Ian Bell
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England middle-order batsman

The Investec Ashes 2013

The fulfilment of a boyhood dream

To go unbeaten for the first time in an Ashes series since 1977, alongside players whose records will stand the test of time, is an achievement to cherish

Ian Bell

August 28, 2013

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Ian Bell celebrates his magnificent hundred, England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day, July 13, 2013
"The summer of my career" © Getty Images
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As we sat on the pitch long after the conclusion of the Oval Test, an appreciation of what we had achieved began to settle upon us.

Sitting in that group, it felt as if I was part of something special. To win the Ashes - and go unbeaten for the first time in an Ashes series since 1977 - alongside the likes of Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann - players whose records will, I think, stand the test of time - has been the fulfilment of a boyhood dream and something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I feel lucky to have been a part of it and lucky to be part of such a strong team.

This has been the summer of my career. The year 2011 was great, with runs against Sri Lanka and India, but to contribute in an Ashes victory is what you dream about when you're growing up. I've heard people say that the 2013 series may, in years to come, be known as "Bell's Ashes" in the same way that 1981 is known as "Botham's Ashes". All I can say is that if that does happen, I would consider it an incredible honour.

Even as I sat on the pitch the other night, my mind reflected on all those people who had helped me get to that position. There was Neal Abberley, for so long my batting coach at Warwickshire; there was Bob Woolmer, the inspirational director of cricket at the same club; there was John Inverarity, who helped us win the County Championship in 2004 and is now chairman of selectors for Australia; and there is Graham Gooch. There is no way I could have achieved all that I have without their help.

Abberley has been the key influence on my career. Whether I was scoring hundreds for England or ducks for Warwickshire, whether I had been selected or been dropped, whether it was a beautiful day or raining outside, he was always there to help me with my batting, he always believed in me. And Warwickshire, as a club, always celebrated my success and welcomed me back. Sadly Abbers, like Wolly, is no longer with us, but I was thinking of both of them on Sunday night and I will forever be grateful for their influence in my life.

One of the other men who has shaped me as a cricketer is Andy Flower. He has been outstanding for England since he was appointed at the start of 2009. He has instilled a toughness, a non-negotiable attitude towards improving fitness, and he has given our cricket an edge that I believe was lacking previously.

But at the same time, he is wonderfully calm in the dressing room. He insists you give your best at all times, but as long as you do, he is completely supportive, he keeps things simple and he provides small targets to ensure focus and discipline.

One of the first decisions he made when he became coach in 2009 was to drop me. It was a horrible moment, but I owe so much to that decision as it drove me to become a better player. I think the records show that I averaged 40.59 in Test cricket before that happened and 53.58 afterwards.

Even when Andy was leaving me out - and he has left me out of a few sides along the way - I felt he wanted me in the team and that the decision had been made for my betterment. He just felt there were aspects of the game I needed to work on and that I would come back hungrier, fitter and better prepared. He was quite right and I'm grateful for the strength he had in making that decision and his support in helping me improve.

 
 
One of the first decisions Andy Flower made when he became coach in 2009 was to drop me. It was a horrible moment, but I owe so much to that decision
 

It's not for me to talk about Andy's future but, whatever he does decide to do next, I believe his place in the records is assured. He has been the best coach England have ever had and he has played a key part in the success we have had.

Whatever happens next, though, I feel England are quite well placed for the future. In the team and the coaching staff, there is an element of succession planning that is designed to ensure sustained success. So although there is an experienced spine to this team - the side could have four players with 100 Test caps in a year or two - there are younger guys, such as Joe Root, coming in and refreshing it. The balance is good.

It's the same with the coaching. Ashley Giles spends a lot of time with the squad. So if and when Andy decides he wants to move on, there will be a smooth transition and not a huge culture change. It's sensible management.

We saw a couple of guys come into the team in this last Test. Chris Woakes showed he has a good temperament and he would have surprised a few people with his batting. He has a lot of skill as a bowler, too, and I can see no reason why he can't develop into an allrounder, batting in the top six or seven and operating as a fourth seamer.

I know what a good bowler Simon Kerrigan is, too. I was his maiden first-class wicket and since then have somewhat become his bunny: he must have got me out three or four times. He had a tough debut but he is only 24 and just has to look at the example of Graeme Swann, who did not peak until his late 20s, to see there is plenty of time for him. He'll be back.

People have asked me many times what I have done differently this year. The answer is nothing. The only thing I am doing differently is writing for ESPNcricinfo! I haven't changed my technique much since I made my Test debut in 2004. The thing that has changed, over time, is my self-belief. When I look back now, I'm not sure I really had the confidence to succeed in Test cricket when I started.

I'm going to be taking some time off now. It would have been difficult to focus on limited-overs cricket with my mind still so fresh with Ashes memories and, to be honest, still thinking about the next five Tests we have against Australia. I will be popping in to Edgbaston to see my Warwickshire team-mates, but I won't be playing. I need a break.

It's a shame that some stories have emerged that might overshadow our success. As far as I'm concerned, nothing that went on after the game the other day is a big deal and it would be a shame if a wonderful summer for England was not remembered as it should be. This is a great time for English cricket. Let's celebrate that.

Ian Bell was speaking to George Dobell

A fixture in England's middle order for almost a decade, Ian Bell has played in four Ashes-winning sides

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Posted by fanaticric on (August 31, 2013, 5:38 GMT)

Ian Bell has within a series has grown from being a good players falling in the bracket of the previous english players like micheal vaughan, mike artherton, david gower to becoming a player who can be called great falling in the bracket of global players like sangakkara, jayawardene, inzy, yousuf, laxman, smith, clarke, KP etc.

Nobody thought that Bell would emerge as the HERO for the Poms just like Ryan Harris for the Aussies..

Posted by jackiethepen on (August 30, 2013, 16:37 GMT)

Bell was the outstanding batsman of the Series, well clear of both teams. Not only did he contribute most runs by a distance but his three centuries came when his side was in dire trouble at some low score for 3. The media will never rush to crown him, but if these aren't Bell's Ashes then whose are they? On bowler friendly pitches with high class batsmen crashing all around him, matched by the opposition with Clarke struggling, he turned around three games with great Test batting. A team player to the end, Bell risked his wicket for a run to get England over the line at the Oval, in a losing cause thanks to the umpires, thereby reducing his average from 70 to 62. I'm glad he's that kind of player. That's why he's matured. He puts the team first. That's why he came to England's rescue when needed. Bell's Ashes. Man of the Series couldn't go to a more deserving player in all senses of the word. Got the Compton Medal too. Can we have that updated on his Profile please?

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (August 29, 2013, 22:06 GMT)

Bell is well known for being the most aesthetically pleasing batsman in the world. He is known amongst his team for being the the ultimate 'net batsman' (because his shots in the nets look better anyone else). He now is an international legend with 20+ test centuries to his name. The most textbook and sublime batsman in the world.

Posted by Jaffa79 on (August 29, 2013, 17:04 GMT)

@ gsingh7, is there a rule on these pages that if someone happens to mention a batsman, then an Indian fan must twist whatever comment into a discussion about Sachin Tendulkar? Now, I am not saying he isn't one of the greats (to stop cricinfo from getting 4,000,000 posts in a matter of hours) but is that completely relevant? I know you are still smarting over England destroying India at home but do let it go pal...

Posted by IPSY on (August 29, 2013, 12:41 GMT)

DustBowl, I don't think that anything was ever wrong with Bell's 'mental strength'. His problem was a case of 'bizarre selection policy' period! How could a coach drop a youngster who was exuding the type of talent and class that we're seeing from Ian Bell, when he was averaging "41.00" in test matches, just because he failed in one or two matches; then the youthful Bell had to sit back and watch touted big names in batting, who don't quite look as classy as Bell, going around the world out of form for 2 and 3 years; failing match after match; averaging in the 20s and still not being dropped - but still being touted among the best? This is heart wrenching - enough was to drive the youth to give up the game! We really have to give him credit for his resoluteness and indomitability! Ian, I don't think that you've done enough yet in test cricket to be mentioned among the Bradmans, Soberses, Viv Richardses, Laras, Gavascars, Hobbs and Pietersens - but you're right up there with the rest.

Posted by gsingh7 on (August 29, 2013, 8:36 GMT)

bell have improved leaps and bounds after his first ball duck vs India. still greatness is not bestowed but achieved by hard work and consistency.ever since kp said that cook will be top scorer in tests, he has had a miserable time. failing in the just concluded ashes.just hoping no one will now claim that bell will surpass sachin's record of 15000 plus test runs and 100 internatinal centuries, that might put extra pressure over bell to perform.sachin,amla,kohli,pujara,bell ,clarke,sanga and murali vijay all have good looking strokes in their own ways,but still sachin is most pleasing to eyes of millions.bell has a long way to go to close gap at top of batting ranks.

Posted by DustBowl on (August 29, 2013, 8:27 GMT)

I'm beginning to appreciate Bell. I've always liked his technique and style, but his mental strength appeared lacking. Sherminator to Terminator has taken NINE years. I guess the Gods don't give you top strength AND top ability; eg S Waugh, G Boycott. Even in this successful series he got out very early in a silly Ahmedabad way.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (August 28, 2013, 21:52 GMT)

@ jmcilhinney. What absolute nonsense! Capt. Meanster is right. Saffas are outraged!!! We all know that Graeme Smith is the most elegant stroke player in cricket. Who would not sell their firstborn simply to witness Smith at his most sublime? That silky smooth cover drive, the effortless flick that is his late cut, the apparent block that is truly a back foot punch racing away for four. A symphony in motion, his balletic grace will always be remembered by ….. well his mum for one! Maybe the only one? Probably the only one! Ummmm, make that definitely. We are still outraged though, just as a matter of principle. The Captain taught us well.

Posted by Alexk400 on (August 28, 2013, 19:21 GMT)

He was always had pretty looking strokes but gets out often at wrong time. But now he stays in the crease which if he continues , he will be great player like KP.

Posted by DoubleKickDrum on (August 28, 2013, 18:37 GMT)

Without Ian Bell, a 3-0 win could have easily been a draw or even series loss. He was always a class player but now believes in himself a lot more. You can see it in the way he goes about the crease.

Hopefully 10,000 test runs at an average of 50 is possible by the time he call's it a day. His average is going in the right direction.

Posted by IPSY on (August 28, 2013, 15:32 GMT)

Ian, your appearance on the field of play gives the impression of a very cool, calm and collective, intelligent and tactful customer. Your writing vindicates your intelligent deportment on the field. I'm particularly impressed with your tact. We get the gist of what you're trying to say about Coach Andy Flower: "One of the first decisions he made when he became coach in 2009 was to drop me". It was really 'horrible' to drop you when you were averaging 41.00, which is "a very good average in test cricket", when there was no better player than you outside of the team! When you noted that Mr Flower, "..has left [you] out of a few sides along the way..", it also dawned on me that it's because you're an indomitabile young man why you're now celebrating the the just rewards for being so! I've always been an ardent fan of your peerless elegant strokeplay. And I always wondered why were you so easily dropped, when so many other international players were performing worse and not being dropped!

Posted by   on (August 28, 2013, 14:13 GMT)

Nice piece. The flare and magic that you have in your batting reminds us of that you are a special player who have the art of people like Mark Waugh and VVS Laxman. Plus th short catching at short leg is best one could see in a long long time.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 28, 2013, 13:34 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster on (August 28, 2013, 7:13 GMT), I didn't say that Bell is the best batsman. I too believe that Amla and several others are better than he is, although that may change if he can continue the form he showed in this series. What I said was that Bell is the best batsman TO WATCH. There are other elegant batsmen around, with Amla and Sangakarra being two of my favourites, but, as far as I'm concerned, noone is in the same class as Bell when it comes to sheer beauty of stroke play. Also, unless something has changed, Amla plays at #3 for SA. Maybe you were only watching their ODIs and not their Tests ;-) Then again, Bell opens in ODIs too.

Posted by SDHM on (August 28, 2013, 12:59 GMT)

The thing with Bell is that there just always seems to be a caveat for people like me, who have criticised him plenty at times. First it was that he didn't score tough runs, which I think we can finally put to bed. Now it'll be his away record, which, if he keeps this sort of form up, will also be put to bed before too long. Been an absolute pleasure to watch him bat this series. Long may it continue. Nice to see some words of encouragement for Simon Kerrigan too. He had a Weston-super-Mare, but he'll be back, especially if he keeps getting Belly out!

Posted by alarky on (August 28, 2013, 12:12 GMT)

This is what I think about Bell: "Ian Bell is a much better player than the world gives him credit for. I see on various occasions, certain selectors allowing their guys to play out of form for a consecutive number of years, averaging just in the 20s and not ever thinking about droping them, yet they are still being accorded the mantle of 'greatness'! But, Ian Bell who is just as talented, in every way, as any of them, but who operates in a different system, where players are dropped every time they play a bad match, is not seen in the same light! Example, I think if the English had a similar selection policy to India's, where certain players are allowed to play for consecutive years, out of form, until they return to form, Bell's stature as a batsman could also have been a name touted with greatness, because based on pure talent, he's 'right up there' with them! So, some who're not necessarily better than Bell were given 3 times his OPPORTUNITIES without pressure to be called great"!

Posted by Trapper439 on (August 28, 2013, 11:37 GMT)

Good read.

As an Aussie fan I feel that Bell was ultimately the difference between the two sides in a series that was closer than the final 3-0 result would suggest. He should be very proud of what he achieved in this (Northern) summer.

Comparisons to Botham's Ashes in 1981 are perhaps a bit over the top, but this was indeed Bell's series.

Well played, mate.

Posted by RaviMahendroo on (August 28, 2013, 9:18 GMT)

Great series for Bell.I remember the Ashes in 2005 when many people said he did not deserve a place in the team.He has been a very valuable member of this team,we hope he scores heavily in the return series in Australia.

Posted by spindizzy on (August 28, 2013, 8:43 GMT)

Easily the player of the series, he held the same role that Mike Hussey did when Australia was dominant and did it with aplomb. He made runs when England needed them. The 3 nil is his more than any other single players.

Posted by mikeindex on (August 28, 2013, 8:07 GMT)

Let's hope they were careful about which bit of the pitch they sat on.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 28, 2013, 7:13 GMT)

@jmcilhinney: SA supporters might object to your view. I think Ian Bell is certainly ONE of the best test batsmen going around currently. I still feel Hashim Amla from SA is a slightly more better player than Bell. We also need to remember Amla is an opener so that scores him some extra points. Nevertheless, Bell is a sublime player. One of my favourite players in the England team.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (August 28, 2013, 6:18 GMT)

Great piece from Bell. If Ian Bell continues his batting form for the rest of his career and manages to notch up a few more centuries and get that batting average over 50, he will be remembered as one of England's greatest batsmen. Keep up the good work Bell, but the real test comes down under

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 28, 2013, 4:24 GMT)

Perhaps (definitely) I'm a bit biased by being an England supporter but I think Ian Bell is easily the best batsman in the world to watch. Thankfully, there was plenty of opportunity to take in that sight during this series. Living in Australia, I've lost a few hours sleep over the course of the series but it was well worth it. I have tickets for a day in Brisbane and every day in Sydney for the return series. I'd like to book in a couple of centuries now for those days thank Ian.

It's interesting that Bell says what a great many people would about Andy Flower: he's the best coach that England have even had, when you consider what may have happened had Flower coached Australia. I don't think that Mickey Arthur is nearly the coach that Flower is but, had Flower been employed to coach Australia, he may have suffered the same fate for basically the same reasons. Flower would not have been fully accepted because he is not Australian and he would have been seen as too rigid.

Posted by   on (August 28, 2013, 4:19 GMT)

Excellent of piece of work. Didn't know Bell could write that well. Bell is the most improved cricketer I have ever seen

Posted by   on (August 28, 2013, 3:51 GMT)

Thank you Ian for the memories. You have plenty of time left in your career, so see how close you can get to that 10000 run mark!

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