Last week saw one of the most influential all-rounders of all time hanging up his boots. It also saw what seems like the rise of another. Jaques Kallis’ decision to quit all formats of international cricket certainly leaves the sport poorer. But at the same time one was heartened to see rookie Moeen Ali making his presence felt at the world stage.
It was a happening week for Moeen. Wearing two bracelets that underlined the ongoing tragedy in Gaza, he pricked the consciousness of a global audience of cricket fans. A few days later, he bagged a match-winning haul of six wickets to guide England to a resounding series-levelling Test triumph against India.
Though generally regarded as a part-time spinner, Moeen took 6-67 to help England tame the Indians in Southampton with a 266-run win. The off-spinner bowled with a lot of determination and even unleashed what is still a fledgling doosra. One believes that with such a stunning display of spin bowling, Moeen has managed to shed the tag of part-timer once and for all.
It was hardly surprising when England captain Alastair Cook showered praise on Moeen, who made his debut earlier this summer. “His bowling has come on leaps and bounds since the start of the summer,” Cook remarked. “Credit to Mo he’s worked really hard, it’s difficult being a bit part-time, bowling behind Saeed Ajmal at Worcester, but he’s fronted up to the responsibility.”
Cook also hailed Moeen for his adaptability. “The guys in the nets have been telling him the lines are slightly different bowling in international cricket when you’ve got to hold an end and he’s responded really well. Then on a spinning wicket to get six wickets and win the game, you can’t ask for any more.”
Before his match-winning show, Moeen made international headlines when he wore wristbands bearing the slogans “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.
He had to remove the bracelets following a conversation with the ICC match referee David Boon but by then Moeen had given his message loud and clear.
A devout Muslim, Moeen received the support of England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) which saw his actions as humanitarian rather than political. But Boon used ICC’s clothing and equipment regulations to stop the player from wearing the wristbands.
According to section F of the relevant ICC code: “Players and team officials shall not be permitted to wear, display or otherwise convey messages through arm bands or other items affixed to clothing or equipment unless approved in advance by the player or team official’s Board. Approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes.”
Though most backed Moeen’s actions there were some dissenting voices. Former England pacer Steve Harmison stressed that “sport and politics don’t mix”. But the Birmingham-born Moeen doesn’t think so. His mission is to continue being a role model for millions of young Muslims around the world.
“Religion is very important to me. One of my aims is to try to show that you can have faith and play cricket. There can be a lot of negativity and misunderstanding of Islam,” he said in a recent interview.
“I feel my job as a Muslim is to change that and show people what my faith is really like. A lot of what is said and written is ridiculous, but that’s life. I just get on with it and try to be as positive as I can,” stressed the 27-year-old.