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Ashes 2021/22

BT Sport presenter insists Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali ‘genuinely are mates’ after awkward on-air exchange

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

BT Sport presenter Matt Smith has opened up on the awkward exchange between Moeen Ali and Alastair Cook during the fourth Ashes Test, in which the former suggested the latter had less of “an emotional attachment with the players” than current captain Joe Root.

The pair gained significant attention for the on-air interaction, with viewers unable to tell to what extent they were being serious.

“I’m not sure how to take this anymore,” Cook said to finish the conversation. “I’ve just come back from a nice holiday and I’ve walked straight into Moeen Ali off his long run!”

The next day, Moeen made a nod to the moment again, suggesting that some current players didn’t have the “empathy” to become coaches in future.

However, Smith, speaking on The Shackles Are Off, the Barmy Army’s cricket podcast, said that the duo shared a good relationship, even if there was a serious point Moeen was attempting to make.

“The truth is that they get on like a house on fire,” Smith said. “They’re really good mates. I don’t think that will probably come as a shock to people that know their cricket. So, it’s been very much a false war. That said, I think they both tried to be honest.

“Mo, when he said ‘Joe’s a more arm around the shoulder captain but I never got dropped by Cooky’. I think he was just trying to be honest. And then Cooky was, very much tongue in cheek, slightly like ‘Oh, so I’m not empathetic’. It became this phony war but it was enjoyable.”

Smith suggested that it was only because of their closeness that Moeen and Cook could take gentle jibes at each other. “It was enjoyable because I think teammates often understandably are totally reluctant to ever say anything insightful or honest about each other,” he said. “It’s all platitudes and ‘he’s a great bloke’.

“Of course, these two – and I genuinely wouldn’t say it otherwise – genuinely are mates but it was refreshing I think that they were prepared to slightly take a chip out of each other and be honest about each other.”

He also reflected on how the moment had been blown out of proportion with nationwide media coverage, saying that Cook and Moeen found the focus on them funny.

“They were amused that it had been turned into, partly because no one else had anything to talk about because the cricket was so rubbish, a story,” he said. “Newspapers were picking up this idea of a feud in the studio and they were dreaming up new ways to take chunks out of each other in the next session or next day or whatever. But hand on heart, they are good buddies.”

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