Why Has Moeen Ali Left the England Bubble?

Moeen Ali. Photo courtesy of www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia.

England all-rounder Moeen Ali made headlines last month when he decided to cut short his time with the national team and leave their bubble midway through their Test series against India. The decision was made after Moeen made it clear that he wished to spend time with his family after what had been a turbulent start to the year for the prolific spin bowler and batsman.

The impact upon England’s performance in the ensuing two Tests was noticeable and the manner in which his departure was presented to the press opened up the versatile 33-year-old to criticism. However, colleagues and pundits have both called for his decision to be respected and have insisted that Moeen remains an integral part of England’s plans going forwards.

Moeen Ali. Photo courtesy of www.davidmolloyphotography.com from Sydney, Australia.

A big impact

Moeen started 2021 in an inauspicious manner, after being sidelined for two weeks during England’s tour of Sri Lanka. He was dropped from the side for the first Test against India in favour of his understudy Dom Bess, who turned in an indifferent performance in a match which England eventually won by 227 runs. Several waist-high balls from the second spinner meant Moeen was recalled.

He immediately impressed in the second Test – and his first for England in 18 months – by taking eight wickets and scoring a rapid-fire 43 runs from just 18 balls in the second innings. Despite the strong performance, Moeen was unable to prevent England from ultimately losing the tie by 317 runs to ensure things ended all square at the half-way point.

In the line of fire

He was then offered the chance to stay on and take the reins in the third Test, but having already been mentally prepared to go home and see his family, he declined. Despite the fact that several other England cricketers (including Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer) have also taken time out this year, Moeen has received an undue amount of criticism for his decision.

In response, several cricketing commentators and ex-professionals have come out in support of the all-rounder. Former England captain Nasser Hussain was vociferous in his defence of Moeen in a Daily Mail column, saying the player was well within his rights to leave the bubble and that the blame being laid at his door was entirely unfair.

Door open for Moeen return

Indeed, such was the ire levelled at Moeen that some quarters had suggested it might be the last time he ever played for the national team again, but those ideas were quickly brushed off by England captain Joe Root. “Why would it be his last Test match? I thought he got better as the game went on and showed everyone that he has the skills to perform at this level,” said Root in an interview with Sky Sports.

“He is not taking a further part out here but I don’t see why that closes the door on him entirely.” Hussain was equally dismissive of the notion, highlighting that the Twenty20 World Cup is on the horizon and constitutes the priority for England this year. Given that Moeen is one of the team’s best players, it’s important to ensure that he is in peak condition for that tournament and if leaving the bubble prematurely this time around helps contribute to maintaining his form throughout the year, so be it.