sport

Bell backing for Cook captaincy

Ian Bell is confident England captain Alastair Cook has learnt from the Ashes whitewash in Australia and will be a stronger leader as a result.

Cook has been party to some key decisions since returning from the 5-0 defeat - notably dispensing with the services of Kevin Pietersen and long-time mentor Graham Gooch, who was batting coach - after a period of introspection which left him considering his own future as skipper.

"Cooky is the right guy to be leading England," said Bell, speaking at an event with England's Test sponsor Investec.

"He's a top bloke. It's nice as a young player for a captain to be approachable. He is that. But I'm sure over time he will be harder on the players.

"I think we'll start to see him being a really good leader. The way he led the team in India showed his potential as captain.

"A lot of the time as a player you learn a lot more from your mistakes in a bad series than you do in a good series.

"This could be the start of him becoming a great captain for England."

Cook led England to their first Test series win in India in 28 years in December 2012 with a team inherited from Andrew Strauss, but now has the opportunity to make his own stamp with the departures of Pietersen, the retired Graeme Swann and the absence, albeit temporary for now, of Jonathan Trott.

"There's no doubt the team at that point (in Australia) probably still felt a bit like Straussy's side," Bell added.

"Now this is a real line in the sand that he can say 'this is my team'.

"He's made some big decisions and that's a good sign. I'm sure we'll see more of that.

"He knows the way we want to be playing our cricket and we didn't see that in Australia, and maybe that has given him the chance to see which way he wants to take the team."

A new-look England without game - or series - changing players Pietersen and Swann presents challenges for Cook and returning head coach Peter Moores.

Bell, who hopes to bat at three in Tests this summer with Trott unlikely to feature, insists the collective strength of the team is more important than losing influential individuals.

"The teams I played in wasn't just about one guy winning games of cricket, it was generally 11 guys in good form playing good cricket together," Bell said.

Swann's retirement could result in a number of team alterations.

"Without Swanny it will change the dynamics of our team a lot," Bell said.

"We could come to Lord's with three seamers and if we wanted Swanny to hold an end up he could do that which takes a lot of skill. He could also then revert to bowling teams out on the last day too.

"There might be a couple of all rounders in there now to strengthen the batting and give us some more options with the ball as well which might happen in the Test side."

As a batsman, Bell's role is to score runs, whatever the make-up of the side.

The 32-year-old is in line to make his 100th Test appearance this summer.

Currently on 98, Bell said: "There were times when I thought I'd never get close to be honest.

"There have been some real highs and lows so to get there will mean everything."

Bell has matured from his fragile early days, using sessions with team psychologist Mark Bawden like a "mental net".

"I was very inconsistent," Bell added.

"I very much lived by how many runs I got in my first 40 games; if I got a hundred I was okay if I got nought it was the end of the world.

"Gradually I have learnt to deal with that a lot better.

"A lot of the time you judge your play on the outcome in terms of how many runs you get, but you might get 20 and feel in the best nick of your life.

"If you just see it as 20 then you're going to put yourself down, but if you know that you're playing well at least then you can understand you're doing the right things and the big score's round the corner."

Gooch has been influential, too, with Bell still undergoing sessions with the former England captain to hone his technique.

Bell has not played for England in a Twenty20 international since January 2011, but could play against Sri Lanka next Tuesday in the opening contest of the summer before also featuring in the five-match one-day series and the first Test, which begins at Lord's on June 12.

Bell is eager to get the summer's action under way after a rain affected opening against Scotland in Aberdeen.

"It will be a good series," he said.