Bell: Cook can handle pressure
Ian Bell anticipates a seamless changing of the guard for England as Alastair Cook takes over the Test captaincy from Andrew Strauss.
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It took most England followers, and several players too, by surprise when Strauss last week announced his resignation as captain and retirement from professional cricket at the age of 35.
Somewhat less surprising was the identity of his successor, Cook having already taken over the one-day international leadership and evidently long been destined and groomed to captain his country in Test cricket too.
Only the timing of Cook's ascent then is of any concern. But Bell is confident that, at the age of 27, his fellow ODI opener is ready to assume Strauss' mantle and plot England's fortunes by leading from the front in two formats on and off the field.
The ongoing controversy over Kevin Pietersen's current alienation from the England camp, and prospects or otherwise of the prodigal's possible return, remains an inevitable complication with which Cook will have to become involved at some stage.
Bell is convinced, though, that Cook will prove eminently able to deal with all of the above.
"I think he will be fantastic," he said.
"He's had a responsibility in the Test team anyway, as vice-captain.
"He has been right there with Straussy."
Cook was indebted to Bell on Sunday for a match-winning 88 at Lord's as England won their second match in three days against South Africa, to turn a 1-0 NatWest Series deficit into a 2-1 lead - with just one match remaining, in Nottingham on Wednesday.
Cook's England will therefore top the International Cricket Council's ODI rankings for the rest of the year, irrespective of whether they win or lose at Trent Bridge.
Bell, meanwhile, simply has no qualms about the extra onus on Cook.
"He has led this one-day team incredibly well, and I don't think it will be anything strange to him; I think he will take to it very easily," said Bell.
"He will probably have his own stamp on things (in Tests), like he has in the one-dayers.
"But we're very lucky, because I think it will be quite an easy changeover."
Bell is similarly optimistic that England have the right formula in their batting order not just to close out victories in home conditions, but to up the ante on alien surfaces.
They singularly failed to do so, in a 5-0 hammering away to India just under a year ago.
Bell was surplus to requirements in the middle order back than, and many still wonder whether his touch timing will easily transfer to sub-continental climes - or if Jonathan Trott, who shared a century stand with him at Lord's, can bat at the right tempo when bigger totals need to be set or chased.
"We have to be flexible," said Bell.
"This was a case of setting a platform, but there might be times when we have to go a little harder.
"I'm up for that - I think I showed [in the rain-ruined first ODI against South Africa] at Cardiff that, if the time comes, I will go harder."
Bell's form has been a revelation since he replaced Pietersen at the top of the order this summer, and English pitches present a test to which he is ideally suited.
"With two new balls in England, you have to be prepared to get through the first few overs.
"It stops swinging quite quickly.
"When we go to the sub-continent or when we are chasing big scores, we are going to have to do that ... and we have the power at the end to get us over the line."
Bell echoes Cook's reaction to England's ODI table-topping status - reasoning that defining ventures lie ahead.
Asked if the number one tag feels entirely appropriate at this stage, he said: "Far from it.
"I've really enjoyed being part of it this summer, but we have some big challenges coming up.
"To go to India again in Tests and one-dayers will be a massive challenge, and it will be exciting to be a part of that.
"As a group, we are working as hard as we can.
"There are so many areas where we can get better ... our fielding hasn't been great.
"We want to get better at every discipline."
Bell may find his trip to India interrupted, for the best of reasons.
The birth of his first child is due in November, shortly after the start of England's Test tour, and it will be in keeping with recent policy if - like Strauss, Matt Prior and others before him - the 30-year-old flies home to be present.
"I've not 100 per cent thought about coming home," he said.
"I'll have to speak to (coach) Andy (Flower) and see what happens.
"It's very exciting. I'm looking forward to it."