As Hi's Differences In The Way In Which A Man Separates Him As A Player > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - How Moeen's differences as a man separates him as a player

Moeen said in 2015 that once his playing career was over, what would make him "happier than anything" would be to lead the call to prayer at his mosque and clean the toilets.

August 2016, Kia Oval, London. England v Pakistan. England: Cook, Hales, Root, Vince, Ballance, Bairstow, Moeen, Woakes, Broad, Finn, Anderson. First day, fourth Test, England ahead in the series 2-1. England bat first, but their batting is falling apart.

Three of the top six are about to be dropped. Hales, who is playing his last Test, hits a low one to square-leg. Vince, for the time being fried, scratches a 90mph rocket from Wahab Riaz. Ballance, who will limp through a couple more games in Bangladesh, edges tamely to third slip.

Moeen Ali walks in after 27.2 overs with England at 110 for 5. Wahab has 3 for 34 and you don't need a speed gun to know how quickly he's bowling. All morning the batsmen have been making small, discomfited movements that give it away. His first delivery to Moeen is brutal, halfway down and almost invisible until it rears and smacks into his helmet. The ball flies in the air as far as the fielder at backward point. Moeen takes the helmet off and stares at it.

Wahab's fourth and sixth deliveries to Moeen are smoked through midwicket, the speeding, spinning violence of the ball weirdly at odds with the serene flow of Moeen's bat. One hundred and thirty four deliveries later, with England's innings ebbing away and Jimmy Anderson at the other end, Moeen, on 97, hoists one from Yasir Shah high into the air. At first it looks like it's gone straight up but it keeps going and going until it lands in the seats just in front of us at deep midwicket.

Cut back a little further, February 2015, and one of England's fantastically awful World Cup performances, the captain dropped just before the tournament, the team a mile behind in the evolution of a form that is just about to live through another Year Zero.

In Pool A, England lose to Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They beat Scotland, and then Afghanistan once they are already eliminated. Moeen has been promoted to open the batting in a hail-mary selection and twangs a face-saving century against the Scots. By the time England's ODI cricket begins its change from black-and-white to Technicolor, he is back down at number seven.

Jump forwards to August 2017, the Oval again, where he bats at number eight and takes a hat-trick against South Africa. The story of the hat-trick opens his autobiography, which he works on with the writer Mihir Bose after another horror show in Australia led to him being dropped from the Test team. But when the book comes out, in September 2018, he is back in the side and batting at number three.

Cut now to the very near present. At 11.16 am on 10 April 2019, Virat Kohli Tweets 'Touchdown Mohali!' accompanied by a selfie. Sitting next to him on the plane is Moeen Ali.

In the apparently endless upward curve of Kohli's life, the 2019 IPL has been at very least some clear air turbulence. Royal Challengers Bangalore lose their first six games and spend most of the cycle at the bottom of the table. Kohli's batting seems strangely cautious. The team's other superstar, AB de Villiers, begins with the ring-rust of an old boxer. And suddenly Moeen reminds them of something within themselves. AB gives up strike and props on his bat while Moeen hits a 32-ball 50 against Mumbai Indians, and then makes 75 himself. Kohli returns to being Kohli in the next game, his century sparked by Moeen's 28-ball 66.

As always with Moeen, it isn't just that he scores the runs, but how he scores them, the ball leaving his bat with that kind of preternatural timing that only payers like Kohli and de Villiers really have. At the IPL, like recognises like. Seeing him do it lets them do it, too. Before he flies back to England, Moeen says: "My job in the team is to take the pressure off [of Kohli and de Villiers]".

If Moeen Ali were any other player, we might be talking about the transformative experience of earning the trust and admiration of these two giants of cricket. But it is Moeen, a man who said in 2015 that once his playing career was over, what would make him "happier than anything" would be to lead the call to prayer at his mosque and clean the toilets: "I've been very lucky. At some stage, I'd like to give something back. I'd like to spend time with people and look after them a bit more."

According to his autobiography, Moeen finds the England dressing room a place of friendship and acceptance. And yet it is impossible not to think that he is, in the certain way he sees the world, a very different man to many of its occupants.

In his piece for Cricbuzz on Haseeb Hameed, Vithushan Ehantharajah wrote: "Asian parents do their utmost and hammer a sense of worth and an unrivalled work ethic into their children because of the graft it took to get to these shores and knowing the fundamental truth that the quickest way to be accepted into a native culture is to be valuable to them. Be a doctor. Be an engineer. Be a Test match opener." Some brilliant, novelistic chapters in Moeen's book illuminate a path like this taken by his own family. To the outsider at least, his willingness to accept any role for England: bowler who bats; opener; number three; number nine; whatever; yes coach; yes skipper... has its roots here.

Yet to wish for Moeen to be more like Stokes, to whom his record as a batsman is at least comparable, or Bairstow, whose glowering, quivering visage while being made to bat at three and field on the boundary told its own story, would be to wish for something different in his essence.

The man forms the player, and what makes Moeen different as a man separates him as a player, too. There is a majesty to his acceptance of the whims of the game, of how form and luck come and go. He understands that every match will soon be history, numbers in a book and snatched, random fragments in the minds of those that played and watched.

What's left is the image of Moeen, a will o' the wisp player of shots, daring to bat as he does, all of that liquid grace upon on the tightrope. While Bairstow amusingly morphed into a kind of David Warner mini-me (or maxi-me given all the runs he scored), the pair strutting about the crease in their matching red beards, Moeen could spend a lifetime sitting next to Virat Kohli and still be nothing like him.

He is a cricketer of moments, and not just the easy option.

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