Moeen Ali interview: I fear losing 50-over game altogether
Moeen Ali can boast a unique career hat-trick. He is the only Englishman to have won the Ashes, the one-day international World Cup and the Indian Premier League: three of cricket’s greatest prizes in its different formats.
His perspective on the game’s difficulties and juggling formats, then, is enlightening. Moeen’s conclusion is that it is the 50-over game – the awkward middle sibling – which is most embattled. This is a verdict that chimes with Ben Stokes’s ODI retirement.
“I fear losing the 50-over format in a couple of years because it’s almost like the long, boring one,” Moeen says. Even his role in England’s metamorphosis from also-rans in the 2015 World Cup to champions four years later – and importance in the World Cup defence in India next year – cannot conceal his fears for the format’s future.
“Having won it in 2019 it’s a difficult one because I genuinely feel, in two or three years’ time, that nobody’s going to want to play,” Moeen added. “It’s going that way and there’s almost nothing you can do because I think the interest in 50-over cricket is not there as it probably once was.
“You’ve got the Test matches, which are great, and then the 50 overs is just in the middle. There’s no importance given to it at the moment.”
Moeen suggests significant tweaks to ODI cricket. Since 2015, fielding sides have been allowed only four fielders outside the 30-yard circle from the 11th to 40th overs, which has led to scores increasing. But Moeen proposes that an extra fielder be allowed outside the circle – as was previously the case – also advocating using one ball throughout an innings, rather than two, which would encourage reverse swing.
“The rules have to change in 50-over cricket because there’s that period in the middle where it’s a little bit boring,” he says. “It’s hard to build up pressure in 50-over cricket just to stop the runs. I feel the rules need to change a little bit, maybe go back to the more old school 50-over cricket.
“Maybe go back to one ball to try and get a bit of reverse swing. Whatever – it has got to be a bit more exciting.” For all his achievements across the three formats, Moeen now has a fourth to embrace: the Hundred, where he is the captain of Birmingham Phoenix.
'Captaining Birmingham in The Hundred... I felt like I was representing all my family and friends'
Last year, Phoenix reached the final, with Moeen relishing his role. “It felt like being home, and I really enjoyed that feeling of captaining the city where I was born,” he reflects. “We grew up literally 10 minutes from Edgbaston. I really enjoyed it. It was the best atmosphere in the country. I felt like I was representing all my family and friends and all the people who have supported me on the journey.”
From next year, Edgbaston will become Moeen’s county home ground too, after he moves from Worcestershire to Warwickshire.
In the ninth year of an international career, Moeen is in the autumn of his storied career, with 241 caps all told, and he might yet add to the tally in all three formats, after holding discussions with Brendon McCullum about a Test return in Pakistan.
“Mentally, I feel young. Physically a bit older. You don’t realise there are young players who look up to you and you try to give them tips and knowledge.”
Yet, for all that young players, in Birmingham and beyond, might look up to him, Moeen is concerned that the priorities for the new generation are changing. For Moeen, the world of franchise cricket has provided a late-career source of fulfilment and cash; for many younger players, the franchise world might be the framework of their entire careers.
“Because I’m in the back end of my thirties, it’s easier for me to go right, like I did, where you don’t play Test matches and concentrate on franchise cricket,” he said. “Whereas, if you’re a young player coming through there’s so much to be made, money-wise, away from international cricket as well. So you’re almost like I’m not too bothered, because, in terms of money, you lose that hunger and I guess I think you lose that thing for Test cricket, which is the absolute pinnacle.
“It’s easier to just be like I’m not too bothered if I play Test cricket then great. If I don’t play then I’ve got plenty out there. And that’s the danger.
“There’s so many good players that could easily not be worried that they need to play Test cricket. Whereas I reckon about 10 or 15 years ago it was all about playing Test cricket.”
Moeen asserts that international cricket “is by far the best cricket to play”. But it is a view that might not be endorsed by many of the cricketers of the future.
KP Snacks, official team partner of the Hundred, are touring the country to offer more opportunities for people to play cricket as part of their 'Everyone In' campaign. Visit everyonein.co.uk/about