Moeen Ali: England all-rounder on Test retirement, his career and future

England all-rounder Moeen Ali says he ended his Test career because he found the format “really difficult to get into” and “really long”.

The 34-year-old retired on Monday, but will still play white-ball cricket.

“It has been bubbling for a bit of time,” Moeen said. “I am really content and happy with my decision.

“The break between 2019 to playing three Tests this summer was too long and my mindset had changed. I found it difficult to really concentrate.”

He added: “I just found it really long and really difficult to get into – it is a shame.

“To be given the vice-captaincy against India was great and a huge honour and Joe Root always asked me a lot more towards the end, and made me feel more involved in the side, but I just couldn’t do it. I found it a struggle.

“The Ashes this winter would have been very difficult. I don’t think I would have gone because 14 days quarantining is a long time and I wouldn’t be surprised if people pull out because of that.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Aatif Nawaz for the Test Match Special podcast Moeen also spoke about:

  • His flexible role with England
  • His favourite moments in Test cricket
  • How he hopes he has inspired others
  • What the future holds – both in his playing career and post-retirement

‘I wasn’t true to my batting’

During his 64 Tests Moeen batted in every position from one to nine for England, with 66 of his 111 innings coming at seven and eight in the order.

His role often changed, depending on whether he was the frontline spinner or not, but he says that allowed him to play “a lot more games”.

“There is a quote saying ‘I was wasted, but in a good way’ and what I meant by that is that I was so up and down the order it is hard to be stable and have your spot in the side,” added Moeen added.

“I played a lot, but I wasn’t true to my batting, and maybe if I had a settled spot I could have batted better and scored a lot more runs.

“The one thing I do miss, because of coming in at eight or nine, is the art of batting.

“I went away from it because I didn’t believe I had the opportunities to score big, but there are no complaints whatsoever. I really enjoyed it and it is just how it is.”

Moeen Ali Test career stats graphic: 64 appearances, 2,914 runs, 28.29 average, 195 wickets, 36.66 average and 6-53 best figures

‘I’ve never had a moment like that’

Since making his Test debut in 2014 Moeen has been part of England victories over India and Australia, but says his hat-trick against South Africa at The Oval in 2017 was “by far my favourite moment”.

“I’ve never had a moment like that on a cricket field,” he said. “To do it in a Test match and to win the game on the final day was amazing.

“I just remember the guys were with me celebrating because the umpire gave it not out and we reviewed and I absolutely loved that. That was the best by a mile.

“When you have good days in Test cricket it is a far better feeling than anything else.”

He cites India’s MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli as two of his biggest wickets, but was “really proud” of taking 195 wickets in the format.

“It was something that I never expected at all,” he says.

“Ending up being the main spinner was great and my best ball was good enough for the best batters and that is a nice feeling.”

‘Hopefully I’ve made some sort of difference’

In the statement announcing his retirement, Moeen said he hoped his career would help British Muslims and reiterated that by saying it would mean “more than the wickets and runs”.

“Hopefully I’ve made some sort of difference,” added the Birmingham-born player. “Even if it is a tiny one, or made it easier for someone’s pathway in the future.

“Hopefully there are kids out there, from any background, who are saying ‘Moeen Ali was my inspiration’. That would be amazing.

“I hope I’ve made people smile when they’ve watched me play and they’ve enjoyed it.

“That is the real reason that you play.”

‘I really want to be a white-ball specialist’

Moeen’s immediate focus is on Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, with the three-time champions well positioned to progress to the play-offs.

He will then be part of England’s squad for the T20 World Cup, with their campaign starting against holders West Indies on 23 October.

Another T20 tournament is scheduled for 2022 before England defend their 50-over crown in 2023, and Moeen is hoping to be involved in all three tournaments.

“With the teams I am going to play for, I want to win trophies,” he said.

“England is massive and those are the things I’m really looking forward to.

“I would love to be involved in all of that and play as long as I can, in all the white-ball competitions and really be a white-ball specialist.

“After that I would love to coach. I can give my experience back to the younger players and at least that would keep me in the game and keep me busy.”

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