Moeen Ali vows to give his all in what remains of international career
'I've had enough of a break from Test cricket' says 33-year-old Moeen
Moeen Ali has acknowledged he hasn't "got that long left in international cricket" but has resolved to "give my all" in the time remaining.
Moeen, now aged 33 and uncertain of his place in a first-choice side in any of the formats, admits he went through a stage where he "lost a lot of hunger". But, having had time to reflect and recover, he is adamant he wants to "play as much I can". And that includes Test cricket.
"I know I haven't got that long left in international cricket," Moeen said from the team hotel in Cape Town on England's first full day in South Africa. "But I'll try my best to do as much as I can to get to the level I want to get. I've had enough of a break from Test cricket.
"I think I was hungrier when I was younger. I think everyone is hungrier when they are trying to play Test cricket [for the first time]. I guess a year-and-a-half ago I definitely lost a lot of that hunger. But over the last six months I feel like it is coming back and I want to play Test cricket and play as much as I can.
"I've not played for a while now and, having spent time with the family and thought about my game, if the call did come, I'd be quite keen to be on it. I've not retired or anything. It was just to take a step back from a format of the game."
Moeen's availability will encourage the national selectors. He was either top or joint top wicket-taker on both his last two Test tours - to Sri Lanka and the Caribbean - and with Adil Rashid having doused hopes of a Test return, England were looking light on options ahead of tours to Sri Lanka and India.
But there are still doubts about his form. He is averaging 11.20 in eight Tests since the start of that last tour to Sri Lanka in November 2018 and, while his ODI economy rate remains impressive (it's 4.89 in his most recent eight games), he has taken just two wickets in that period. As a result, Jack Leach and Dom Bess may well be ahead of him in the race for Test selection and Rashid is England's first-choice white-ball spinner.
If Moeen is able to rediscover his best form, however, there's little doubt he would be a huge asset. It's not so long ago - 2016 - that he hit four Test centuries in the calendar year and, at the time he was dropped (in August 2019), he was the top wicket-taker in Test cricket in the previous 12 months. He could yet add depth to England's batting and bite to their bowling, but he knows he has some work to do on his game to get back to those levels.
"It's been frustrating for me mentally," he said. "That hunger has not been there in the last year or so. There have been glimpses but I know deep down I haven't done well over a period of time.
"It's my job now to go out and perform. I need to get into a good mental space, which I have been working on for the last four or five months. It's been difficult. But it's about clearing everything out and starting afresh.
"My priority is to try get my game to the level I know I can get it. There's so much cricket and so much success to have. There's an opportunity there to be one of the greatest sides ever and be part of that. That's something I want to do. It's such an exciting time moving forward. For me, right now, to play as much cricket as I can and do the best I can. I can give my all in the next couple of years to try and be part of this."
Meanwhile, Moeen welcomed news of England's tour to Pakistan in October 2021, calling it "a massive moment for cricket".
"It's massive," Moeen said. "Having been there not so long ago, it was an amazing experience to play the PSL there. We can't wait to go there in the future. It's a massive moment for cricket going forward.
"The teams that came to England this summer - West Indies and Pakistan - helped massively. They went through the whole bubble thing when cricket was on the edge. They helped massively with that. I think it's right we go back after such a long time for the game itself and for Pakistan and cricket in the country."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo