Mysterious Moeen : Is the England spinner Over-achieving ?


If you are a rookie bowler and want to leave your mark in International Cricket, a series against India would be tailor-made for you to reach the goal. Over the years, we have seen a handful of such examples in form of Jason Krejza, Nathan Lyon, Monty Panesar, Paul Harris and now Moeen Ali to add that list. Indians, well known as the crafted players of spin, often found themselves in jeopardy while tackling not-so-well-known spinners in recent past.

The ongoing series saw the Pakistan-origin off-spinner bagging 19 wickets, only second to his compatriot James Anderson. Alastair Cook was criticised for underutilising Moeen in the series against Sri Lanka which he smartly overcame this time around by frequently introducing him as the 4th bowling option alongside Chris Woakes. Before the final frontier at the Oval, he has found himself standing in front of achieving the milestone of having most number of Indian victims in a series outside the sub-continent beating the likes of Lance Gibbs and Alf Valentine. It triggered a hot wave of arguments over the matter whether Moeen is that good to be compared along with the aforementioned spinning legends.

Moeen with the Pakistani spin magician Ajmal during his worcestershire days
Moeen with the Pakistani spin magician Ajmal during his worcestershire days

Worcestershire Days

If we dig in a little deeper into English county cricket proceedings, we can come up with the fact that accomplishing an adorable average of 22.94 against the spin-maestros of modern cricket was well and truly planned long ago. While playing for Worcestershire, he had the company of Saeed Ajmal to acquire the arts of Doosra. Later, the same county’s Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes vouched about this co-ordination and hailed the subject about having more tricks under his sleeve.

Limited ability, still outstanding results

Not keeping aside what he has earned, we have only seen a consistent bowler in him who can pitch the ball in right areas without much effort. He can flight the ball to tempt the batsmen to make shots and commit mistakes and has an occasional variation in form of traditional arm-ball too. But all these attributes did not have the thrust to put him ahead of his Indian counterpart Ashwin, who failed to pick up a bounty at English soil. On this note, we aim to enlighten the reason which has played its parts behind this success saga, let alone Moeen’s hard work which paid off.

The reasons that matter

From what we have seen in Southampton, we can say that the pressure created by the pace spearheads of English line-up provoked the Indian middle order to go after Moeen Ali which they did not make a specific plan of. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane threw their wickets away due to an unnecessary urge to accelerate. Hence, this time the man with the beard was lucky to have these two factors working on his way.

When the Southampton debacle just got faded away, Indians worked hard on their sweeping in nets. That was the instance where they overstressed themselves to excel in a matter where they expertise in another way, just like flicking and using their feet. Everything went wrong as they succumbed to the fingers of Moeen once again with a toll of soft dismissals and edges this time around. The credit should make its way towards the bowler partly who has used his areas to make Indians fall in their own pits.

Panesra was proved fatal for India last year
Panesar was proved fatal for India last year

Indians’ problem was there in the past

This self-destructive attitude is not new for the men in blue. They have a long history of surrendering to newbies. The least recent we can remember is the final test of Sourav Ganguly, where the Aussie spinner Jason Krejza took 12 wickets to mark his debut. Every time and again Paul Harris troubled some of the Indian batsmen, add to that the heroics of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar on Indian soil, which cost India the home series last year.

Even if we do not belittle the plaudits Moeen earned over the last weekend, we can criticise the lack of professionalism showed by the Indian batting ‘lords’. Firstly underestimating the impacts and then over-cooking themselves depict an agonizing tendency which needs to be stitched soon to change the story.In course of determining the fate of the series, a lot will depend upon how Indians will fare against the off-spinner at the Oval, which is traditionally recognized as the most spin-friendly venue in the land of the queen.