Ian Bell: Nappy time is on hold, now I want my own 'daddy hundred' in India
View From the Middle: Inspired by Kev and Cookie, I’ve adapted my mental approach to spin
What a difference two weeks makes. I am no better at changing nappies but I have returned to India a refreshed player. When I dashed home from Ahmedabad we were on the brink of defeat but, back with the boys here in Kolkata, the squad is buzzing from one of England's greatest Test victories.
I must admit that my mind is a lot clearer now, these last few weeks have given me a new perspective. I honestly believe that this awareness that there is more to life than cricket will only make my game stronger. For those first weeks of the tour, thoughts of the situation at home were always in the back of my mind, that is difficult to deal with when you are on the other side of the world. Now that Joseph and his mum are healthy and well, I am in a far better place. I cannot wait to get down to scoring runs, taking catches at short leg – to give Cookie a break from under the helmet – and winning Test matches.
Even though I wasn't part of the XI, I could not have been more proud watching the guys play the way they did in Mumbai. There were some really special performances, especially Monty's bowling and the way Kev and Cookie batted. I made a commitment to exist on Indian time while I was back home and Joseph certainly made it easier to be up before the crack of dawn to watch the boys and, of course, share baby duties.
I didn't catch every ball of Kevin's innings but I got the impression of a player totally calm in defence. Cookie showed us the way and Kev proved that if you can get a couple of hours at the crease under your belt, then batting here becomes much easier. We all know that when Kev gets himself set, there's no harder bloke to bowl at in world cricket. The fact that he went to make one of Goochie's "daddy hundreds" gave Monty and Swanny the chance to work their magic.
It was tough missing out in such a big victory but when I look back at our last Ashes tour to Australia, it wasn't just 11 players that won it for us. We had to rely on our whole squad, that's what you need in international cricket these days. Look at South Africa, they've had to use different players at different times but the strength of their squad helped them to a big series win in Australia yesterday.
I wrote in my last column about the need to focus on my defence. Inspired by Kev and Cookie, I've adapted my mental approach. I learnt the hard way that I can't expect to come in and be as comfortable as I normally am against slow bowling. The truth is that I am usually pretty set when the spinner comes on, that means I am seeing the ball well and can attack from a position of strength. The difference here is that you face a lot of spin at the start of your innings, making it a completely different game. You have got to get your feet moving straight away and be on top of your defence early.
It's now time to put my new approach into action. It has been really exciting to get back in the mix. The guys were two days behind me so I put that time to good use in solo gym sessions and caught up on some sleep before they arrived to disturb my peace. The boys showed a lot of courage and impressive maturity to bounce back in Mumbai. The important thing now is to do it again this week in Kolkata.
We all know how special winning a series in India would be but we cannot let ourselves get weighed down by history; thinking too far ahead clouds your judgement. If you don't play in the here and now, your game goes off the boil; unlike the crowds here in Kolkata. As a young player I heard war stories from Eden Gardens: burning newspapers in the stands; out of control fans; the city grinding to a halt. When I watched games at Eden Gardens on TV as a youngster, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to bat. I have been on a few trips to India now but, if I get the nod, this will be my first ever Test match here.
There's been lots of talk about the wicket. We're aware of Dhoni's wish for another rank turner but from what we have seen it looks a really good surface. But probably 80 per cent of the overs bowled in the last two Tests have been spin and I doubt there will be any change here.
What will change since that dismissal in Ahmedabad two weeks ago is my approach against the turning ball. I am back in Kolkata refreshed and ready to prove I can score runs for England on Indian pitches.
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