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Moeen Ali: You have to play red-ball cricket to be a proper cricketer

Moeen Ali looks on during England's recent T20I series against West Indies
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

England all-rounder Moeen Ali has urged young players to persist with red-ball cricket for the betterment of their individual games, even if they aspire to eventually specialise in limited overs cricket.

Moeen, who re-retired from Test cricket after the 2023 Ashes, remains part of the England white-ball set-up and is likely to be a key part of their title defence at the upcoming T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the USA.

The off-spinning all-rounder recently completed a stint in the Bangladesh Premier League where he was part of the Comilla Victorians side that finished runners-up to Fortune Barishal. Moeen is set to link up with Chennai Super Kings for the 2024 IPL later this month.

Prior to departing from Bangladesh, Moeen gave a wide-ranging interview with ESPNcricinfo, where he insisted that young players ought to play red-ball cricket if only to hone in on their skills in a way that, according to Moeen at least, isn’t possible on a diet of just T20 cricket.

“People might see a lot of players playing white-ball cricket all over the place, but it is not the same,” explained Moeen. “You have to play a lot of red-ball cricket to know your batting and bowling. Your technique has to be different. It is easier to go from red ball to white than sometimes the other way around. Batsmanship has to be there. Knowing and understanding why you are not scoring runs.

“A lot of the players who go big in T20 cricket, when they are out of form, they are out of form for a long time because they don’t understand their own batting technique. Whereas a guy who has played a lot of red-ball cricket, their bad form in T20s is not massive because they know the techniques. They have played a lot of first-class or Test matches. I think that’s the only thing that’s going out of the game.

“As a young player coming through now, I would still want to play a lot of red-ball cricket to understand your own game. You just play, play, play. T20 leagues and the money will always be there.”

While Moeen did not name him, the English batter Will Smeed is an example of a young player who turned their back on first-class cricket at a young age. Smeed effectively retired from first-class cricket weeks after his 21st birthday, saying at the time, “I want to become the best white-ball player I can, and the sacrifice is playing red-ball cricket.” Smeed has since struggled for in T20 cricket, averaging 22.56 in the format.

Moeen went on to say that the relative dearth of wrist-spinners at the top of the Test game is a result of players deprioritising red-ball cricket. “I would tell a young kid to play as much red-ball cricket as you can. It will help your game. The reason why there haven’t been good leg spinners in Tests after Shane Warne is because they haven’t played enough red-ball cricket. You have to play red-ball cricket to be a proper cricketer.”

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