Belly was textbook-pure, very easy on the eye and made batting look simple
Michael Vaughan One of England’s most talented players of recent times is set for retirement as the 2005 guys all depart
It is a shame there will be no supporters at Warwickshire to give Ian Bell a warm send-off when the season ends, because he will be remembered as one of England’s great batsmen of the 21st century.
I remember giving him his England cap against West Indies in 2004, and I was at the other end when he first took guard in a Test. We all knew he had huge natural talent. He was already one of the best technicians of the English game and beautiful to watch.
I always felt that Bell was an example of just how difficult it is to be successful at the highest level of professional sport. He had all this natural talent and a wonderful technique, but it was probably only in the 2013 Ashes series, when he scored three hundreds, that I felt he was totally comfortable in his own mind and with his own game.
For someone with so much ability and talent, I found it amazing how much confidence you always had to give him. He was one of those players you had to continually remind him of how good he was and his importance to the team.
Nobody really remembers that 2013 series partly because Bell was not a big character like Kevin Pietersen or Andrew Flintoff. If it had been one of those two who dominated that Ashes then we would all still be talking about it.
He was a chirpy character in the dressing room, always quite cheeky, which I liked in a player. He had a remarkable career, too, when you think about 22 Test hundreds, third behind Alastair Cook and Pietersen, playing over 100 Tests and winning five Ashes series.
In 2005, he was young, but very much part of our plans for the future. We wanted to pick players who had no baggage from previous defeats against
Australia and he was selected ahead of guys who perhaps had a stronger claim to a place. Graham Thorpe may have carried on for another series had we picked him and Mark Ramprakash was scoring a lot of runs in county cricket.
So, Bell was probably not part of our best batting line-up, but we wanted a young, fresh mentality and he was a major part of that. He did not light up the series, but he took some good catches, scored a couple of 50s at Old Trafford, and when you look at his whole career, I wonder how valuable that experience was for him.
To play in that kind of pressurised series at such a young age, and to be around the celebrations and emotions of it all, must have been a big thing for him. When England were consistently successful from 2009 to 2015, characters such as Bell, Pietersen and Andrew Strauss had been part of that 2005 victory. That first hurdle of beating
His cover drive was up there with the best of them. You want everyone to bat like him
Australia in 2005 was a big thing for them and they took that mentality into the rest of their careers. He was never considered captaincy material. I never saw him as a leader of men apart from with his technique. There are some who are just outstanding players and who lead with performance and he was one of those cricketers.
He did not need the extra responsibility of worrying about others. Belly was a bit vulnerable at times and did not always deal with criticism brilliantly, but he was not the only one like that. Technically, he was superb. His cover drive was up there with the best. If parents want their boys and girls to be batsmen, then they should just look at Bell’s technique. You want everyone to bat like him. He was textbook-pure, very easy on the eye and made batting look simple when he was at his best. If he uses all his experience from his playing days, and realises coaching requires a different skill-set, then he may be valuable to the future English game.
Is it sad the 2005 guys are all retired now? No. Our time has gone. Time to move on.
End of an era: Ian Bell will call time on his superb career at the age of 38