Bored of these excuses, time to blood some younger more enthusiastic cricketers that might develop some back bone. Bell and Cook etc, we out thought and out muscled by Aus, and will never recover.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on July 27, 2014, 5:50 GMT

    What can one do except bow one's head....

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on July 27, 2014, 5:50 GMT

    What can one do except bow one's head....

  • Patchmaster on July 27, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    Under performed this Summer ? You mean under performed for the last two years. Bel needs to get a cab back to County cricket, along with Cook, Stokes and Broad. Bored of these excuses, time to blood some younger more enthusiastic cricketers that might develop some back bone. Bell and Cook etc, we out thought and out muscled by Aus, and will never recover.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 27, 2014, 15:08 GMT

    I have a theory that has not been answered, and it simply states that guys like Cook, Bell and Prior are human beings that will go through tough periods like this one. There should be no shame attached to taking time away from tests to try and rediscover form/confidence in the County circuit (and in the likes of Prior's case, get stitched back up!). This would invariably by the way give opportunities to new/young players.

  • jackiethepen on July 27, 2014, 19:15 GMT

    The problem Real_Nick is that both Bell and Cook performed very well for their teams, Warwickshire and Essex before the Tests. As soon as they go back to County level they show their class. Ups and downs in Tests are due to the tough level of the game and the longevity of their careers. They are not in a honeymoon period. Their weaknesses were found out long ago and reappear every now and again when form dips or they get a run of bad luck or a combination of the two. Ballance has been outstanding. Surely the pick of the batsmen and he is on the crest of a wave. But he will only be truly judged when the bowlers start probing his weaknesses and he has a lean run. How he comes back from that will prove whether he is a Test batsman or not. Root has just come through such an experience. Root had a rough time of it after an impressive start, but now he's in good shape. Cook has just got runs again. Did anyone really doubt it (captaincy another issue)? Bell has got the same pedigree.

  • 158notout on July 28, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    Patchmaster - last two years? really? What about the 3 centuries in last years Ashes that left him with the Man of the Series award. If he had been one of the players the media latch on to there would already be DVD's of "Bells Ashes".

    It is a testament to the character of Ian Bell that he has managed to come back from various periods out of form and finds himself pretty close to the top of Englands all time century makers (I think he will finish his career behind only Cook) and not far behind in the Test runs either.