Has Moeen Ali Underachieved for England in Cricket?

Cricketer Moeen Ali has had a good run with England but has he done justice to his talent. We explore his performances and ground realities.

Has Moeen Ali Underachieved for England in Cricket? - F

"As soon as he was dropped, England played their best cricket."

Moeen Ali who is amongst the most exciting players to represent the England cricket team has had a bit of a topsy turvy career.

He was born Moeen Munir Ali in Birmingham, West Midlands, England on June 18, 1987.

He comes from a Kashmiri family of Pakistani heritage, with former England pacer Kabir Ali being his cousin.

Despite playing initially for Warwickshire, it is at Worcestershire that gave him the limelight.

Moeen Ali became quite a regular for England after making his debut in all formats of the game during 2014.

We closely assess Moeen’s England career, relating to his overall performance, which presents several questions.

Has Moeen done less well than expected? Could have things panned out differently?

Stuck in No Man’s Land

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Moeen Ali has had an indifferent England career in all formats of the game, with him not really dominating either with the bat or ball.

Overall statistics prove his performances have not always been up there with the best.

In Test cricket, after playing 61 matches, he was averaging under 30, 28.88 to be precise.

When briefly batting right at the top of the order, he did not grab the opportunity with both hands.

As an opener, he had a torrid 2015 series against Pakistan on the slow but batting wickets of the UAE.

He made 85 runs in six innings as an opening batsman in the series. His highest score was 35.

In the same number of Tests, his bowling average is a mere 36.25, which suggests he is nothing more than a supporting bowler really.

Even as an all-rounder, he certainly falls short, particularly when comparing to the likes of former cricketers such as Imran Khan, Jacques Kallis and Ian Botham.

In One Day International (ODI) cricket, playing 109 matches, his average deteriorates even further.

His shocking bowling average of 51.38 and a batting average of only 24.98 does not even classify him as a genuine allrounder.

Much is the same for Moeen in T20 cricket, with him being inconsistent across that format too.

Additionally, Moeen has not been the best at handling pressure when batting, particularly in ODI cricket.

His batting was completely clueless in the round-robin game of the 2019 Cricket World Cup against Pakistan.

His form was so inconsistent that he was dropped for the latter part of the world cup.

A thread titled, ‘Dropping Moeen Ali the turning point for England’ on Pakpassion prompted many critical opinions:

Hassan commented on the unnecessary hype of Moeen, justifying his exclusion:

“He is overrated. As soon as he was dropped, England played their best cricket.

“Not good enough to play as a specialist spinner, and not better than any of England’s top 6. There is no use for him especially if he isn’t in form.”

He went onto add:

“I can remember when he made his international debut I was thinking why were they selecting him? He never set domestic cricket a light.”

Another comment from Zaz was a bit more diplomatic:

“Mo has a lot of talent but unfortunately he just can’t handle pressure well.”

Moeen is also known for not finishing big games, losing his wicket in the heat of the moment.

Has Moeen Ali Underachieved for England in Cricket? - Moeen Ali 2

A prime example of this is when he got out for twenty-nine against India in the final and 3rd ODI of their 2021 tour to the subcontinent.

In late 2020, Moeen spoke about his England form saying:

“I know deep down I haven’t done well over a period of time.”

It is very humble and honest of Moeen to acknowledge his performances have not been up to the mark for England.

Moments of Brilliance and Injustice

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Moeen Ali has certainly shown glimpses of his talent.

Besides the frustration of his critics and fans, he has done some amazing things for England.

One also has to take into account the constant reshuffling of his position in the batting order.

In 2017, batting at number 4, he made a fantastic 146 in the 5th Test in Chennai during the 2016 India tour.

With Moeen averaging 51.20 from four games in the same batting position, an important question raises?

Why was Moeen not persisted at number four?

His second-best batting average of 37.00 in Test cricket came at number 7, which is good for any all-rounder.

Was this average even not good enough for England?

Yes, England bat deep, but to drop a batsman of his flamboyancy at number 8 is certainly harsh.

Earlier during 2017, he had become part of an elite club of cricketers to score 250 runs and take 25 wickets in a Test series.

He accomplished this amazing feat against South Africa during the 2017 Basil D’Oliveira Trophy.

During the same series, he also achieved a hat-trick in the 3rd Test at the Oval, London.

He took the wickets of Dean Elgar, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel on consecutive deliveries.

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The year 2017, was an unforgettable year for Moeen all around.

He scored an incredible 102 off 53 balls against the West Indies. His innings at Bristol on September 24, 2017, included eight 6s and seven 4s.

Dan in a debate on the official Golden Ducks Podcast highly appreciates the gifted Moeen, despite the negative reactions towards him.

“I can understand why people are frustrated with him because he set the bar so high and he has not been able to replicate that since.

“But on raw talent alone, I would say he is one of England’s most talented cricketers.”

The jury is out on Moeen Ali as to whether he has underachieved or not.

Despite, Moeen having a long England career, it would be unfair to rank him amongst the greats of world cricket.

Whilst his averages are not so phenomenal, he has played for England with flair and graciousness.

Many will also reflect on England wasting his talent and not handling him properly.

At times it seems as if he has had no clearly defined role in the team.

Naturally, if he is going to play way down the order, it will affect his cricket psyche.

To be fair he has just gone with the flow during a journey, which could have been much better.

Faisal has creative experience in the fusion of media and communication and research which increase awareness of global issues in post-conflict, emerging and democratic societies. His life motto is: "persevere, for success is near..."

Images courtesy of Reuters, Terry Jenkins/Guardian and Reuters /Jason O'Brien Livepic.

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