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Joe Root admitted Moeen Ali’s decision to retire from Test cricket caught him by surprise and accepts he may have made mistakes in handling him as captain.
Root believes he could have done more to make Moeen appreciated by English cricket after a career in which he was constantly shifted up and down the order, batting in every position from one to nine.
Moeen announced his retirement yesterday after playing 64 Tests over seven years taking almost 200 wickets and scoring nearly 3,000 runs. He was vice-captain to Root in his last game against India at the Oval but has subsequently decided to concentrate on white ball cricket and Twenty20 leagues admitting he had lost his appetite for the intensity of Test cricket.
England recalled Moeen this summer for three matches against India, picking him ahead of Jack Leach who has not bowled a ball in Test cricket since March but is likely to go to Australia as the lead spinner.
“I didn’t at the time, no,” said Root when asked if he knew Moeen was contemplating retirement when he picked him against India. “I’ve spoken to him in the past week and the way he has dealt with it has been, as you’d expect, first class. He’ll be a huge loss to the group for so many different reasons.”
Root and the rest of the England players will meet with the England & Wales Cricket Board at the end of the week to discuss quarantine arrangements for the Ashes tour with several wavering over their involvement.
Moeen’s retirement was separate to the Ashes tour negotiations and taken before the ECB received details on Friday of quarantine details when the squad and families arrive in Queensland.
“I want to play for as long as I can and I just want to enjoy my cricket," Moeen said. "I've enjoyed Test cricket but that intensity can be too much sometimes and I feel like I've done enough of it and I'm happy and content with how I've done."
Moeen’s appetite for Test cricket waned when he was dropped after just one Test of the 2019 Ashes series, despite taking more wickets than any other bowler in the world over the previous 12 months, and subsequently lost his central contract.
He made himself unavailable for the tour that winter to Sri Lanka, a trip that was in the end postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He was part of the squad when England returned to Sri Lanka earlier this year but contracted coronavirus so missed the series and only played one Test against India before going home as part of his agreed rest and rotation period. Even that was messed up by England with Root apologising to Moeen for saying he had “chosen” to go home. It opened Moeen to criticism because it made it look as if he had decided to leave the tour after only one Test.
“There are a number of things I’ll look back on when I’m finished as captain - I could look back on with regret that I could have done slightly differently,” said Root. “The one thing I will say is when Mo has played, he’s been brilliant. You look at the amount of games he has affected, the amount of special moments he has had on a cricket field in the Test match format has been exceptional. I’ll certainly remember a lot of amazing things that he has achieved. Of course, there might have been times we could have done things slightly differently, but I could say that about a lot of things.
“I think at times he has been under-appreciated. Not within the dressing room but outside of that. He’ll be a huge loss. He’s a great personality to have in and around the dressing room, and he’s a great brain for younger players to learn from and to feed off.”
The news about Moeen’s retirement came at the start of a big week for England with the Ashes tour on the line. Most players will take their lead from Root, although Jos Buttler, his deputy, appears almost certain to pull out of the tour to spend time with his family.
Stuart Broad and James Anderson have already confirmed they will go to Australia but England do not expect Ben Stokes to make himself available. Jofra Archer has already been ruled out with injury.
England all-rounder Moeen Ali quits Test cricket to focus on white-ball format
By Nick Hoult
Moeen Ali has announced his retirement from the Test format to concentrate on white-ball cricket.
Moeen played 64 Tests for England across seven years, taking 195 wickets and scoring 2914 runs, including five centuries.
He was dropped after one Test of the 2019 Ashes and only recalled earlier this year against India in Chennai, having stepped away from Test cricket for a brief period to concentrate on shorter formats. He played one Test on that tour before being called up once again for the second Test against India at Lord’s and played the remainder of the series.
However, he was not expected to make himself available for the Ashes tour having struggled badly in Australia four years ago when he suffered a major crisis in confidence and form.
At 34 he remains a highly-prized player on the Twenty20 franchise circuit and is currently in the UAE playing for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. His decision was made before Cricket Australia supplied details of this winter’s quarantine and biobubble rules for the Ashes tour, which will be relayed to players this week.
Moeen said: "I'm 34 now and I want to play for as long as I can and I just want to enjoy my cricket. Test cricket is amazing, when you're having a good day it's better than any other format by far, it's more rewarding and you feel like you've really earnt it.
"I will miss just walking out there with the lads, playing against the best in the world with that feeling of nerves but also from a bowling point of view, knowing with my best ball I could get anyone out.
"I've enjoyed Test cricket but that intensity can be too much sometimes and I feel like I've done enough of it and I'm happy and content with how I've done.
"I have to thank Peter Moores and Chris Silverwood for being my coaches and Peter for giving me my debut. Cookie and Rooty as the captains who I've enjoyed playing under and I hope they are happy with how I played.
"My parents are my number one, I feel without their support there is no way I would have made it, every game I played was for them and I know they are really proud of me.
"My brothers and my sister, on my bad days they've been the first to pick me up and my wife and kids, my wife's sacrifices and the patience she has, I am really grateful for that.
"They have all been amazing on my journey, everything I did I did for them."
Moeen was a wonderful, attacking batsman to watch in full flow but could be maddening too, getting himself out at important moments but always when trying to take the game forward. He has been a fantastic role model and eloquent speaker on diversity, a proud British Asian who has broken down barriers.
On the field he turned himself from a batsman-bowler in county cricket into a highly effective spinner, with only Graeme Swann and Derek Underwood, of English spinners, taking more wickets.
In recent times he rarely looked happy in Test cricket playing under Joe Root and Alastair Cook and was much more at home in the white-ball side led by Eoin Morgan, a captain he often referred to as the best he had ever played for. Root made him vice-captain for the fourth Test against India at the Oval but he was out playing a poor shot in the first innings.
Now England will look to Jack Leach for the Ashes having not picked him all summer, as well as Dom Bess and possibly leg-spinners Mason Crane and Matt Parkinson.
The England & Wales Cricket Board will meet with the players this week to discuss the arrangements for the Ashes tour and ask them to commit to going to Australia. Once they know who is willing to tour then they will pick the Ashes squad, which is expected to be announced next week.