Moeen Ali opts to return home during test series in India

STEVE DOUGLAS
·3-min read

England allrounder Moeen Ali is returning home midway through the test series against India after choosing to take up the option of a rest period available to all multi-format players to manage their workload in a busy year of international cricket.

Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran have all been granted similar breaks during a run of six back-to-back tests, starting with the two-match series in Sri Lanka last month.

The 33-year-old Moeen missed the series in Sri Lanka after testing positive for COVID-19 on arrival in the country, which forced him to spend a combined 20 days in hotel isolation due to quarantine requirements.

He wasn’t picked for the first test against India, won by England, but was in the team for the second — also in Chennai — which marked his comeback after an 18-month absence from the longer format. Moeen, who replaced Dom Bess, took eight wickets and hit England’s top score of the match with 43 in the fourth innings as India swept to a 317-run win on Tuesday.

He will not be available for the remaining two tests of the series, both of which take place in Ahmedabad.

“Moeen has chosen to go home. It’s obviously been a very tricky tour for him,” England captain Joe Root said. “As we mentioned at the start, if players feel like they need to get out of the bubble, then that’s been an option. It is really important that we stand by that.

“That decision has been made. Hopefully he feels better for it. With Moeen, it wasn’t about asking if he wanted to stay, it was a decision; he had chosen. Of course we wanted as many players available for as long as possible, but you also want them to be very comfortable here and, for Mo, he obviously wants to be at home with his family and we completely understand that.”

Root said Moeen had got to a point where “he wants to get out.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision for him,” Root said, “but it’s one we completely respect and understand.”

Moeen is due back for the Twenty20 series against India that starts March 12 — four days after the end of the final test — and also hopes to take part in the Indian Premier League that will be played in April and May.

England’s cricket team has a hectic schedule in 2021 that includes a possible 17 tests and a T20 World Cup. Aside from that workload, there is an overt attempt by the England and Wales Cricket Board to look after the mental wellbeing of players while they live in bio-secure bubbles during tours and series.

Root said it is a challenge to combine that with getting results on the field.

“It is difficult, it is challenging, but so is everything at the moment,” he said.

“In these times — with COVID, with bubble life, with the amount of cricket we’ve got and trying to factor it all in together — it is tough.”

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