Ian Bell told GiveMeSport in an exclusive interview about how he hopes England and the new recruits can benefit from his experience, ahead of his 100th-appearance for his country at Headingley on Friday.
Few would argue that Bell is one of the most gifted stroke-makers England has produced, and after a 10-year career playing for his country, the Warwickshire man joins an elite list of England Test greats that have represented their country on 100 occasions.
The 32-year old first fell under England’s spell when he was picked for the under-19 team at just 16-years old.
16-years later it appears the England Cricket Board’s decision was without question the correct one, as they now have a player that has matured into one of the leaders within the team that can help take England into a new era.
Bell’s century of caps comes against Sri Lanka in the second Test after a thrilling first Test draw that saw the tourists cling on to share the spoils.
The England squad will arrive at Headingley in a positive frame of mind following the first Test performance, especially considering the contribution by England’s next generation.
Experienced heads like England captain Alastair Cook, Jimmy Anderson, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad and Bell himself, are now the senior statesmen of the team and are expected to help lead the youngsters on their way in the Test environment, a role that Bell is now ready to fulfil.
“It’s exciting now, the last 6 or 7 years there has been solid, very little change. There has been a squad of 14 or 16 players that have moved around, but English cricket is in a different place right now and that for me is an exciting opportunity.”
Bell went on to add: ”There are different goals and different things to achieve than over the last 6 or 7 years.”
Bell has had the privilege of playing with some great English cricketers and understands what it is like in both a winning and losing environment for his country, something he is determined to share with the next generation.
“For me its to try to help and pass on the information I have learnt from the likes of Trescothick, Vaughn, great players for England. If I can pass on that information hopefully we can leave English cricket in a good place.”
Much has been made over the years about the Warwickshire man never quite fulfilling his natural ability, and the fact that he collected a lot of easy runs off the back of a sound foundation, however it is safe to say, and by his own admission, this is a part of his game that is very much in the past, as seen during the 2013 Ashes series.
At 32, Bell has scored 6787 Test runs at an average of just over 45, and when he considers the careers of world stars like Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Ponting and Kallis who all played until their late thirties, he will know that his international career is far from over and that the best years could very well be ahead of him.
Bell is currently level with the great Graham Gooch on 20-Test centuries, a man that alongside his childhood and Warwickshire batting coach, the late Neil Abley, he acknowledges as having played a key role in his cricketing life.
Abley was in Bell’s corner from a young man and during his Warwickshire days, while Gooch has been involved in the England set up for the last six-years or so.
The former England opener has not only been around to work with the batsman in the camp but has also acted as almost a fatherly figure for Bell and many other players, a: “sounding board,” for any problems away from the pitch.
The 32-year old might be about to take the field for the 100th time for England however his focus is to play on and keep contributing to the English cause.
“I want to keep scoring as many as I can and play for as long as I can. As long as I am making a contribution to this team, then I am really happy.”
It has been and incredible journey for Ian Bell, and English cricket fans would have seen the young 16-year mature and develop into one of England’s best players, with more to come might add.
Ian, from all of us at GiveMeSport, we would like to wish you many congratulations on a fantastic achievement of reaching 100-Test caps for England, and we look forward to watching you over many more years to come.