Ian Bell: Some like it hot – count me among them
View From The Middle: Our aim is to become a side who can regularly win in Asia; to do so here would be massive
Monday 26 March 2012
It seems everyone has been talking about how difficult it will be to play in such extreme heat here in Sri Lanka, but let's get one thing clear: I'd rather be playing in these conditions than in England in early April. Of course, we're more used to the English weather but, given the choice, I would always rather be in the sunshine than the cold.
That said, Sri Lanka is as hot as it gets on the cricketing circuit. Today is the first scheduled day of our Test match here in Galle, and the temperature was expected to reach 32C – and with humidity it can feel much hotter than that out in the middle.
Seven of us have been here since the start of March, with the rest of the squad arriving about a week later, and we've all been working very hard to acclimatise.
It will be hard work for the bowlers and, if batsmen want to score hundreds, they will have to be very fit. We've trained hard physically, and some of the guys tried to lose a bit of weight before the series began, just so they don't heat up as quickly. When you're batting it's about hydration, trying to keep your body temperature down, using ice towels and changing your gloves regularly.
By the time you read this, the Test will probably be starting to take shape, and I'm approaching this series hoping for a far happier time than I had against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, where I had a top score of 29 from six innings. Things didn't really go to plan in the two warm-up matches here, either, but I have to take encouragement from my performances on our last tour of Sri Lanka at the end of 2007.
Even though we lost the three-match series 1-0, I finished it as our second-highest run scorer with 261 runs at an average of 43.5. I scored three fifties in the series, so hopefully I can take confidence from those memories in these two Tests.
I've been training and doing everything to the standard I had during the previous 18 months, when runs were coming nicely. At the minute, it's not quite worked like that, but that's the game.
The goal is to regain form in Sri Lanka and help England win here, something English sides rarely manage to do in the subcontinent. Our aim is to become a side who can win regularly in Asia, and to do so here would be a massive achievement.
I was part of the one-day squad who won the five-match series here in 2007 before the Test leg of the tour, and I regard it as one of the best achievements of my career. We know we haven't got it right in these conditions so far, and we're aware that if we want to stay at No 1 in the world we have to be able to come and dominate here. But it's not a short-term thing. Our coach, Andy Flower, wants to build a long-term plan to ensure that England teams in the future all play better here.
We have an environment where everyone is keen to learn and improve, and we've been working on certain details, such as the need to play in front of your pad against the spinners to try to counteract the dangers of the Decision Review System.
It is a shame, though, that there are only two Tests in this series. You like to get stuck into a long series and against a class side like Sri Lanka you'd like it to be a minimum of three Tests. But two Tests it is, and let's try to make the most of them.
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