England’s Moeen Ali has vowed to make the most of whatever time he has left in international cricket, including pushing for a return to the Test arena.
Moeen has just arrived in Cape Town for England’s limited-overs tour of South Africa, their first overseas engagement since the pandemic disrupted the global calendar, and has travelled with a clear mission to begin a new chapter.
The 33-year-old has not played Test cricket since losing his place to Jack Leach in the 2019 Ashes, subsequently losing his red-ball contract and admits he has struggled for both motivation and form ever since.
But rather than shrink from the challenge, he intends to go all out to do as much as he can between now and the end of his career.
“I know I haven’t got that long left in international cricket, obviously depending on fitness and form, but I’ll try my best to do as much as I can to get to the level I want to get,” he said in a candid appearance ahead of training at Newlands.
“It’s frustrating for myself and it’s more of a mental thing. That hunger has not been there in the last year or so, there’s been glimpses but I know deep down I haven’t done well over a period of time.
“It’s my job now to go out and perform. I need to get into a good mental space, which I have been working on for the last four or five months. It’s been difficult but it’s about clearing everything out and starting afresh.
“I’ve had enough of a break from Test cricket. I can give my all in the next couple of years to try and be part of this. There’s so much cricket and so much success to have. There’s an opportunity there to be one of the greatest sides ever and be part of that. That’s something I want to do. For me, right now, to play as much cricket as I can and do the best I can.
“I think I was hungrier when I was younger, when you are trying to play Test cricket (for the first time). I think everyone is hungrier then. I guess a year and a half ago I had definitely lost a lot of that hunger but over the last six months I feel like it is coming back. I want to play Test cricket and play as much as I can.”
Moeen is particularly keen to draw a line under his swift exit from the last Ashes, with next year’s tour Down Under an obvious target to conquer any lingering demons.
“It does have a knock-on effect, but I’m over these things now. It’s time to move on,” he said.
“I think I dwelt on that for too long, getting dropped from the Ashes and in the World Cup. Over the last probably four months now I’ve been trying to think about going forward. I still feel I have a lot to give in Test cricket and there are still things I want to achieve.”
Moeen also responded to the recent allegations of institutional racism at the England and Wales Cricket Board, led by former international umpire John Holder and aspiring umpire Ish Dawood, who both feel the path to officiating has been blocked to non-white candidates. Their claims follow Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racial discrimination at Yorkshire.
Answering to his own time in the English game, Moeen added: “I can honestly say, hand on heart, that 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 like one of the guys.
“I am sure there are other guys who say they have and I am sure things have and will be done about it. The review is being done and the ECB are improving in all these aspects of the game. No one is perfect, but going forward, I think a lot will be done to get all these things right.”