Ian Bell: Superb on and off the field, so lay off our captain marvel

View From The Middle: Straussy just needs a break. If he scores one hundred, three or four could follow

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The Independent Online

Whether Andrew Strauss has scored nought or a hundred, his character never changes, to the extent that you can barely tell the difference in the dressing room. The same applies to success and defeat for the team, and in that respect, he is a role model for me.

He has been an incredible captain for England, on and off the field, and I hope he goes on to lead us beyond his 100th Test match, which could be the final one against South Africa at Lord's this summer.

His door is always open and I have had some good chats with him throughout my career, including before the first Test in Galle last week. I've been frustrated that I haven't scored as many runs as I would have liked this winter, so I approached him for a chat.

When I was younger, I used to beat myself up a lot when I didn't score runs, and I probably still do it a little bit now. Strauss was talking to me about trying to relax and telling me how much he backed me.

He's done something similar before in my career, after we had played South Africa in Pretoria in 2009 and I hadn't scored many runs. In the next Test in Durban, I scored 140 and we won the game. He is brilliant about the mental side of cricket. He has been there and helped me a number of times and I'm sure he has done the same for the other players.

Like a number of us, Straussy just needs a break. If he scores one hundred, three or four could follow, and I hope his next is in the second Test here in Colombo this week.

We've shown signs of getting better, and we certainly had our chances during the defeat in Galle, but this winter has been a real disappointment. We knew we had two big winters, with series away from home against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and then India next winter.

We can't afford to go to India and make the mistakes we have made this winter. For the batting unit, it hasn't quite clicked, but hopefully things will turn around over the next few days and we can start to help out the bowlers a bit more.

I know some people don't understand why some of us use the sweep shot against the spinners, and, of course, it was frustrating to get out in the second innings in Galle after playing it. But I think that might have been the first time in Test cricket that I have been out playing it. If it wasn't the first, there certainly haven't been very many, and I've scored a lot of runs with the shot, especially during the last two or three years.

If I'd got out to a shot I never practise, then our coach Andy Flower would have asked some questions, but paddle-sweeping is a strength of mine. Yes, it can be a risk to play the shot, but Jonathan Trott scored 112 in our second innings and he used the reverse-sweep during that innings.

If I can play a couple of sweep shots early in my innings, and score runs from them, it means the opposing captain might put another man behind square, which means another gap in front of the wicket. Quality spinners will not bowl you many poor deliveries, so you have to try to manoeuvre the field so you can score from their good balls.

I was convinced I'd got a nick before being given out lbw in the second innings, but there is no HotSpot in this series so it was hard for the decision to be overturned. I would like it if the Decision Review System was the same for every match. At the moment, it seems to change from series to series, and it's confusing. If we're going to have it, all its features should be available.