London, Sep 28 (IANS) Former England captain Nasser Hussain said that all-rounder Moeen Ali was more that his stats reflected in Test cricket. He also said that Ali did every role given to him keeping the team in mind, including batting from first to ninth position in Tests.
On Monday, the 34-year-old Ali announced his retirement from Test cricket, ending a career of 64 matches starting from his debut against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in 2014. Ali scored 2914 runs at an average of 28.29, including five centuries and 14 half-centuries. He also scalped 195 wickets at an average of 36.66 with his off-spin.
“Moeen was more than his stats. He did everything with the team in mind and as such he batted in every position from one to nine in Test cricket and was mucked around because of his selflessness and versatility. The problem was, when he was put at eight or nine he tended to bat like a tail-ender rather than the genuine top-order batter he was,” wrote Hussain in his column for Daily Mail on Tuesday.
Hussain explained that how Ali’s career in Test cricket summarised why people watch cricket. “Moeen Ali’s Test career encapsulated why we watch cricket. There was brilliance but there were also, as Moeen would say himself, those brain fade moments. It is what makes sport, and Moeen Ali in particular, so watchable. Moeen, who confirmed his Test retirement on Monday, ended up with almost 3,000 runs and nearly 200 wickets and that is the record of a genuine Test all-rounder. But he was certainly a man of extremes.”
“I don’t think our commentary box has gushed as much over the shots of anyone in the last six or seven years as Moeen – and there was a cover drive in his last Test against India this summer at the Oval that made everyone go ‘wow’ – but then he tried to slog sweep Ravindra Jadeja and top-edged it straight up in the air. It was Mo in a nutshell.”
“When he did things like that, he frustrated England supporters and himself but he never frustrated his team-mates. They absolutely loved him and I can just imagine the warmth of the messages they would have been sending him on the team WhatsApp.”
Hussain acknowledged that Ali was an underachiever with the bat but became a Test-level spinner with the ball. “Those ups and downs meant he did underachieve with the bat. When he emerged at Warwickshire and then at Worcestershire you felt ‘this lad can play’. He should have averaged more than 28 in Tests with the bat. He was better than that.”
“But few would have expected him to take 195 Test wickets and end up ahead of Jim Laker in the all-time list, and behind only Graeme Swann and Derek Underwood among England spinners. He perhaps even surprised himself by becoming a Test-class spinner, capable of getting the very best out on his day.”
The 53-year-old urged people to recognise Ali’s impact in England cricket as a British Muslim combining his game and faith. “We should also recognise his impact as a British Muslim on English cricket and there will be plenty of Asian kids who will be following and playing the game now and supporting England because of Moeen Ali. He would always find a way to combine his cricket and his faith and there were lots of things we did not see, like when he was fasting during Ramadan but organising his routine to still play at the very highest level in the toughest conditions.”
“It was always a sign of the respect in which the England team under Alastair Cook and then Joe Root held Moeen that they would celebrate as a team after a series win, but then wait for him to walk to one side before they uncorked the champagne. Peak Moeen Ali would have been when he scored four of his five Test centuries in 2016 but the trough would have come after that in the last Ashes tour when he had a terrible time and averaged close to 100 with the ball.”
“We always used to say in the England dressing room that we had to try to stay level during the good and bad times and never get too up or down. Moeen never had any trouble with that because of his faith through all those extreme highs and lows,” signed off Hussain.