Ian Bell: Surprise Australia call-ups are massive boost for England

The Ashes-winning cricketer doesn’t buy the Aussies’ self-proclaimed fear factor...


Shock Aussie squad will boost England

Australia calling up Tim Paine is a massive shock. He hasn’t been playing for Tasmania for the last couple of years, so to see him thrown into an Ashes side is real surprise – and a massive boost for England.

He’ll be a target for them, no doubt. It’s news that will give the England squad confidence. Nobody would’ve had Paine down for an Ashes call-up.

I thought Australia would’ve gone for someone like Matthew Wade, someone who will stand up and be in your face. Their squad lacks someone like that, and I thought Steve Smith, in particular, would’ve wanted another confrontational character in the team.

The three surprise selections – Paine, Cameron Bancroft and Shaun Marsh – are all quiet guys. They’re not aggressive characters, they won’t be growling on the field.

So the Aussie squad is great news for England.

If we can avoid defeat in the first Test, the local media will turn on Australia quite quickly, and pick all their fault apart. This announcement has already started that ball rolling – a good first Test, and England could turn all that pressure round on their opponents.

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Australia won’t scare England – they’re a bunch of nice guys

I don’t look at this Aussie side and worry.

They’re very good at talking themselves up, they’re full of bravado – but they’ve got as many question marks as England do.

Where are their characters? Where’s the Warne or Ponting?

When I first started, the Australia side had been great for ten years. They were really aggressive – this bunch now, apart from maybe David Warner, are just nice guys.

I don’t buy into this supposed ‘fear factor’ Australia think they have. It’s all very familiar. Mitchell Starc says he’s going to be aggressive, but he played for Yorkshire with Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow – so they’re not going to be scared of him.

Australia can be as aggressive as they want to be, it’s not going to get anyone out – they’ll have to rely on skill to do that, which is a big question mark for me.

Australia would be whitewashed if this series was in England

Australia are only favourites because they’re on home soil. If this series was in England, they wouldn’t win a Test match.

They have three very good seamers, who will really test the England batsmen, but beyond that there’s not much depth – one injury, and they’ve not got a lot. They’ve only got two world class players with the bat, the same number as England. I think the two sides are very evenly matched.

The fact that they’re singling out Joe Root means they’re worried about him. They know they have to go at him, because he’s our danger man – they need more than skill to win.

I actually see a lot of similarities in this England squad to the team that won Down Under in 2011 – they’re just peaking, form-wise.

If Ben Stokes is cleared, he should be put on the first plane to Australia

Ben Stokes is a world-class player, the best England has. The whole team want him out there –put him in the XI and England are favourites.

He’s the best all-rounder in the world, he balances the side perfectly, and his aggression is exactly what the team need. Australia will be over the moon that he’s not coming.

That said, and I count Stokesy as a good mate of mine, it’s right he’s not out there.

No matter who you are, everyone deserves the same treatment – and, if this wasn’t the Ashes or if Ben was a fringe player, I doubt anyone would be questioning him being dropped.

However, if the police clear him of any wrongdoing, I’d have him on the first plane to Australia. It’s a no brainer. When he next plays for England, there’s going to be plenty of scrutiny anyway, so why not get on with it and pick him for the Ashes? England will definitely miss him.

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