Moeen Ali and Eoin Morgan
Moeen Ali has no intention of banging down Eoin Morgan’s door to push his claim to a bigger role in England’s white-ball team, but is ready and waiting if the chance does come.
After seven years as an international cricketer and 207 caps across all three formats, Moeen has little to prove to his captain about his readiness to fill a variety of roles for the team.
And yet in recent months he has found himself shunted to the periphery. A positive Covid test at the turn of the year saw him isolating for the majority of the Sri Lanka tour, and he was then sent home for a pre-agreed rest period one game into his Test comeback in India.
Morgan’s limited-overs side looked as though it would offer a more stable home, but he was overlooked for the entire five-match T20 series on an Ahmedabad pitch offering little to the spinners and has also found himself squeezed from the XI in two of the five games against Sri Lanka in the past fortnight.
In the three games he has played over the past two weeks he has sent down a total of 2.5 overs from a possible 24 and was not required to bowl or bat in Thursday’s series-clinching ODI win at the Kia Oval. The 34-year-old would love to do more as England look to force a 3-0 whitewash at Bristol on Sunday, and 6-0 scoreline for the tour, but will not be shouting his case.
“It’s not my way. Whenever Morgs tells me I’m not playing, I never question it,” he said.
“I always feel he’s doing what’s best for the team. All I can say is I’m playing well, and when I get my chance I want to take it. If I get the opportunity, I’ll try.
Obviously I’m disappointed and I want to play, but we’re winning so there’s not much I can say
“Domestically, for Worcestershire and in the Indian Premier League, I’ve been doing well. But right now, I’m not bowling much or batting much (with England). Obviously I’m disappointed and I want to play, but we’re winning so there’s not much I can say.
“Not that I would, but there’s no argument for me to go out and say ‘I need to go up the order or do this’. When I’m called upon, I’m ready.”
During his most recent IPL stint with Chennai Super Kings he was handed more responsibility with the bat and thrived, scoring 206 runs at a strike-rate of 157.97 before the early postponement. Where Moeen might previously have over-thought his less prominent position in the national side, now he is more able to ride out the peaks and troughs.
“MS Dhoni just backed me to go up the order and play how I play for Worcester. It’s just nice to get that confidence from the captain,” he said.
“I get it here as well, but we have so may world-class players it’s difficult to get up the order. I just want to enjoy my cricket. I think in the past I would let it affect me, and then it affects my game mentally, but I’ve come to realise it’s not me. Sometimes it’s just the way it is. It’s easy to blame yourself, you think you need to change much, but it’s never me.”
As for red-ball cricket, Moeen remains available to Joe Root if required. He has worn his England whites only once in the last two years, taking eight wickets in Chennai in February, and has come to terms with the idea that Jack Leach has nipped ahead in the pecking order.
“Obviously, Leachy is still number one,” he said with a view to the five remaining Tests against India this summer.
“My guess is England will go with him first, and if they need two spinners I’ll hopefully play. If the weather’s good I think I will.”
England have retained an unchanged 16-man squad for next week’s Royal London ODI series against Pakistan, with Tom Banton continuing to cover for Dawid Malan who is absent for personal reasons.
Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer remain injured and Ben Stokes will not be risked as he continues his comeback from a fractured finger. He could play some part in the subsequent T20 series.
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