Moeen Ali and “planning for the future”

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The concept of ‘planning for the future’ is often used to explain the inclusion of younger players in favour of perhaps superior older players. This preference is often presented as being ‘an investment’. That, on the face of it, is a perfectly valid modus operandi. It gives the sense that there is some overarching strategy.

The problem comes when investments aren’t given chance to mature or when other decisions indicate that selectors don’t put as much store in investment as they claim to. Our issue with Moeen Ali’s selection in England’s World T20 team isn’t that we think he’s a bad player; it’s that we think a player of potential is being treated badly.

As recently as January 2014, Moeen Ali wasn’t even in England’s Twenty20 squad. Come the World Cup – which doesn’t exactly arrive unexpectedly – he is batting at number three. We know that there has been an injury to Joe Root and an infamous sacking, but in the shortest format, the top three are disproportionately important. You’d think you’d have seen the batsmen occupying those slots at some point in the last couple of years.

England will frame this as being ‘a great opportunity’ for Moeen; a ‘chance to show what he can do’. But he’s basically been set up to fail. They haven’t invested in him. They’ve stuck a quid in the slot in the vague hope that he’ll pay out. If he doesn’t, they’ll shake him and kick him and be more reluctant to ‘invest’ a second time.


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  1. Moeen Ali seems to be someone they think could play test cricket, we have no outstanding spinner around, so someone that spins it a bit and bats could be the man. England seem to use 20/20 and odi cricket as a testing ground for test cricket.

    I don’t get the planning for the future, you just pick who you think is best and available at the time. If some one is young and good pick him, if he fails drop him until he is ready, if he is old pick him. Its not rocket science.

    1. The trouble is that international players are not usually pret a porter – they tend to need time in international cricket to become international cricketers, no matter what the format. Ian Bell and Jimmy Anderson are probably the best examples of this right now, Stuart Broad close behind. Drop a player too soon and all you do is take a three-year process right back to day 1.

      I wonder if there has ever been an English player who came into the side ready for international cricket and who spent the next eight-and-a-half years proving it.

    2. Bert, I assumed for a second you were talking about Peter May, but you can’t be. May scored a ton on debut in ’51, but then struggled somewhat until his game was totally revitalised by the captaincy in ’55.

    3. Peter May?

      No, I was of course talking about Ian Salisbury, who over an eight-and-a-half year test career did everything that could have conceivably been expected of him.

  2. This is all quite correct. And the lad Hales is a good example. We’ve invested in him, and kept him at the top of the order to allow him to develop a game that works for him and for the team within the specific format of T20.

    Now, at only 25, he’s the third english batsman to pass 1000 runs in the format. You couldn’t play that innings without the grounding that he’s had in international T20.

    1. That was the gist of the additional paragraphs we wrote before we decided they diluted the article and made it too long. Thanks for filling the gap.

      Hales is a rare example of someone who has benefited from being given a very specific role and being allowed to grow comfortable with it. Did England see Moeen Ali and think: “Twenty20 number three – definitely”? Probably not, we’d hazard.

  3. all very good points. especially the key one about moeen ali being set up to fail.

    vintage badger this week, btw. (given that much raw material to work with you must have felt a bit spoilt!) i think what the george bailey stuff demonstrates is that in the context of a sporting press conference, talking absolute shit is vitally important.

    1. Regarding this combined with String’s point above, after the World Cup, it’ll be ‘a new cycle’ and the team will be chopped up. Now imagine Moeen had been given two or three years batting at three and Alex Hales had been brought in at the last minute to open. Who would survive the post World Cup cull?

      Thanks for the kind words about Cricket Badger (sign up here). In truth, the Bailey bit’s a bit unfair because he was asked about momentum and had to give an answer. But still, taking quotes entirely out of context is pretty much the point of that email.

    2. This week’s foot in James Faulkner’s mouth “You have to do things to get under their skin and try and irritate them to try and get them off their game. If you can do something to upset somebody and upset their team, it goes a long way towards doing well as a group.”

    1. 10%

      It started well but ended with me bashing the “No it’s not fucking OK” button rather a lot. Pretty much every time in fact.

      Does that mean anything?

    2. 62% going with my gut reaction, but then I took it again using the “would I allow this to get by me at work” (I’m a copy editor) test, and got 2%, and only then because I happened to remember that AP Style was just changed to remove the distinction between “fewer” and “less”.

      I guess that means I can turn my inner pedant off and on? Or reduce it to about 40% power?

    3. 12% which may to some extent explain how we attracted such a readership. We were really, really jeffing irritated by the end.

      Also, not to be pedantic, but it is not being pedantic to take issue with a phrase like “LOLed out loud”. That is not a minor thing.

    4. They no longer distinguish between less and fewer?

      This is shaping up to be the worst Saturday morning ever.

  4. 32%, and i had to fix it a bit. still, that’s an improvement with age: if i’d taken the same test as a 20-yr-old, it would probably have been 100% and the computer would have gone through the window.

    1. oh yeah, i meant 0% didn’t i.

      dan m, they have seriously blurred the distinction between “fewer” and “less”? that is a perfect example of dumbing down – it’s not like, say, the preceding direct object rule in french (which has always been controversial because it doesn’t really make sense, is just a rule for the sake of a rule). we are officially recognising the failure of the populace to be able to use language with any sort of precision 🙁

    2. My mistake, the distinction they removed was between “over” and “more than,” but “fewer” and “less” is next on the chopping block. Lucky for me I haven’t edited any copy that dealt with either in the last week.

  5. incidentally, we’re all being terribly restrained here in not crowing over the way the aussies lost that match in the most grating of circumstances… are we being tactful to wolf & co? or is it only T20 so no-one really cares..?

  6. In other T20 and inner pedant news, this headline/article currently appears on Cricinfo under England news:

    “KP plans 5,000-mile T20 commute
    Aims to play in England and Caribbean at same time”

    I find the “at the same time” element of that a little implausible, unless KP has developed his contrarian skills such that he can now even defy the laws of physics.

  7. KP is evidently a yoga master… the ability to be in two places at once is one of the traditional siddhis, i believe…

    all joking apart, all that unnecessary air travel is hardly doing the planet a favour, now is it? unless of course he is using the power of teleportation 🙂

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