LONDON - Ian Bell said he wanted to "lead from the front" after being named England's Cricketer of the Year on Monday. The 32-year-old Warwickshire batsman won the award, voted for by the English cricket media, on the back of making three centuries and two fifties during England's 3-0 home Ashes series win against Australia last year.
But that series was quickly overshadowed by England's 5-0 thrashing in Australia in 2013/14. "I don't think we reacted well to the problems we had and there has been plenty of fall out since," said Bell in what appeared to be a reference to the post-Australia tour ditching of star batsman Kevin Pietersen and Andy Flower's replacement as coach by Peter Moores.
"When you step back from it all and have a look, I think we got blindsided by Australia. It is horrible to come away from that with a 5-0 scoreline, but it will be a good experience in the long run for the younger players who were on that trip. Back in 2006/07, myself, Cooky (current captain Alastair Cook), Straussy (retired skipper Andrew Strauss), Jimmy (Anderson and KP (Pietersen) were all on that tour when we lost 5-0 and we all came back in 2010/11 and won that series. There is no reason why on the next tour of Australia the (Joe) Roots, the (Gary) Ballances, the (Ben) Stokes can't go back and win."
"It is easy to look at the winter and get down, but we have done some good stuff too recently," insisted Bell, who received his award during a dinner at Lord's -- the venue for Thursday's first Test against Sri Lanka. "To win three Ashes on the bounce means we must have been doing something right." Thirteen Tests have now passed since England managed the benchmark score of 400 in an innings.
Bell, for much of his career a 'rising star', is now one of England's senior players and should reach the landmark of 100 Tests in this month's second and final Test against Sri Lanka at Headingley. "You're looking for the senior players to lead the way so of course myself and Cooky have to shoulder plenty of responsibility in that department," Bell said. "We are the men who have been there and done it and scored the big hundreds, so it is time for us to do so again.
"Hopefully, this (award) is the start of something special for me and the team, helping some of these young guys through into the team. Part of that is me playing well as a senior player and leading from the front," said Bell, whose 98 Tests have yielded 6,722 runs, including 20 hundreds, at an average of 45.41. As for playing 100 Tests, Bell reflected on the words of England great Graham Gooch.
"It's a funny one because you are thinking of your 100th one but, as Goochie says, the only match that means anything or the only innings that means anything is the one you're in right now."
This season has seen England push back its home Test programme, reducing the chances of matches being played on typically English green, seaming pitches. Bell believes that will work in favour of Sri Lanka, who beat their hosts 3-2 in a recent one-day series, and especially star batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.
"You only have to look at the two guys in their team who will go down as two of the greatest of all time," Bel said. "They've got absolute quality through their side. It is not early season anymore, so they'll be a lot more comfortable."