It has been an emotional few days. Not only did we make a hugely disappointing start to the Ashes series but we saw our friend and team-mate Jonathan Trott forced home with a stress-related illness.
I’ve known Trotty a long time. When we first met at Warwickshire more than a decade ago, we had our whole careers ahead of us. We were young, single and ambitious. Over the years, we’ve seen each other grow from single guys into married men with kids, we’ve seen each other develop from county players into England players and we’ve won County Championships together, Lord’s finals together and Ashes series together. We’ve enjoyed each other’s successes and mourned each other’s failures. We have, in many ways, grown up together.
So to see him struggle has been hard. He has been a key part of this England team for a long time and he is a player we have relied upon to provide match-defining innings in tough situations again and again. He has, so often, been the man who has set up our totals and seen off the bowlers at their freshest and the ball at its hardest. Of course we will miss a player like that.
But this isn’t about cricket. There’s much more to life than sport and all any of us hope for is to see Trotty back on the cricket pitch with a smile on his face again. It doesn’t matter if it’s for Warwickshire or England: all that matters is that he gets well and rediscovers the joy of playing. There’s no time frame, no expectation and no pressure. He just needs to get away from it for a while and come back when he feels ready.
They were a difficult couple of days for us in Brisbane. We let ourselves down as a batting unit, but I truly believe it has brought us closer as a group. We have had the opportunity to spend a few days in Alice Springs away from the glare of the media and we have talked through what happened and what we can learn from it. We have been made incredibly welcome in Alice and several of the younger guys have enjoyed some good time in the middle. We have regrouped, refocused and we feel ready for Adelaide. We have come back from bad starts before and we know we can do it again.
We didn’t give our bowlers a chance in Brisbane. They performed so well on the first day, but such effort takes a lot out of you in this heat and our failure in our first innings forced them back into action too quickly. We asked too much of them.
Trotty’s return home has invited the question whether I ever thought about turning my back on cricket in bad times, even if just for the briefest moment. I can honestly say I haven’t. I’ve wanted to be a cricketer since I was a boy and that hasn’t changed. There are times it has been hard and there have been times I couldn’t buy a run, but I have never wanted to stop.I suspect that everyone who has played cricket knows what it’s like to go through a patch of bad form. It’s part of the cycle of the game. I have, I think, toured for at least part of every winter since I was 16 and there are times when that is hard. But you work out ways to cope and these days we are well supported.
We have no complaints about anything that has happened on the field. We expect the Ashes to be played hard and we knew the Australians would come at us with everything they had. Quite right too. There has been nothing happening on the field that has not happened in previous series.
Australia played well in Brisbane, but that was no surprise. There was no shortage of respect between the sides and we have always known that Mitchell Johnson is a dangerous bowler. The pitch was quite quick, though not as quick as some have suggested, and we were not as calm as we should have been. We can do much better.
I have made it be known that I’m willing to bat at No 3 if required. In the end the decision is not up to me and I will be quite happy to stay at No 5 and do the job I’ve been doing for the last few years if the management think that’s best. But the last time I did bat at No 3 regularly was in the 2011 series against India, when my last innings was 235. I’m certainly a far better player than I was at the start of my career when I first had a go there.
Meanwhile it was a nice confidence boost to be named in the shortlist of 10 for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award. I don’t think I have much chance of winning – Andy Murray is also on the list – but it’s a reminder of the impact of success in an Ashes series. It continues to capture the imagination in a way that most series cannot. If ever we needed a reminder of how important our success is to people in England, we have had it. We’ll do our best not to let you down.
Read Ian Bell’s columns in full throughout the Ashes on ESPNcricinfo.com
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