Ian Bell: England were physically and mentally shattered for the Ashes Down Under in 2013/14

The former England batsman recalls that disastrous Ashes campaign, and says the first hour at the Gabba will tell a lot this time around...


When people ask what happened to England in the 2013/14 Ashes, the answer is simple: Mitchell Johnson happened.

We had won the series against the Aussies at home, and then, just a few weeks later, we went out there. It was ridiculous – we were mentally and physically shattered. It’s like asking Andy Murray to win Wimbledon one week, then defend it the next.

It wasn’t the right thing to do.

We had everything to lose, and Australia had everything to gain. They had a new coach who had them fired up, and obviously Johnson had the best series of his life.

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Australia were starting a new cycle, and took full advantage. But our squad was coming to the end of a cycle, with the likes of Trott, Swann and KP winding down, and we weren’t playing the kind of cricket we had in 2011.

In that 2010/11 series, when we won Down Under, Andrew Strauss made a point of trying to win every single warm-up game. We played an Aussie A-side, including Steve Smith, and hammered them at Hobart – part of our process was convincing ourselves to believe we could go out there and win it.

As a result we went into the series with a squad of 16 players at the top of their game. Everyone was in good nick, and, apart from Stuart Broad, we were injury-free.

To pick an 11 was a tough thing to do, there were others on that tour that could’ve played.

Handling the tour

On a lot of tours you can feel isolated on big buses but, in Australia, everything you do is at street level. You build up to the match as you drive in – the flags, the face paint, the fans everywhere.

Going to the Gabba, for example, is incredible. It was one of the highlights of my career – and I’ll miss not being there this time.

The level just goes up. The nervous energy and excitement is through the roof, especially when the national anthems play. You just don’t get anything like that anywhere else. And people can lose their heads – we’ve seen Steve Harmison bowling to third slip, it happens.

Even the Aussie guys will be nervous.

In that first hour, anything is possible. It’s an amazing feeling – you can pretty much gauge how the series is going to go on the back of that spell.

Without question, Australia is the best tour to go on. As an Englishman, you’re going to cop the stick. That’s just the way it is.

If you can laugh at yourself, and take it in the right way, you’re set up to have a good time. But if you fight it, and take yourself too seriously, it can be hard.

Cricket is the number one sport in Australia. If you embrace the challenge that presents, you can do anything.

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