Moeen ali believes a short break from competing for a Test spot could result in a strong comeback down the line after the all-rounder lost his England contract in the longest format.
Ashley Giles, the director of England cricket, revealed on Friday that Moeen has requested a spell away from Test contention and he will now miss that part of the New Zealand tour, the squads for which are named on Monday.
But while the talks that prompted this decision also ended in Moeen being stood down from the list of Test contracts – Jack Leach, who took his place during the Ashes, missed out on a main deal too – the 32-year-old is relaxed about the situation. Moeen told the Guardian: “I do feel I need a break from the longer format but not a massive one. We will see what happens after the New Zealand series. This could be just what I need.
“It’s disappointing to miss out on a central contract but I’m also pretty chilled about it. Cricket has never been about the money for me. I have always relied on my faith and believe that everything will work out fine.”
A near-mainstay of the Test side since his debut in 2014, Moeen had been England’s leading wicket-taker in the 12 months leading up to the summer’s drawn Ashes series. But a disappointing showing in the first Test at Edgbaston – one that came after losing his place in the World Cup side mid-tournament and just one seam-dominated match against Ireland – meant he was replaced by Leach. A Twenty20-heavy county schedule thereafter made an instant return difficult.
Giles said: “For all guys, not just Moeen, it’s been a challenging summer. A World Cup and Ashes has had a massive effect on many of these guys psychologically as much as physically. He might just need to go away and freshen up.”
Moeen, who is hoping to lead Worcestershire to back-to-back T20 Blast titles at Finals Day on Saturday after his blistering century against Sussex in the quarter-final, was contacted by Joe Root this week and told he still features heavily in their Test plans.
The England captain’s move to do so is understandable, not least with a two-match series in Sri Lanka coming up in March and the leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who also lost his Test deal, now considering a return to white-ball specialism. Along with Leach, who has received an increment deal on top of his county wages, the pair were instrumental in the 3-0 win in Sri Lanka before Christmas last year.
As well as the widely expected news that Jofra Archer’s stunning breakthrough summer has resulted in a multi-format deal and Rory Burns has also won a Test contract after a strong showing from opener in the Ashes, the most ruthless omission was Liam Plunkett’s absence from the white-ball list.
The 34-year-old was something of a lucky charm during the World Cup, claiming three wickets in the final, with England winning each of the seven games he played. But while thoughts turn to the T20 World Cup in Australia next October – with Eoin Morgan having re-committed to his role as captain – the selectors appear to be moving on.
Giles said: “Liam Plunkett has been a fantastic servant to the white ball team – one of Eoin’s go-to men. But moving into a new cycle of four years before the 50-over World Cup and T20 as well in between, he probably didn’t fit those future needs.
“I’m not saying the door’s closed but just in terms of the core of that team, which is where those contracts are offered, he just misses out. He’s incredibly fit and strong. In terms of numbers, I guess his pace has been down a little bit for some time.
“But it’s also looking at those younger guys coming through. It’s difficult to be the person who puts that pen through the name, but that’s cricket.”
Joe Denly, who ended the Ashes in encouraging fashion with three-half-centuries, missed out on a Test deal but was curiously awarded a white-ball contract, while Alex Hales and David Willey dropped out of this group altogether.
On Hales, who was removed from the World Cup squad at the start of the season after failing a second recreational drugs test, Giles added: The door isn’t closed [on Alex]. He’s a very fine short-format player “[But] as Eoin Morgan has said, there’s a certain amount of trust that needs to be gained back.”