January 7, 2014

Pain can drive us to new heights

England have hit rock bottom, and now it's time to emerge from the rubble and start rebuilding

It's hard to describe the emotions within the England camp as we reflect on the result of the Ashes series.

Everywhere we go in Sydney we are met by England supporters who spent a fortune to come and cheer us on. We know we let them and ourselves down and the feelings of guilt and frustration and disappointment are hard to take.

We came to Australia with high hopes of creating history. We knew we were in for a tough scrap - anyone who suggests we were complacent just doesn't know this team - and we knew our 3-0 victory in the summer was a bit flattering. But to lose 5-0, by the margins we have lost these games, is unacceptable. I can only apologise to all the people, here and at home, who we have let down.

We have to give credit to Australia. Their bowling attack was outstanding, their planning was excellent and their ruthlessness admirable. We can learn from some of those traits.

The seamers, Johnson, Harris and Siddle, were exceptionally good, right up there with the South Africa trio of Steyn, Morkel and Philander. Mitchell Johnson bowled about as fast as anything I have faced - right up there with Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Shoaib Akhtar - and proved too quick for the tail to deal with, in particular.

They learned so much from the summer, too. They had individual plans for every batsman - clever fields, clever lines of attack - and they executed those plans brilliantly. They planned better than us and they executed the plans they had better than us. We were outplayed, outskilled and out-thought. The best team won.

But the frustrating aspect of this defeat is the knowledge that we didn't do ourselves justice. There were so many soft dismissals and so many mistakes in the field that we hardly gave ourselves a chance. We didn't give our bowlers the support they required - either in the field or by batting long enough to give them a sufficient break between innings - and we never found the balance between crease occupation and positive batting that would have earned us the initiative.

We're at rock bottom right now. We know that, after a defeat like this, people will move on and the team will change. Several people who started this tour may not play Test cricket again. We know that the era that this team enjoyed is over and there will be casualties.

But sometimes rock bottom provides a firm foundation. Sometimes you need to clear away the old to start anew. Perhaps, from the rubble of this series, a new team can be built that will enjoy better times in the future. Perhaps the team that was beaten belonged to the era - the wonderful era - of Andrew Strauss and the future belongs to Alastair Cook.

I hope I still have a big part to play in that. This series has not gone anything like I had hoped but I have still scored 797 runs in the ten Tests against Australia - and 1000 runs in 2013 - and I still feel I can be a senior player in a developing side for the next four or five years.

I've no doubt that Cooky is the man to lead us into the future. He retains the utmost respect of everyone in the dressing room and, even though he didn't score the runs he would have wanted in this series, you don't become the youngest man to 8000 Test runs without being an exceptional player. I know a few people are suggesting we need a change of leader - I've even seen my own name bandied around - but I am fully behind Cooky. He has my absolute faith and support.

Our dressing room was a pretty sombre place after the defeat. We didn't need a bollocking. Some honest words were said but it wasn't the time to go into everything in detail. We have five months before we play another Test. There will be time for that.

Instead we went into the Australia dressing room for a few drinks. There have been some tough moments on the field, but off the pitch, there is no problem between the sides. It was a good thing to do and they were very gracious in victory. They deserve all the credit they receive.

But we can learn from this and we can come back hard. Just as Australia bounced back from defeats in 2005 and 2013, we can go away, look at where we went wrong and improve. You are bound to have bad days in sport. How you respond to them often defines you as a player.

So after the limited-overs series is done, I expect to have some time off and return to county cricket at the start of the season. I expect the captain and the coach to get together and come up with some plans for the future and then to let us know which direction they want us to go.

We're hurting right now but that's no bad thing. If this result didn't hurt we would have no right to be representing England. We've been hurt, humiliated and humbled. We won't achieve anything by pretending otherwise.

But sometimes the mark of a real champion is how they come back from a knockdown. From the pain of this defeat, we can build a new team and a new era. It may take some time but we have to use this pain to drive us to new heights in the future.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Perry on January 14, 2014, 2:54 GMT

    Thank god Bell has not fallen victim to English self flagellation. This is a team in transition which happens to every team.

  • Simon on January 14, 2014, 2:05 GMT

    There's a lot of derision about 'mental disintegration' but it is merely another way of looking at what players describe as 'soft'. Below par performance is hard to change in a team when the opposition has the belief that they can dominate your team. That produces second guessing of form and ability and can snowball into embarrassing performances. No doubt whatsoever that is symptomatic of England's 5 Test whitewash.

  • Asif on January 13, 2014, 17:27 GMT

    Bell shud be appreciated for the frank and fair assessment - and his apology to fans. Eng fans can't ask for more than that. I think the entire team shud take some time off and think coolly and calmly. Bell has every chance of being an impt part of the re-building. All the best to him and his team.

  • Vikram on January 10, 2014, 8:48 GMT

    why opening pair is changed ...that was main reason for failure. Cook & Root done well in Eng ... why not that continued in Aus...

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2014, 15:11 GMT

    4 0f 4 We need to find two good and reliable opening bats and an effective number three - then if four to six do not perform, that is when harsh decisions should be taken. To take them now is premature and absurd in the context of the last Test Series.

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2014, 15:09 GMT

    3 of 3 The knock on effect is that Bell and Pietersen are both facing much harder and newer balls and are being expected to perform as openers. This is a recipe for disaster and disaster was what it brought us, as the whole team were then exposed to bowling normally encountered by higher order batsmen. The concomitant effect on our bowlers is that they have to defend a very low score which by its very nature puts undue pressure on their bowling as all leaked runs add to the stress. We were not at all helped by losing four out of five tosses, the early departure of Swann nor the intermittent injuries sustained by key players Broad and Panesar. To lay all of the above on Pietersen's door beggars belief. The selectors, coach and captain need to recognise all the factors that have affected the play before making specious and spurious connections and laying blame without understanding. We need to find two good and reliable opening bats and an effective number three - then if four to six do

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2014, 15:08 GMT

    2 of 3 Australia have been successful because they have analysed at length the strength and weakness of every single established and recently introduced English player and quietly,methodically and assiduously targeted all the key weaknesses relentlessly with both cricketing skills and mental methods. The other main problem we have had is that after Strauss's ( and earlier Tescothick's) departure we have not been able to find an effective opening duo which has meant that number three onwards have had to bear the brunt of this.Trott was our rock but when he was left exposed to Mitchell Johnson and when this in turn exacerbated and affected his illness, the consequence was that the first three batting positions were left under strain. Cook has been weakened by not having an effective partner and together with all the strains of captaincy, his batting has been adversely affected too.

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2014, 15:06 GMT

    1 of 3

    I am amazed and saddened by the way all the blame of the recent Ashes debacle should fall on the head of one person - Kevin Pietersen. Cricket is a team game and individuals contribute different aspects.

    We have a batting order so that each person in that line-up brings a different batting profile and competence to the game. The openers - batters one and two - take the shine off the ball and soften the ball. Three builds on this and four to six or seven, play shots to consolidate a position. Kevin Pietersen has played a pivotal role in England's wins over the years. Even in his debut match at Lords in 2005 he was the highest scorer in England's dismal total though his score was still meagre by normal standards by being below 70 in each innings. What does it say about the captain and the coach if one man can single handedly influence all the youngsters? The cautious play of yesteryear gave us the wilderness years.

  • Daison on January 9, 2014, 7:19 GMT

    @FreddyForPrimeMinister - why would Flower see the need to issue a statement "I have not given ultimatum to drop KP"? Why there was no need of a statement saying "I havent asked for Cook to be dropped"? There wont be smoke without fire. This is not a courtroom where you have to give evidence to everything. This opinions that we are stating here. You must be backing Flower and that is your opinion. I am entitled for mine.

  • disco on January 9, 2014, 6:30 GMT

    @Mitty2, Cook also said this was the best bowling attack he has ever played against, and that would include SA in England.

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