Joe Root described Moeen Ali’s retirement from Test cricket as a “huge loss” to England and reflected ruefully that the off-spinning all-rounder sometimes did not get the credit he deserved outside the team.
Moeen on Monday announced the end of an eventful Test career filled with highs and lows over the course of seven years and 64 appearances, in which he harvested 2,914 runs at an average of 28.29 and 195 wickets at 36.66.
Derek Underwood and Graeme Swann are the only spinners to have taken more wickets for England than Moeen, a 2015 Ashes winner who took a hat-trick against South Africa in 2017 and had five five-fors and as many hundreds.
While he endured a turbulent time in the 2017/18 Ashes Down Under and was then dropped after a poor display in the 2019 series opener, which started a long spell out the side, Root insisted Moeen was valued in the inner sanctum.
The England captain said: “It goes without saying that Mo’s career speaks for itself and what he has achieved, he’s done some wonderful things in Test cricket and he’s been one of the great guys to play alongside.
“He’ll be a huge loss. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing that dressing room with him and we’ve had so many wonderful memories, on the field and off the field.
“At times he has been underappreciated, not within the dressing room but outside of that. He’s a great personality to have in and around the dressing room, and he’s a great brain for younger players to learn from and to feed off.
“But more than anything I just want to wish him well for everything he has got coming up and the rest of his career because he’s still going to go on and achieve so many great things, I’m certain of it.”
Moeen was the leading wicket-taker in the world in the 12 months leading up to the 2019 Ashes but match figures of three for 172 and just four runs with the bat in the first Test at Edgbaston led to him being dropped.
He lost his Test central contract later that year, a decision which he told the Guardian and ESPNCricinfo “did break me a little bit”, and was not drafted back into the side until last January.
He contracted Covid-19 which ruled him out of the Sri Lanka tour and played just one Test against India, with Root apologising after mistakenly saying Moeen had “chosen” to go home when it was down to a rest and rotation policy.
Root said: “There are a number of things I’ll look back on when I’m finished as captain, that I could look back on with regret, that I could have done slightly differently.
“The one thing I will say is when Mo has played, he’s been brilliant. Of course, there might have been times we could have done things slightly differently, but I could say that about a lot of things.”
Moeen claimed eight wickets in his only outing in India in the winter but was not considered this summer until the third Test against the same opponents before being named vice-captain ahead of what proved to be his last match.
Root admitted he did not have any suspicion Moeen was thinking of ending his Test career, but added: “I’ve spoken to him in the past week and the way he has dealt with it has been, as you’d expect, first-class.”
As the 34-year-old looks towards continuing his cricketing career exclusively in the limited-overs formats, Root heralded Moeen as “a wonderful role model,” particularly in the British Asian and Muslim communities.
Root added: “I really hope that off the back of what he has done and achieved in Test cricket there will be so many young boys and girls out there that will be wanting to follow in his footsteps because he’s done fabulous things.
“The way he holds himself, the way he carries himself, the way he goes about things is fantastic. He leaves a legacy.”