The Curious Case of Moeen Ali: Part Deux

For such an affable chap, Moeen is a rather divisive cricketer.  His batting and bowling veer from the brilliant to the dreadful; opinions tend to be fairly fixed about his value, and yet even when criticised, it tends to be somewhat reluctant.  He didn’t have a good tour of India with the ball, leading Sean to write a piece he described as being like clubbing a baby seal, yet given his outstanding performance in the first Test against South Africa with both bat and ball, it surely puts to bed any questions about his merit.

Well, perhaps not.  The question marks over him are the same ones that have been there since he first came into the team three years ago, namely that his batting isn’t quite good enough to hold down a front line place, and his bowling isn’t near good enough to be the primary Test spinner.  He has certainly developed as a player over that time, and it would be a harsh critic who would say he hasn’t improved, but the question as to whether he has improved enough – one outstanding contribution fresh in the memory notwithstanding – is still a live one.

There has to also be a certain degree of awareness about the aesthetics of the matter.  Moeen in full flow with the bat is simply gorgeous to watch, more reminiscent of David Gower than almost anyone else who has played since.  No one would argue Moeen is remotely as good a batsman as Gower, but there is a similarity in style there, the way both will make any watcher purr with delight at an exquisitely timed cover drive, and gnash teeth with frustration at an ill disciplined waft outside off stump.  It’s both a positive and a negative, and it very much depends on the character and preconceptions of the observer.  Some will make allowances and forgive the flaws because of the intrinsic beauty on show, others will criticise the nature of the dismissals as irresponsible.  As this blog has mentioned before, there is a strange mentality whereby being out to defensive shots is permissible, yet messing up an attacking one is worthy of venom.  It’s the exact opposite to how batsmen tend to think of it, for being dismissed to a defensive shot is an admission of defeat to the bowler, and getting out to an attacking one an occupational hazard.

So allowances are made for being great to watch.  Or he’s criticised more than he should be because he gets out in apparently lazy fashion.  Strokeplayers everywhere have always suffered the same divergent opinions.

His batting is easier to assess these days.  A career average of 35.45 isn’t terrible, but nor is it of the top level.  Yet (and this will crop up again) with him statistics can tend to obscure what he is and what he brings to a side rather than illuminate it.  For he’s a player for whom the term “stat mining” could have been coined; they can be used to defend him or to criticise him, and both have validity.  Certainly his batting has improved at Test level over the last 18 months, raising his overall average from a sub-par high twenties to its current level.  Even in India, where the overall batting line up consistently failed, he tended to be one of the brighter spots.  More interestingly, his relative recent success has been done from a settled position at number seven in the order.  With only 8 Tests in that role, the sample is too small to be too meaningful, but it does reinforce a perception that his counterattacking style is exceptionally valuable down the order.  Either way, three hundreds in those 8 Tests and an average of 78.77 is quite startling, and of immense value to the team if he can maintain even anything thirty percentage points below that contribution level.  The trouble is that he was also markedly less successful one place lower in the order.  This could be psychological to some extent – bat in the tail, bat like a tailender – but it’s also true that in that position he ran out of batting partners often, and was frequently out late on trying to hit some extra runs.  One place higher mitigates that to some extent, but also provides caution in placing too much value on the impressive statistics.

However it might be statistically, Moeen is unquestionably an exceptionally dangerous customer in the lower middle order.  His rate of scoring is destructive, and he can take a match away from the opposition in a session.  Perhaps not to quite the same degree as his team mate one place higher – Ben Stokes – but he’s certainly one to fear when he gets in.

If his batting is now operating at a level where he could arguably get in on merit solely as a batsman, his bowling is much more difficult to quantify.  He has repeatedly said that he considers himself a part time off spinner rather than a front line one, and post Lords Trevor Bayliss made the interesting observation that if that was how Moeen wanted to internalise it, then they were quite happy to let him.  The raw figures are that he has taken 108 wickets in 38 Tests (not too bad) at an average of 39.35 (not so good).  Yet even this needs some further analysis.

Firstly, it has to be taken into account that England fans have been spoiled by having Graeme Swann for several years.  England spinners over the last 40 years have not operated at anything like the level he did.  To put this into context, Swann had a Test bowling average of 29.96, by far the best since the days of Derek Underwood.  Of the other bowlers in living memory who have played a reasonable number of matches, they tend to group around the same kind of level, John Emburey averaged 38.40, Phil Edmonds 34.18, Phil Tufnell 37.68, Ashley Giles 40.60 and Monty Panesar 34.71.  Naturally enough, times, conditions and opposition are all extremely variable for all those players and over all the years, but those were the most successful England spinners in their eras, and none of them have a record that would make anyone sit up and take special notice.  For the reality is that England only rarely  produce exceptional spinners, and Moeen’s record in that list doesn’t stand out as being particularly poor.

There’s more there too, for when it comes to comparing strike rates Emburey’s was 104.7, Edmonds’ 96.2, Tufnell’s 93.2, Giles’ 85.1 and Panesar’s 74.7.  Swann had 60.1 and Moeen Ali 63.6.  Once again, different times and styles of play need to be taken into account here – the strike rate of the bowlers in the 1980s wasn’t thought of as being particularly awful for the time for a start, but the fact that Moeen’s compares well in this regard even to a bowler as well thought of and recent as Panesar is at least food for thought.  It tends to imply what most would think about him anyway – he takes wickets, he bowls some exceptionally good deliveries, but he’s also a little inconsistent and doesn’t maintain control as well as perhaps we would hope.  What Swann was particularly good at was that he was able to play a dual role: a very good defensive spinner in the first half of the game, and an excellent attacking bowler once the pitch began to deteriorate.

Comparative statistics against different sides and in different eras can be fundamentally misleading, yet what can be said is that Moeen’s performance level is not a huge variation from the mean.  In some areas it is better, in others worse.  In some circumstances he has played worse opponents, in others better.  And of course the nature of Test cricket has changed somewhat in any case.

Perhaps the most critical point here is that Australia spent years discarding spinner after spinner for the crime of not being Shane Warne.  Swann wasn’t at that level of course, but he was the best England had produced for many a year.  To hark back to him and hope that England have a plethora of ready-made, equally good replacements to call on would be unreasonable and a triumph of hope over reality.  It is quite simply the case that England do not currently have a finger spinner who would do significantly better.  A little better perhaps, or a little worse, but nothing that would radically change the spinning position.  This doesn’t alter the truth that Moeen had a poor series with the ball in India, nor that he’s anything but the first to suffer that rather chastening experience.  He’s certainly unlikely to terrify many teams in their own backyard, and in Australia later this year he probably won’t do terrifically well either.  Neither did Swann for that matter though, and he was much superior.

One of the strengths of having him in the team as a bowler is his batting, and along with Stokes and Bairstow as all rounders, this creates additional spots for others to take who are more specialist than him.  It could be argued Moeen the bowler is a free option, and a bonus.  This is important because of the qualification above that there aren’t any substantially better finger spinners out there.  That is because of course there is a leg spinner who could and perhaps should have a claim on a spot in the side, and as first choice spin bowler.   Adil Rashid performed markedly better in India than Moeen did, yet was heavily criticised and discarded summarily for failing to be outstanding in one of the most difficult places to tour for a spinner anywhere.  Yet the mistreatment of Adil Rashid shouldn’t be used as a stick with which to beat Moeen, they are two separate issues.  The relatively free pass given to the batsmen for their failures is as much an example of the unreasonableness of the media attack on Adil Rashid as anything to do with Moeen.

Moeen Ali is a flawed cricketer.  There’s no question about that, but perhaps it is time to focus on what he can do rather than what he can’t.  He fulfills an unusual role in recent England cricket history, and he might even be thought of as something of a bits and pieces cricketer, not quite at the desired level in either discipline.  But he also allows the specialists to be included in the side and in business speak can be said to “add value” to the England team.  Berating him for failing to live up to exceptional standards is pointless unless there are alternatives who could take over and improve the side.  Ashley Giles was no one’s idea of a top level spin bowler, but he performed a role in the team for a number of years, and the side was stronger with him doing that.  Moeen does the same thing while at the same time being a much better cricketer, and one who can and does win matches from time to time.   There are worse justifications for a player.

 

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95 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Moeen Ali: Part Deux

  1. pktroll (@pktroll) July 12, 2017 / 9:17 pm

    I must admit I find Moeen such a perplexing player too. With the ball, he can sometimes bowl with the drift dip and considerable spin to get some of the very best players out. Then he can bowl a nigh on head high full toss that I don’t even bowl so often when attempting my chinamen!

    His batting veers from the sublime to the riduculous but as you have suggested, he’s produced plenty of innings in his time that have been of real value to the team from his position as a counter-attacking batsman.

    One thing I wouldn’t be too keen to do is mention the averages of specialist spinners in the past in comparison to nowadays. This is because of the DRS factor, when before 2009, even half a yard stride in resulted in the lazy ‘benefit of the doubt’ approach being taken by the umpires. This means modern day batsmen have to play far more with bat in front of pad generally and this helps there be more dismissals in other areas (such as a bat pad) let alone more lbws. I utterly loathed John Emburey back in the day as I found him the most boring bowler possible but have to confess his average and s/r would have likely been a fair amount less mediocre had he had the same laws applying to him as now. It was great fun winding up a cricket club colleague who is a Middlesex man, that was nigh on sacrilege to him!

    Any comments Sean B?

    Like

    • thelegglance July 12, 2017 / 9:22 pm

      There are so many positives and negatives to different eras, but what is striking is that even back then, the very best were averaging below 30, England spinners much more. I tend to think of cricket as an arms race between bat and ball – for every advantage gleaned by one side, the other counters. Where it is relevant is in the difference between seam stats and spin for the England sides. And of course including the likes of Panesar where the same comparisons are reasonable. I did put a lot of caveats in there to be fair!

      Like

    • Sean B July 12, 2017 / 10:19 pm

      We all have different opinions on BOC and we definitely don’t want to be an echo chamber.

      I really would like Moeen to be a success, I genuinely would. He has had a very good start to the International summer and long may it continue.

      Does it douse any of the doubts that I expressed in my previous article, no not yet, after all one swallow doth not make a summer; however if he can keep on improving his batting as well as mastering the short ball, then I’ll be happy.

      I still stick to my point that he is as best a part time spinner with the ability to bowl some good deliveries (alongside some dross). I haven’t yet seen anything to change my mind on that.

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      • thelegglance July 12, 2017 / 10:24 pm

        There’s no disagreement anyway. Surely everyone has doubts about him, it’s merely a question of where we set the line.

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        • Sean B July 12, 2017 / 10:27 pm

          I called Chris Woakes an average county trundler for years and he proved me wrong.

          He’s still an arse for blocking me and others on Twitter by searching his own name mind. I’m in the rarified company alongside Inno Bystander on that one…

          Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 7:50 am

            Said it before, but I always rated Woakes, and I always thought Steve Smith would succeed. I would say I have an exceptional eye for a player were it not the case I was certain David Warner wouldn’t play 20 Tests…

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 8:03 am

            You’re going to predict that Dawson is the next Jadeja at this rate 😉

            Like

    • Sean B July 12, 2017 / 10:19 pm

      P.S. Don’t diss the Emburey 😉

      Like

      • thelegglance July 12, 2017 / 10:38 pm

        The one who really wound me up was Peter Such. That little throw up of the hands as if he’d been really unlucky after every. Single. Ball. He could be smashed for six and he’d do the same thing. Drove me mad.

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        • Sean B July 12, 2017 / 11:21 pm

          Oh yes, we used to get told off in the nets for pretending to be Peter Such. The most worrying thing is that he is now ingrained in the England Lions set up.

          I can offer up plenty of crap 90’s spinners if that’s where we’re going! As a starter for 10 – Min Patel, who made Such and Richard Dawson look like Murali and Saqlain…

          Don’t even get me started on the quicks either…

          Like

          • man in a barrel July 13, 2017 / 9:17 am

            I once had Min Patel in my Telegraph fantasy cricket squad. Needless to say, I didn’t win the pool that year

            Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus July 12, 2017 / 10:28 pm

      I came across paule, formerly of this parish, today on Twitter. Good to know he’s well. Said he’d had his fill of England cricket. I know how he feels.

      Like

      • nonoxcol July 13, 2017 / 10:19 am

        If you have a moment, compare the length of Cook’s Wikipedia entry with that of Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards. Particularly the “cricket career” sections.

        But he has no interest in stats, of course.

        Like

        • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 1:19 pm

          You’re not suggesting Cook did it himself are you??

          Like

          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 1:26 pm

            JPD has been dropped. I’m sure D’arthez will be devastated…

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          • nonoxcol July 13, 2017 / 1:41 pm

            No, my mind was rather unfairly conflating it with an extended radio interview c.2014 where Cook himself banged on and on about his school batting records. At times it resembled, if not quite Father Ted’s Golden Cleric acceptance speech, certainly Cliff Richard’s rather scary obsession with his own singles chart positions. The Wiki entry doesn’t half remind me of that.

            I find the idea that he doesn’t set statistical targets somewhat hard to believe, put it that way.

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 1:49 pm

            I’ve never really understood why it’s considered a “bad thing” for people to be motivated by statistical targets. I presume because it’s considered selfish in some way, but batsmen ARE selfish – they have to be. No one raises their bat for a hundred because they’re really pleased for the team, they do so because they’ve scored a bloody hundred and look at me everyone.

            People have to motivate themselves to carry on achieving, and if that means Cook dearly wants 15,000 Test runs, then good for him. But of course it’s always denied, and to be fair probably because there would be adverse comment about that being selfish. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a successful sportsman or woman who wasn’t selfish. How could anyone get to that level without being single minded, highly motivated and utterly self-centred?

            Sorry – quick edit: But yes, the constant claims that he’s not motivated by statistics doesn’t ring true at all. I just personally wouldn’t care if he was.

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          • AB July 13, 2017 / 4:34 pm

            Batsmen’s personal ambitions and the needs of the team are often at odds. We all know batsmen who are more interested in getting a red inker to boost their average rather than actually hitting out and winning the game.

            I’ve met loads of Cook’s type before. I bet he’s hypercompetitive against his own team-mates and gets secretly annoyed whenever anyone scores more than him. I think this was part of the reason he was so keen to get rid of KP. He’d rather be the big dog in a mediocre team than the 2nd best batsman in a winning team.

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          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 4:39 pm

            If it’s to the detriment of the team then it goes too far, but I wouldn’t see it as a negative if someone was annoyed someone else scored more *unless* it’s on the basis of hoping they fail rather than being irritated at personally getting out. These are very fine lines, and the selfishness of wanting to do well personally can manifest in different ways. But cricket, and batting in particular, is inherently self-centred.

            Like

          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 4:56 pm

            Like when I used to ignore the captain’s orders to play sensibly and then get out trying to launch the spinner out of the ground*

            * This happened more than once…

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 5:06 pm

            It wasn’t you I was batting with on the occasion we were 60-7 and I had 40 of them when number 9 came in to be told by me in no uncertain terms to just bloody block it and let me get the runs, only to have a wild hoick first ball and get bowled was it?

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          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 5:10 pm

            Yep, except I came in at number 8! I was once bowled trying to reverse sweep in a similar situation with only proper rabbits left in the hutch. We lost by 12 runs, I left in a hurry!

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 5:12 pm

            This lad told me after he didn’t dare look at me on the way off! We’ve all done it I guess!

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          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 5:14 pm

            Aggressive mindset I preferred to call it…

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 5:15 pm

            Ah right. So not ‘you f****** tw**’ then? 😀

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          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 5:17 pm

            That’s what my team mates probably said…

            Like

          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 5:20 pm

            I was made to open the following match due to our opener being sick and made 17 runs from 17 overs just to troll them…

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        • oreston July 13, 2017 / 2:31 pm

          The thing about being interested in your own stats is how it manifests itself. There are stories about John Edrich taking reassurance from Wisden after a bad game by looking up his First Class record and declaring, “I can’t be such a bad player after all – look at all those runs I’ve scored !” That’s just human nature. A talented international player early in their career aspiring to be the best ever is entirely understandable and to be applauded.Nothing wrong with drive and ambition (as long as it doesn’t make you behave like a total dick). When you’ve been around the block a few times though, and there’s more than ample evidence that you only have maybe 80% of the natural talent and staying power of those who really are among the very best, that’s a different situation and it requires a degree of dignity and acceptance. In that case, obsessing over targets and trying to prove yourself among the best ever by stat mining is not so admirable.

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          • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 3:00 pm

            I have zero problem with people being interested in their own statistics. I have no problem with that driving them on. Cricket is an individual sport played in a team environment. 100 runs by the ultimate selfless team man counts the same on the scoreboard as the 100 by the reckless egotist motivated by money and fame. You know where I stand on this, I’ve told you often enough.

            If Cook, and we’ll use him here, deserves his place as one of the two best openers in England, and his form stands up, then he should be allowed, in fact it is our duty to pick him, as long as he does so. If we start doing a Sachin, and keep him on just so he can beat the record, we’ll give some of the Twitter crowd a great time, but if it’s to the detriment of the team, then it’s really obvious what should be done. The last two or three years of Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden’s careers showed what happens when you get in a bad trot. At the end you seem to play less for the team, and more for your own survival. That can’t really be right. The Aussies have the sense to tap people on the shoulder. Not sure we do.

            Ian Bell is interesting – they dropped him, brought him back, then left him out for good. Good on Bell for playing still, but he’s going to retire playing for Warwickshire, not going out with England. Something admirable in that. That’s a direct contrast to many others – Strauss, Gower, Swann etc. who once international cricket wasn’t for them, they weren’t going to grind in county cricket. None of those three seemed the sort driven by stats.

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 3:06 pm

            *pedant*Gower did carry on in County cricket for a while after England dumped him. *endPedant*

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 3:11 pm

            So the “Cricket’s Greatest” which implies that as soon as he was dropped for that India tour brought his retirement was wrong?

            Shame on me for trusting that hyperbolic nonsense and not checking myself because you are bang on.

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          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 3:28 pm

            From memory I think he found it hard to motivate himself for purely county cricket, which I can understand. He tried though, I remember him being interviewed where he said he’d hoped to be an elder statesman passing on his knowledge to the young players all over the country. It’s a bit sad really.

            Like

  2. Clivejw July 13, 2017 / 12:59 am

    I’m of the opinion that in the past Moeen was handled badly by a captain who had no idea how best to use a spin bowler, and very little inkling of how to motivate any of his subordinates. There were encouraging signs at Lord’s that Root knows not only how to use spinners aggressively and productively, but also how to encourage his team mates and inspire self-confidence.

    There were two contrasting reports in the Guardian, one in which Bayliss waffled incoherently about how Moeen needs to be told he’s England’s number-two spinner, but this doesn’t mean isn’t really the number-one spinner (after a few sentences of this, my brain began to hurt), and another in which Joe Root enthused eagerly about how Moeen is best when he bowls aggressively, what a great shape he gets and what a lot of revs he puts on the ball — this sounded like someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

    I know it’s early days, but (partly because of the late start to the test season, I guess) already the Cook era seems like a long time ago.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark July 13, 2017 / 10:48 am

      Listening to the ping pong man with Savage and Flintoff one is amused at how seriously UK ping pong players, and tennis players value the tile of being “Britions number one.”

      Is there a more vacuous, meaningless title than Britians number one? Nope, I can’t think of one. What’s the point of being Britians number one when you go out in the Olympics against the Chinese and then fold like a cheap deckchair? It obviously shows that being Britians number one is not worth the paper it’s written on.

      I used to cringe in the 1980s when we had no tennis players of any note. Certainly not making it past the 3 rd round at Wimbledon, and the media would keep banging on about Britians number one. Another chinless wonder would be served up for McEnroe or Becker or Sampras to dispatch, and the interviewer would ask them how they felt about playing Britians number one? You kind knew they wanted to burst out laughing.

      Anyway this a long winded way of saying who the frig cares who the number one spinner is? Just pick the best players for the job. And if one spinmer doesn’t do it, get the other one on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 10:57 am

        Not sure if you’ve been on Twitter, but have you seen Jonathan Liew’s attack on Ping Pong Man and the shitstorm it provoked?

        Starring Dan Walker, wanting everyone to just get along; Freddie Flintoff calling Liew a “little man” and “jealous” and the usual brainwave that is the mysterious being that is Robbie Savage. “How many writing awards have you won and captains of industry have invited you to speak?” stuff.

        It has been a joy – studying the writing world, with the top tier and the up and comers, and the pundit world chipping in. Scientists should study it. Maybe Ed Smith could write an article on it, copying Matthew Syed.

        Liked by 3 people

        • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 11:00 am

          Liew is champion of champions on Countdown though. Not sure Robbie Savage is in the same intellectual galaxy.

          Like

        • Mark July 13, 2017 / 11:41 am

          I must admit I missed all of this. The thought of Syed sitting on Centre court fanning himself makes me want to vomit. I don’t give a shit about his fanning technique or indeed his celery chewing skills either. STFU

          The trouble with people like Syed and Ed Smith is its all about them. Me, me, me. Nobody gives a shit about what flavour crisp he likes or which ice cream tastes he thinks are best. Jounalism reduced to Narcissm.

          Dan Walker? The BBC used to have Giants like Attenborough, Day, Dimbleby now reduced to the Dan Walkers of this world.

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          • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 12:00 pm

            I get that a lot of people are never going to satisfy me in their writing. I’m picky, I’m a bit of a moaner.

            I really have a hard time with three types of writing / journalism in particular:

            1. If you are going to be an advocate, be an advocate. Don’t be a patsy. See the vast majority of the England cricket writing corps. I have no doubt Newman, for example, has an immense personal loyalty to Alastair Cook. He’s human. I can even, just, forgive him conveying a huge personal antipathy to Pietersen. But for me, that snide little snippet about Ian Bell and a team-bonding exercise was being a patsy. You can’t turn on the ECB now when you did their bidding not long ago. See also the recent Root selection issue.

            2. Deliberate dumbing down. We have major issues at home and abroad and the highest hit rate on BBC News yesterday was a story about Kirsty effing Allsop and fridges. We get the news we deserve don’t we? Doesn’t mean we should like it. Today the ECB, in association with Investec, have puff pieces about Cook. It could be anyone, so I’m not picking on Cook here. Root’s been doing the rounds too. Instead of saying why is this necessary in an age where players have never been more invisible to the mainstream, they go along (I know some do not go along) with this rubbish. We get “Cook knew he’d stood down when Stokes moved him in the field” when it should have been something about a crap player making 300 in a test should have enlightened him. I’m never going to get over Karun Nair!

            3. The third are the worst. These are the people who think writing is to talk down to you. We don’t want to be dumbed down, but we also don’t want to be treated as thick as shit if we’ve not been there, got a degree, or won awards. The sheer delight of the best writers and commentators is you never feel that. Or maybe rarely. In cricket circles that means Atherton, Booth, Haigh, Dobell, Hoult and to a large degree Marks. They treat their readership as adults, and yet know their readership keeps them in gainful employment, whether you agree or not. Sometimes, it pays to remember who it is who reads your stuff. Syed and FICJAM, Selfey and Muppet forget this. The former want YOU to know how damn smart THEY are. I’ve no doubt they are, but the smartest people rarely crow about how clever they are, they just show it. Intelligence isn’t mixing in higher astral circles, writing books about luck or articles of psycho-babble, which is meant to be a “how clever am I” parade. It’s combining that with a human, empathetic touch. That’s the difference between a great like Haigh, and a duff like FICJAM. As for the ex-pro defence? Well, we know chaps. Wonder what the difference is? People like Atherton use it to emhasise points in articles, give the readership a taste while not really making about themselves. For the Gruesome Twosome, it’s a defence mechanism. And not a very good one.

            Here endeth the rant.

            Liked by 3 people

          • Mark July 13, 2017 / 2:11 pm

            I have never minded if a writer has never played at the top level. I have been loathed to do the old …….”how many wickets has he got or how many runs has he scored” routine that some players hide behind when a jounalist criticises them. Mainly because that would rule out all of us from giving a view.

            As much as we can laugh at Selveys 3 test matches or Agnews lack of test match wickets I would never say that is a reason for why they can’t give an opinion. And there have been plenty of players who have played many test matches and scored thousands of runs but they make terrible commentators.

            Does someone have to be an MP to criticse politicians? If so that rules most of us out of saying anything about politics. Should we be allowed to vote if we haven’t been an MP? Not having done it at the highest level should not stop you from giving an opinion. Or writing about a subject. How may art critics have painted a masterpiece? How many music journos can play red hot guitar solos? It’s Not relevant to being able to describe it.

            People like Smith use their playing careers to get jobs writing about a subject they clearly don’t know bugger all about even though they actually did it for a living. Now that’s Terrifying!

            Liked by 2 people

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 2:19 pm

            Selvey and #39 have been ones who have used the “I know more than you because I did it” argument from time to time. In the latter case I thoroughly look forward to him exhibiting his gross lack of knowledge about the travel industry as he’s promised to do.

            With some extremely obvious exceptions, on the basis they claim superior insight, I’d tell them to STFU about wicketkeeping, because I know a hell of a lot more about it than them.

            The difference being, I don’t think they should at all. That’s why they have such misplaced arrogance.

            Like

          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 2:31 pm

            My favourite part about #39 was when he couldn’t understand why people were taking the piss out of him for writing a book on batting, whilst he only averaged 11 in his career.

            Seems the ‘I know best because I did it’ only applies when it suits him…

            Like

      • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 11:33 am

        Dunno Mark, I’d be pretty bloody proud of myself at being British number one in anything.

        Like

        • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 11:35 am

          We are aren’t we?

          In fact aren’t we the World’s Number One anti-Alastair Cook blog as that (and KP) is all we ever write about?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Mark July 13, 2017 / 11:56 am

          But we don’t seem to bother with it in other sports. Nobody cares who Britians number one golfer is? If they even try to decide who it is. How many majors have you won? That’s the question. Same with other sports. It’s nice being Britains best runner or sprinter but how many gold medals have you won?

          But in ping pong it’s enormous. Syed spends the first few of his podcasts banging on about how he was Britians number one. Great, I’m pleased for him. But in world ping pong it’s a pointless title.

          Oh and Flintoff is no one to talk, he is sniggering away about Syeds continuing boasts about being Britians number one status during the pod casts. Now he wants to come to his defence.

          I will say that Robbie Savage comes out with he most credit in these shows, but mainly because the bar was set so low he could not fail to get over it. But he does come across as having something about him more than hair and teeth. He is quite honest about some of his absurd spending habits and how going from have nothing to thousands a week. They should play his sections to young players.

          Flintoffs points on some of the absurd bonding sessions are worth listening to. As is his admission that players don’t have to get along. He is quite open about how he didn’t like everyone in the dressing room. Someone should play that section to Selvey an his chums.

          Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 1:25 pm

            I just think that being the best in the country – hell, being amongst the best in the country – is a really special achievement in its own right. Growing up I went through the whole county process for cricket, and I simply wasn’t good enough. No complaints there. But I see these days what the kids have to go through and the commitment they have to show, just to get a county contract where they’re not even the best in their own area mostly likely, and I have nothing but admiration for them.

            The media coverage isn’t their fault.

            Like

          • Mark July 13, 2017 / 1:47 pm

            It’s not so much that someone has become the best at a particlar sport in Britain, more that it has an official title. ” Britains number one.”

            Nobody claims to be Britains best footballer or number one Rugby player or cricketer. When Faldo got to be world number one then he was called the words number one golfer. Nobody struts about calling themself Britains number one golfer. But it’s very big in ping pong and tennis.

            Good for Syed for getting there although it slightly diminishes it when I think he let slip that about 3 of the top 5 players lived in the same street.

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 2:02 pm

            Well team sports and individual sports aren’t the same there. You can’t be the number one footballer or rugby player except by acclamation. You can be ranked the best tennis player.

            Like

      • AB July 13, 2017 / 4:37 pm

        Why is British No 1 any less worthwhile than world No 1? We all know that piffling humans would get thrashed by 8 dimensional creatures from the delta quadrant.

        Like

    • "IronBalls" McGinty July 13, 2017 / 5:51 am

      The day before the second test, and all I’m reading about is bloody Cook!! FFS!

      Liked by 1 person

      • man in a barrel July 13, 2017 / 7:04 am

        It is difficult to get behind this “new, exciting” team when there is so much written about its dullest member

        Like

        • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 7:53 am

          Cook has become the new KP in terms of clickbait. Somewhat ironic really.

          Like

          • man in a barrel July 13, 2017 / 9:15 am

            Maybe Cooky will start posting inflammatory tweets

            Like

          • man in a barrel July 13, 2017 / 9:19 am

            I bet even the Investec zebra would give a more interesting interview than Cooky

            Liked by 2 people

          • Sean B July 13, 2017 / 10:10 am

            And perform better as captain too, no doubt.

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 9:45 am

            Cook is exceptionally dull, but the media have created this situation where interviews are anodyne and routine by crucifying anyone who says anything interesting. So they don’t bother, because they know it’ll be taken out of context and put up as a big headline.

            Why would anyone bother to do anything but give rote answers?

            Liked by 1 person

  3. jomesy July 13, 2017 / 8:52 am

    Bayliss called Moeen a “complex character”. Rightly or wrongly I interpreted this as confirming my view that he is his own man and not a Flower-endorsed yes man. For that alone I respect him. He also seems very level headed (and always has). It shouldn’t be relevant but do I love his beard although I wish he hadn’t made those comments about doing this for Allah.

    Re Cook – what is all this continued rapture about?

    Like

    • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 9:03 am

      Plenty of Christian sportsmen give thanks to God when they succeed. Makes me cringe a bit, but up to them. Moeen definitely comes across as his own man and an independent character. It’s rather good to see someone in the England set up like that really, rather than the identikit lot we’ve become used to.

      Like

  4. Mark July 13, 2017 / 10:38 am

    The biggest story, and scandal about Cook is that despite losing in India 4-0 and failing to beat either Bangladesh or Pakistan, and having been stuffed 5-0 in the Ashes he was still allowed to choose if he wanted to resign. If he hadn’t wanted to go he would still be captain.

    The very fact the it was left up to him shows how bankrupt the England management are. And the fact that hardly any in the lemming like media thought this was slightly problematic shows why they are not worth reading. How can anyone take the media seriously when they talk about dropping players when they would have let Cook go on until he was 50?

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 10:43 am

      I wonder. I always had the feeling that Cook was being allowed to make the decision as long as he made the right one. Maybe you’re right – I wouldn’t be shocked that’s for sure.

      Like

      • Mark July 13, 2017 / 10:54 am

        I would love to think he was offered the imaginary revolver, and bottle of whisky, but I don’t belive it. And the media fawing clap trap in the last week makes me doubt it even more.

        Most of the media where happy for him to continue on. Most have admitted it. Cook is a cult rather than a indivdulal. They all so want to be in the Tufty club.

        Like

        • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 10:57 am

          Could be! I’m less surprised at the fawning now he’s gone though. I do agree with you in wondering whether the management would have had the bottle to actually fire him.

          I’m still at a loss to understand quite how we ended up with such a supine cricket media. The argument about access applies to most other sports too, and cricket is by far the worst.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Mark July 13, 2017 / 11:07 am

            Why has the cricket media become so supine? An interesting topic for debate.

            Sky did a piece on former England captains, and their battles with the media during the last test match. Interesting it appeared on the first test of a new captains reign. Almost as if it was a warning of normal service to be resumed..

            Certainly Root got more critiscm and scepticism than Cook got in 4 years. Read Agnew’s mealy mouthed, begrudging piece. And yet they keep telling us no captain has had to endure such hardship.. Bullshit!

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 11:11 am

            It is – I don’t know is the honest answer. It could be that the media management of the ECB is exceptionally good, except that most of the time it’s hideously incompetent which makes it a bit of a stretch to argue that.

            The number of former players involved probably doesn’t help. It’s a nice cosy little club, but then some of the worst sycophants of all are the professional journalists.

            Like

          • nonoxcol July 13, 2017 / 12:02 pm

            I always wondered if the increased prominence of ex-pro players was part of the problem.

            When I first listened to TMS, the only ones were Trueman and Bailey. Now an average Test gives you Agnew, Boycott, Vaughan, Swann and/or Tufnell and E* S****.

            Lead cricket correspondents of the papers in recent years have included Selvey, Pringle, Steve James, Atherton, Fraser – 39 edits the Cricketer of course. In the era I associate with proper criticism of administrators (1980s/1990s), there were very few apart from a relatively green Selvey.

            Sky’s line-up isn’t all that different from the BBC/C4 of course, but its pool of ex-players is even more rarified: at the core you have to be a former England *captain*, Bumble or Michael Holding, and the rest are satellites/occasionals And it appears they are now bumping off the only actual non-pro cricketer (Colvile).

            Textgate, Cook 2014, the 355* farrago and – more than anything else, ever – the astounding, utterly shameful soft-soap treatment of Paul fricking Donwton are classic examples of what happens when inquisitive journalistic minds are replaced by “people just like us”.

            And this is pretty much where a lot of us – certainly the Guardian BTL set – came in.

            Liked by 4 people

          • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 12:19 pm

            One of the moments of the last few years was when #39 managed to combine both elements in my 3rd classification in one tweet last year. It was along the lines of “you have good points to make” (so we are patronised) but because you are so rude in the way you do so, you let yourself down.

            If that didn’t tell us that playing the game was more important than your professional integrity, then nothing did. Vociferous ex-players are marginalised. Bob Willis is only tolerated these days because he has an entertaining circus act, and is, let’s be frank, regarded as an old fart by the current crop. If you read his books from the 1970s and 80s, he’d be dead in the water if he’d written that sort of stuff now.

            Like

          • Mark July 13, 2017 / 12:16 pm

            The media has had no problem going after Morgan as ODI captain during the same period. So I would argue it’s all about one person rather than changing journalistic standards.

            And it looks like if Root get s it wrong they will jump on him. Only revealing their double standards.

            Like

          • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 2:04 pm

            If it’s all about one person though – then why? I mean, I get why the establishment management with their establishment bosses love the captain who couldn’t be more establishment if he had Sir before his name, but why the press? It does puzzle me a lot.

            Like

          • Mark July 13, 2017 / 2:25 pm

            That legglance is the 20 thousand $ question that no one will answer.

            Why Cook? By 2015 his place as captain was as safe as houses with no return for KP. So why continue with the fantasy? We have had establishmemt types as captain before. Gower was typical establishmemt material. But it didn’t save him from criticism.

            Even now when Root is the new captain the farce goes on. It’s a deep, deep sickness. Perhaps he is not human. From Pluto or something?

            Like

      • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 11:01 am

        There were still too many “Ashes redemption” stories out there to be entirely comfortable that comma would have pulled the trigger. There were still far too many Essex/Cook fanboys in the media who would have gone in to bat for their loved one if Cook had expressed the will to carry on and had been fired for me to be sure, even if, in the gentlest way, some of the journo corps were laying the groundwork to have a go. But when Karun Nair, Karun effing Nair, made a test triple hundred on Cook’s watch (Richards, V and B, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ponting, Gavaskar, Border, Compton to rattle off a few never did – Mark Waugh’s best was 158!) then anyone who still believed Cook had it in him needed to think long and hard.

        Liked by 1 person

        • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 11:04 am

          Entirely fair points from both you and Mark. I have severe doubts they’d have wanted any kind of confrontational sacking even if they thought it was the right thing to do. Perhaps it’s better to say they might have had a hope he would do the right thing.

          Like

        • Mark July 13, 2017 / 2:32 pm

          Ah yes…. the Ashes redemption tour! Would have been terribly sad if it had been called off due to the pay dispute. The Essex Mafia would not have able to contain themselves.

          Like

          • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 3:01 pm

            If he’s still in the team, and that looks really likely, there’s the redemption aspect in play. Bet on it.

            Like

  5. Mark July 13, 2017 / 10:59 am

    Has anyone heard form Simon? Is he on holiday?

    He didn’t post at all throughout the last test match. Hope he hasn’t become another one driven out of English cricket.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 12:07 pm

      I haven’t and notice he hasn’t been on The Full Toss either. He has an article on England v South Africa I’d like to put up in the gap between the next two tests, but as I’ve had some hotmail issues, it isn’t available to me to post. So, Simon, if / when you read this drop me a line on the email address.

      On another past alumni, I heard from paulE yesterday on Twitter. He said that he had “ran out of steam/love with the cricket, I’m afraid.” I do remember him being on the end of a particularly awful comment from one of our detractors (for which I got particularly angry about – I hate vicarious offence and there is no irony there!) and him not posting on here after that. I miss our first interaction of the morning, our first hit, which was Paul (based in Finland). Indeed when I was in the States, he used to post before I was off to bed. Just glad he’s fine. I do care, you know!

      Also – met one of our commenters yesterday. If they are OK with it, I’ll let you know. Top chap, and it’s probably not the last time we’ll meet as circumstance seems to have brought us together on a professional level. What on earth were the chances of that?

      Like

      • Mark July 13, 2017 / 2:28 pm

        Right thanks for that. Hadn’t read anything off his for a while.,perhaps he has gone on holiday.

        Like

      • BoredInAustria July 14, 2017 / 1:58 pm

        🙂

        Like

  6. LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 12:14 pm

    Calling D’Arthez, BoredinAustria, PrimeEvil….

    Like

    • thelegglance July 13, 2017 / 1:28 pm

      That’s taken 100 off our daily hits during the 2nd Test then. 😀

      Like

    • Prime.Evil July 13, 2017 / 3:14 pm

      Suspected as much when I read “Duminy place under pressure, admits du Plessis” on espncricinfo a while back. Ms Moonda again.

      Third paragraph:

      “JP will be the first guy to say he knows he needs to score runs for this team and it’s no different for anyone else,” du Plessis said. “He is desperate to do well as anyone in that position. You want to try and score runs every time you go out that. He knows at the end of the day that it’s about runs. He understands that if it has to come to a position where there is someone else that needs to be looked at… he will be the first to acknowledge [that]. He is a crucial part of our senior player group and he will always put the team interests above himself so yes, he will be the first to acknowledge that.”

      Faf applied the niceness with a trowel here but one could read between the lines.

      Last night on SA satellite tv it was hinted that Duminy’s test career might be over.

      Now that it is here, I feel like a bloke who watched tv, saw Donald Trump announce that an asteroid was going to hit the earth in 24 hours’ time.

      So, off I went to steal a firearm to do away with those people who have wronged me.

      Finally, back at home to spend my final minutes in front of the tv. Donald Trump again, “Sorry, people. Those bastards at NASA made me look like a fool. The asteroid is going to hit the moon not us. Relax. Everything is back to normal.”

      Everything is back to normal? Hell, I’ve just whacked a few people. What now?

      In other words: let me not get too happy, this may yet be a dream, or worse, the bloody Matrix!

      Like

      • d'Arthez July 14, 2017 / 6:46 am

        Also from that same article, it was mentioned that one 50 in a (3-game) series for the South Africa A side was not good enough from Zondo. Yet, it has been good enough for JP Duminy for his entire career.

        Like

    • BoredInAustria July 13, 2017 / 9:07 pm

      Who is back in for him…AB?

      Like

  7. LordCanisLupus July 13, 2017 / 2:45 pm

    On the original post…

    Moeen at 7 is ideal. Moeen as a spin option is ideal. I would be disappointed if he wasn’t in the team and agree with the line that we should concentrate on what he can do and not what he can’t. But then we also have to avoid the sort of cobblers BBC put up this week about the greatest all round performance ever.

    Until someone proves they are better at his role he should stay. Having Stokes allows us what might be termed a “luxury player”.

    Like

  8. Benny July 13, 2017 / 3:51 pm

    I’ll go along with that. In fact, since England have rediscovered you can have two spinners in a side, Moeen gives them the wonderful opportunity to blood and grow a new one, such as Crane. If he has a dodgy spell, Moeen’s still there to spin a few, while the new chap gets over it

    Like

  9. Mark July 13, 2017 / 4:59 pm

    By all accounts Moeen is the team joker. Root alluded to it after the first test match. I bet the England management would be loathed to allow him to show off some of those qualities to the public.

    Of course he may not want to reveal that side of him which is fine, and as Legglance has pointed out the media have a nasty habit of slapping down players who open up, and say interesting things.

    Like

  10. Clivejw July 13, 2017 / 5:33 pm

    The stats on Moeen’s strike rate are the indicator of the role he should play in the team. Clue: it’s not bowling 18 inches outside leg stump, hoping to bore the batsman into submission, like Ashley Giles against Tendulkar. As I said before, Root knows how to get the best out of Moeen, and I expect to see the latter’s stats continue to improve.

    I guess that means Rashid is likely to continue to miss out, as the selectors will probably only countenance one spinner with license to bowl the odd bad ball, provided he takes wickets.

    One thing worth mentioning about his batting is how lovely it is to watch, like David Gower with a beard. He provides the aesthetic fix for those of us still pining for Ian Bell’s gorgeous batsmanship.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. BoredInAustria July 13, 2017 / 9:08 pm

    blush…

    Like

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