Bull leaves gate open when he is not in charge

In the aftermath of two cataclysmic Ashes defeats it has been obligatory to search for scapegoats. Steve Bull, the England team's psychologist, has been among them and, given the manner of the reversals in Brisbane and Adelaide, one of the cheap shots levelled against him was that he is not only named Bull, he must be talking it.

Bull has been around high-class sportsmen long enough to be unbothered by such allegations. Considering his profession he will also recognise that, having taken some of the credit for the 2005 Ashes victory, he might be expected to shoulder some of the responsibility now.

He is as inscrutable as the coach, Duncan Fletcher, when it is all going off in the middle, but the two Test performances, one beset by nerves and the other providing a perfect example of implosion under unexpected pressure, were not in his game plan (The Game Plan, indeed, is the title of his book).

Bull has worked with England for several years, but this tour assumed a deeper significance the moment Australia were beaten in 2005. On the eve of the First Lord's Test last summer he renewed his acquaintance with the players with a small pep talk.

There followed a series of meetings towards the end of the summer, and shortly after the final one-day series was concluded Bull led a meeting with the squad for Australia at the National Academy in Loughborough. This was aimed at letting the players know in general what they could expect, not only from the opposition but in the harsh glare of media exposure. Bull is keen on younger players taking responsibility to cement the team ethos.

At a Heathrow hotel just before England left, Bull orchestrated another meeting. Captain Andrew Flintoff and coach Fletcher spoke about what they expected, Bull presented a motivational video. The players were divided into groups of two or three and given simple exercises about their goals.

Each player was then given a sheet of paper on which he was asked to write down why he thought all the others should be in the squad. So far as is known, nobody suggested that a colleague had not deserved selection. The discussion focused on the mental aspect of cricket and how the players should be ready for Brisbane on 23 November.

The next formal meeting between Bull and all the players was two days before the start of the series - though he holds regular one-on-one sessions with players. He brought along the replies from the Heathrow meeting and used them as motivational tools.

Crucially, he also addressed the subject of nerves and how players might either suppress them or deal with them. The senior players also spoke. Something might not have got through, because there can never have been a more obviously nervous group of cricketers than England that Thursday morning.

Come the following week, the players regrouped. All of them spoke at a specially convened meeting and, gently guided by Bull, they all bore some responsibility for the defeat. When Bull returned to Britain for a brief visit in the middle of the Second Test, whatever he had done seemed to be working. England were on top. Or maybe it was just that they had won the toss on a flat wicket.

Bull was not there when it all went wrong on Tuesday, but it is generally recognised that a player can hardly leave the field in the middle of the match and ask the psychologist what to do.

All players are encouraged to set goals - they all carry bullet-point cards with reminders about mental strength - and it is reasonable to suggest that not many have met them so far. Bull will have an idea about why it went so badly awry in Adelaide. One member of the camp said: "You'd have to ask Bully about it."

But he is being deliberately steered clear of media encounters because the management are worried that backroom staff who put their heads above the parapet will become Aunt Sallies. A psychologist would make something of that.

Bull will return for the final two Tests, by which time it is to be hoped that it is not too late for psychology, or anything else.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam