Explained: Why has Moeen’s return to England created a stir?

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Explained: Why has Moeen’s return to England created a stir?


Moeen Ali will not feature in either of the remaining two Tests on the India tour. That’s because, in skipper Joe Root’s words, the off-spinning all-rounder “has chosen to go home”. The England selectors and team management have stuck to a rotation policy for this hectic year, but while in the cases of other players, it was conveyed that the matter was taken out of the player’s hands, the manner in which Moeen’s departure has been described conveys that it was entirely the player’s call.

Some sections of the England media have hinted that the spinner has been a victim of differential treatment, giving the impression that he is deserting the team in the midst of a crucial and challenging Test series, while intending to return for the T20 series with an eye on the Indian Premier League. Former skippers Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen have also criticised Moeen’s departure.

Like other multi-format players, he was allotted a rest window after the first two Tests against India. But after featuring in just one Test out of four in Sri Lanka and India and with only the inconsistent and less-experienced Dom Bess in the squad as a like-for-like replacement, the team management had probably hoped that Moeen will forgo his break.

Guardian’s Ali Martin hinted at some intrigue in the controversy when he reported that while in the other cases of player rotation chief selector Ed Smith and head coach Chris Silverwood didn’t divulge any in-house discussions to the media, Moeen “now finds his commitment to the national team being questioned by some supporters following the defeat” in the second Test on Tuesday.

Why is Moeen going back?

Because he is tired of the quarantine life. He had contracted Covid-19 in Sri Lanka and couldn’t play any game. He played the second Test in Chennai and has now chosen to go back home. He has been in quarantine since the start of January and if he is picked in the IPL auction, that period would stretch till the end of May – a total of six months.

What’s the controversy in his decision to go back?

It was in the way the Root phrased his departure. Until now, for all the other players who have been sent home – Sam Curran, Mark Wood, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler – the England management had said the rotation policy was the reason. For Moeen, Root said, “It was not about asking him if he wanted to stay. It was a decision he chose. He wants to get out the bubble and that is absolutely fair enough. We respect where he is at. It’s obviously been a very tricky tour for him. As mentioned at the start, if players feel like they need to get out of the bubble, then that’s been an option and I think it’s really important that we stand by that. That decision’s been made and hopefully, he feels better for it.”

How has the English media reacted?

Guardian’s Andy Bull writes: “From this distance, Moeen’s situation isn’t any different from Jos Buttler’s, or Jonny Bairstow’s, (like them, he will play in the IPL if he gets picked up by a franchise). But by describing this as being Moeen’s decision, Root’s left him open to accusations that he lacks commitment. It would be a clumsy way to treat any player, but it’s especially so for one who has spoken before about how he has been made to feel like he is ‘always one of the first guys to get the blame’, and who England’s own spin bowling coach, Jeetan Patel, only just said needed to ‘feel a bit of love from the game’.



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