Saqlain Mushtaq backs Moeen Ali to bounce back strongly in England colours

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Saqlain Mushtaq and Moeen Ali.

It was a mixed summer for England all-rounder Moeen Ali with the Worcestershire man playing a key role in the team’s World Cup winning campaign before being dropped from the red-ball squad after a poor display in the first Ashes Test.

Having taken a short break from the five-day format, Moeen is now eyeing a comeback to the England Test squad for the year-end tour of South Africa.

While Moeen is ready to put his recent Ashes omission behind him, England’s former spin consultant Saqlain Mushtaq has backed the 32-year-old to come back strongly at international level.

“To be honest, he just played one Test match in the Ashes,” Saqlain told Sport360 at the Kings’ Cricket Academy in Dubai.

“Because of the combination of the team, they gave him a rest. You can’t say he has lost his form because of one game. Last year, he was the highest wicket-taker for England. He did really well for England. Just for one game, he didn’t bat well or bowl well either.”

Saqlain has played a key part in Moeen’s rise with the England off-spinner crediting the coach for improving his bowling drastically during the 2017 home series against South Africa. Moeen would go on to become the first all-rounder in history to claim 25 wickets while also scoring 250 runs with the bat in the four-match series against the Proteas.

Moeen was replaced by Jack Leach after the first Ashes Test.

Moeen was replaced by Jack Leach after the first Ashes Test.

Saqlain believes England’s white-ball focus for the 2019 World Cup played its part in Moeen’s poor showing in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

“After the World Cup, England haven’t had the right time to prepare for the Ashes. Their focus what on white-ball cricket so that’s where the flow was,” the former Pakistan off-spinner said.

“Moeen Ali is that kind of a player who needs some mileage in his bowling when switching from white-ball to red-ball cricket and vice-versa.

“There wasn’t enough time in between for him to do that. But I think he’s a very fine player and one of the key players in the England squad. He’s a very good batsman who can bowl very well. He did really well in Sri Lanka, he did well against India (2018) and he took a hat-trick against South Africa. He scored important runs too. He’s a fine player and I am sure he will bounce back strongly.”

While Moeen has at times been bogged down by the expectations of performing with both bat and ball for the country, Saqlain has urged him to enjoy the sport and play his natural game.

“The simple philosophy is that we should let him play his natural game. We shouldn’t be saying that you just go and smack it or you should just concentrate on your bowling,” Saqlain said.

“You should play your natural cricket and should justify your talent and potential. He should enjoy cricket in that way. I always told him when I was with him, you have everything to perform at the highest level, you should go out and enjoy cricket by playing your natural game.

“Don’t complicate yourself. Don’t think that I need to play a particular brand of cricket. Just go out, relax and enjoy cricket with your natural flair.”

While Moeen will hope to be on the plane to South Africa later this year, the all-rounder will arrive on UAE shores next month after being named as Team Abu Dhabi’s icon player for the 2019 edition of the T10 League.

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