Ian Bell freely admits that this winter’s Ashes series was a “massive low” for England.
But he reckons the whitewash Down Under can be used as a chance to rebuild the national team – and a catalyst to forge another era of sustained success, just as it was once before.
Warwickshire batsman Bell was part of the drubbing England took from the Aussies over there in 2006/07 – and also central to their subsequent rise to number one team in the world under the leadership of Andrew Strauss.
Now, having endured the 2013/14 tour in all its wretched dimensions, he is determined to be at the heart of a team which rises again under Alastair Cook.
“This winter was a massive low, there’s no doubt about it,” Bell said. “Some guys finished their Test careers and some awkward things happened during the tour. Australia deserved to win 5-0.
“Things were pretty bad for us on and off the field, if you see the number of our guys who came home. It was a tough tour for everyone.
“But we have been in this position before, in 2006/07. Straussy took over after that tour and English cricket had five years of great success. So it can be done.
“That England team was very successful over a period of time, not losing a lot of cricket and going to number one in the world. But good teams break up. It happens in sport.
“I wouldn’t say that it will be a case of all change now. But there will definitely be a new coach and I think Alastair Cook wants to stamp his authority on this team. A lot of the team we had came from Andrew Strauss and now is Alastair’s time.
“There is no reason why this can’t be the start of another successful period with some new faces.
“There were highlights this winter like Ben Stokes coming through and other people getting opportunities which is what we need in order to move on.
“We have just played ten Test matches again-st Australia on the bounce and had five pretty poor ones in Australia. It seems to be very quickly forgotten that we beat Australia at home.
“I certainly still very much want to be involved. I believe, even through the winter tour, I was batting as well as I did last summer, certainly in the first three Tests, and my batting is as good as it has been.”
The England Test team has entered a period of possibly deep transition but it is likely that Cook will still want the experience of Warwickshire pair Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott alongside him in the top order.
While Bell has just been called into England’s squad for the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh starting next week, Trott continues to recover from the stress-related illness which forced him out of the Ashes.
That recovery is going well and Trott is on course to be in the Bears team at the start of the season. And Bell is looking forward to having his team-mate back alongside him for both county and country.
“With the Tests pushed back this season, hopefully early on there will be a good chunk of cricket with me and Trotty available for Warwickshire,” he said.
“That would be great because it’s not ideal when you come back from a tour quite late and have to miss cricket for Warwickshire. You want to be playing but know if you don’t have breaks then there is an inevitable risk of burnout. You have to take breaks from the game. That’s what Trotty has done and, while it’s never nice to see someone leave a tour, having seen Marcus Trescothick leave a previous Ashes tour, the reality is that it is a harsh environment.
“There are a lot of pressures that go with international sport and you go through highs and lows. I am sure Trotty will come through this.”
If both England players are available for county duty early in the season, and all the bowlers are fit, Warwickshire will have quite a team to put in the field.
“Some interesting decisions will have to be made, including regarding the captaincy.
With Jim Troughton sidelined for the first month at least following back surgery, will the captaincy pass to Bell or Varun Chopra, both of whom have done the job well in the past?
“If we have a good chunk of time then I’d love to do it,” Bell said. “It is always an honour to captain Warwickshire so if I get asked to do it I’d love to.”