Analysis: – Are England Mishandling the Abilities of Moeen Ali?

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In the modern day cricketing competition, we hear a lot about all-rounders from every cricket analyst, commentators and experts that a team needs to have a good one in that role. But the big question now arrives as to how a team utilizes them to be effective? Some of the most successful all-rounders like Andrew Flintoff, Abdul Razzaq, Sanath Jayasuriya, etc. were handled so carefully so that their real talent were harnessed efficiently.

Challenge to get best out of All-Rounders: –

The main challenge faced by a team management here is to find out which player can become a true all-rounder? If we define the role, a player having equally good aptitude and abilities in both bowling and batting department is basically called an all-rounder. So, in case of Jayasuriya, he came into the side batting at number 7 or 8, for once he was given the opportunity to open the batting where he started the trend of maximal use of field restrictions in the first 15 overs(recall 1996 world cup).

Similarly, Abdul Razzaq was a shocker of a promotion to be batting at number 3 in 1999 WC. Post-tournament we got to know how handy he became for Pakistan from there on. In addition to these gems, we cannot forget the likes of Flintoff, who was the main reason England regained Ashes after 21 long years, Jacques Kallis, a great all-rounder of his time for South Africa. There are plenty of names we can discuss here but the main focus is here about teams utilize these talents in the upcoming days and years. Ofcourse a huge challenge to everyone involved.

Once India had a good all-rounder in RS Sodhi, though he was never given enough opportunities. Even today, when India is claimed to be the power house of cricket, they do not have a proper all-rounder (now they seem to have one in Hardik Pandya). There were some part-time all-rounders like Sehwag, Ganguly, Yuvraj etc. Now, coming to real point i.e. harnessing the talent and utilizing such good players. We cannot categorically point out a specific team to be good or bad in handling the all-rounders.

All-Rounders need to know their roles specifically: –

Given a player’s ability to impress with both bat and ball, it is precarious, to overload him with too much of responsibilities. A good example, can be that of Irfan Pathan. He was given too much to handle at a very early stage. For instance, he was made to bat from no. 1 to no. 8 positions, open the bowling.

As an outcome of all this unmethodical approach, his pace dropped down, his bowling suffered, and this periodically lead to lose his place in the team. Even though he was a good batsman, unfortunately the team management labeled him as a pace bowler who can bat. He was dropped in 2007 WC and recalled in 2007-08 Australian tour where his bowling was the main reason that led India won Perth test, he also opened the batting innings for India in that test match (dubious decision continues).

An all-rounder should be aware of his responsibilities just like a star bowler or batsman should. Has Tendulkar or Kohli ever shifted so much in their batting orders or in their roles they have in the team? No, even though the team management pleaded Tendulkar at many instances to bat at number 4 position, he rarely obliged to give up on his opening slot where he was very comfortable. In the same light with Flintoff, Kallis, Jayasurya, Razzaq etc, once the team recognized their abilities, their batting and bowling position and roles were fixed. It was never so undefined like in case of Irfan Pathan.

England misusing Moeen Ali recently: –

Similar to Pathan’s case, England have misused Moeen Ali to some extent lately. He is a classic left handed batsman who is a wonderful stroke player. He started as an opener in ODIs, batted at number 6 in tests (fair choices). He was never a spinner who could have replaced Graeme Swann. During his county days, Ali was a batsman who could bowl. But England opted to make him a frontline spinner. His batting spot in ODI team moved from no.1 to no. 8, his test batting spots also moved from no. 1 to no. 8, and he bowls now in role of main attacking spinner.

In England, where conditions are more suitable for pace bowler, Ali’s limited ability with ball hasn’t affected that much. As a matter of fact, even with his limited bowling skills he ended up being the leading wicket taker in England against India in a test series back in 2014. But his performances outside England had never been so consistent. His ability to play magnificent cover drive is natural to him, rather than bowling 40 odd overs in test matches. We are well aware of what has happened in Ashes 2017-18.

Ali was hammered all over the park by unforgiving Australian batsmen. Once the English top order failed, Ali’s batting choked as he was accustomed to bat at 7 or 8 and suddenly in Australia he had to bat at the positions of 5 and 6. In the last inning of Sydney it was apparent that he was not interested enough to carry on as a batsman, after bowling 46 overs in 47 degrees heat.

Had England been bright enough in exploiting Ali’s potential, he could have performed similar role as that of the likes of Jayasuriya.  Ali has a flair in playing attacking strokes when he opens the batting. He takes on the bowlers, and tries to impose himself. He has a good record as an ODI opener, even in WC 2015 where every other batsmen had failed for England, Ali did considerably better as an opener.

After the changes in English ODI team post 2015 debacle, Jason Roy was drafted into the side as an opener. Roy is mostly one dimensional un-natural stroke player in comparison to Ali, but it all boils down to the team management. How and who they see fit in their eyes regardless of the natural talent.

Such instances of mishandled players shed light to an important aspect in Cricket or any other sports and that is to not bank upon entirely on raw talent but also how the team management nurtures them. South Africa can be a shining example of how a good utilization of all-rounders can affluence team’s success.

In the 1999 World Cup, SA had an abundance of all-rounders in Kallis, Lance Klusner, Cronje and Shaun Pollock. They remained unbeaten in match they played (until when they choked due to an irrational rule in the semis which lead to their infamous title of “The Chokers”).

Conclusion: –

Lastly, given the evolution of modern day cricket where players need to put their feet up in their busy schedule, it is significant for the team management to supervise and oversee the all-rounders. As and when all-rounders perform, they can be monumental and when they falter (either in single aspect or in both aspects of their game) they cause a serious unbalance to their side.

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