Moeen Ali feels time is ticking on his England career – and the all-rounder is determined to make every second count in every form of the game.
Ali has endured a tough period with his country recently, left out for many of the team’s successes, including the backend of their triumphant World Cup campaign in 2019 and for all but the first Test of their 2-2 Ashes draw at home to Australia the same year.
At 33, Moeen believes he is in the twilight of his spell as an international cricketer but if that is the case, then he wants to bow out with a bang, helping England to further white-ball glory and also regain the urn from their great rivals down under. Ali’s hunger is back.
S Africa vs England
November 27, 2020, 3:30pm
“I know I haven’t got that long left in international cricket but I will try my best to do as much as I can to get to the level I want,” said Moeen, currently with England in South Africa ahead of the three T20Is and three ODIs against the Proteas.
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“There is so much cricket and so much success to have – there is an opportunity to be one of the greatest sides ever. Being part of that is something I want.
“It’s such an exciting time so I want to play as much cricket as I can and do the best I can. There is an opportunity with the T20 World Cup, the Ashes, the 50-over World Cup to have that target and give everything I can for those tournaments.
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“I was hungrier when I was younger, for sure. When you are trying to play Test cricket I think everyone is a lot hungrier. A year and a half ago I definitely lost that hunger [but] I think over the last six months or so it’s coming back into me.
“[My form] has been frustrating. There have been glimpses but I know deep down I have not done that well over a long period of time. It’s my job now to go out and perform.”
Ali has not played a Test since the Ashes opener at Edgbaston in 2019. He was dropped after that fixture, lost his red-ball central contract and subsequently requested a break from the longest format.
The off-spinner made himself available for Test matches again this summer but England opted to stick with Dom Bess, who had returned to the side in South Africa the previous winter with Ali absent and Jack Leach stricken down by illness.
Moeen still hopes to be part of England’s tour to Australia in 2021-22 and stamp his imprint on an away Ashes series, having averaged below 20 with the bat and 115 with the ball on the 2017-18 trip. Numbers that are the wrong way round for an all-rounder.
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“I have had enough of a break from Test cricket, I want to play Test cricket again. I still feel I have a lot to give and there are lots of things I want to achieve.
“I probably went [to Australia in 2017] on the back of being in my best form for England. I wouldn’t say I was over-confident but I was confident.
“I put the work in but I probably didn’t do the planning as much as I should have. I definitely feel I can do much better than I did out there.”
With T20 World Cups scheduled for 2021 and 2022, in India and Australia respectively, and then the next 50-over World Cup in India in 2023, Ali hopes to become an un-droppable member of the starting XI having slipped out of that during the 2019 ODI showpiece in England and Wales.
Much of England’s success in the years between that triumph and the debacle of the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand – a period of time in which they ascended to the top of the ICC rankings – came through the form of spin twins Moeen and Adil Rashid.
However, Ali was the man to drop out with pacemen Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer backing up Rashid as England went from the brink of elimination to winning their maiden global 50-over title.
“Every player wants to get to a point where when the World Cups come around where you are playing so well that you don’t get dropped,” said Ali, who confirmed he will carry on playing county cricket and in T20 leagues across the world when his England career comes to an end.
“Looking back at that 50-over World Cup, I got 3-50 against Pakistan and then got dropped because we went to Cardiff and we usually only play one spinner.
“I want to get to the point where I am playing so well that I don’t get dropped no matter what the size of ground.
“I am over these things now. I think I dwelled on the World Cup, getting dropped from the Ashes and all that kind of stuff. Over the last four months I have been trying to think about going forward.
“I need to get into a good mental space, which I feel I have been working on over the last four or five months. It’s about clearing everything out and starting fresh, looking forward and trying to enjoy whatever time I have left.”
I have never gone into a game with doubts – it almost goes too far the other way. The thing with my batting sometimes is that I feel like I am in before I am actually in. That has probably been my downfall a lot of the time.
That enjoyment would intensify if Moeen was playing in front of packed houses again, something which has been wrecked – hopefully only temporarily – by the coronavirus pandemic.
“You realise how much you miss the fans when they are not there. That extra motivation they give you when you are playing. If the fans can come in by next year it would be amazing.”
England supporters would wholeheartedly agree, for they want to enjoy Moeen for as long as he has left.
Ali responds to allegations of institutional racism at ECB
Moeen also responded to the recent allegations of institutional racism at the England and Wales Cricket Board by umpires John Holder and Ismail Dawood.
Speaking on his experiences as a player, Ali said: “I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like that. I always felt that if you were scoring runs or taking wickets you’ll play.
“I have now been playing for England for six years and always felt at home, always felt one of the guys. I have always been someone who is myself and if guys accept it, good, and if they don’t, it’s their problem, not mine.
“We will see what comes from the ECB review. I’m sure things will be done. No one is perfect. The ECB are improving in these aspects and I think a lot will be done to get these things right going forward.”
Watch every game of England’s white-ball tour to South Africa live on Sky Sports Cricket, starting with the first T20 international from 3.30pm on Friday, November 27.
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