England made the decision for Moeen Ali to leave the Test tour of India as part of their rotation policy, stressed head coach Chris Silverwood, as he apologised for the handling of the all-rounder’s departure,
England skipper Joe Root had said after the defeat to India in the second Test in Chennai – Moeen’s first five-day game since August 2019 – that the 33-year-old had chosen to go home and see his family.
However, Silverwood cleared up any confusion during a virtual media conference by explaining the exit of Moeen – who had suffered a bout of coronavirus in Sri Lanka earlier this winter – was always planned.
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England are managing the workload of their multi-format players in a year which includes a T20 World Cup and an Ashes series, with Moeen now to miss the final two Tests of the India series in Ahmedabad.
Silverwood said: “We are sorry if the impression we gave was that Moeen is being treated differently to other people. He isn’t, I can guarantee you that.
“The decision for him to go home was ours, as it was with Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood [who have also been rested for parts of the India series]. We’re happy to own that decision.
“It was a unique situation with Moeen – he had spent so long in isolation. Having broken back into the team, the question was posed to him [about staying] but ultimately we thought it was the right decision for him to go.
“We touched base with Mo [on Tuesday night], as did Joe [captain Joe Root], and he is fine.
“Mo understands we have got his best interests at heart and we are trying to look after him, just like we do with all the other players. We have to prioritise that and we are doing the best we can.
“It is a strange existence we have at the moment and we need to get on with it. Being locked in a bubble for long periods of time is difficult, especially for people that have got families at home.
“We have to be very respectful that people need time out of this bubble to see their families and, equally, that families need to see the players as well.
“People do need time to freshen their mind up, so that when they are here, they are 100 per cent here and in a great place to perform.
“One of the problems we have is that if people stay too long and go stale it is very difficult to get them back.
“That’s why we try to be proactive and get the breaks in so they don’t get to a point where they have had enough. I think it has worked well so far.
“Seeing the guys who have come back, they are bouncing, excited, full of energy. That’s exactly where I want the players to be.”
Moeen will be part of a full-strength England T20 squad to take on India in five games in March but Silverwood rubbished the notion that the shortest format has taken precedence over Test cricket, insisting that resting players now will boost their bid to regain the Ashes in Australia next winter.
However, he did say that giving the T20 side a “dry run” in India ahead of the T20 World Cup in the same country later this year factored considerably into the planning.
The 45-year-old said: “I can guarantee that we are not prioritising anything above Test cricket.
“Test cricket is really important to me. It is something Joe and I are very passionate about and we prioritise Tests and T20 equally.
“We know we have a great opportunity to have a bit of a dry run with the T20 World Cup being in India – it gives us a fantastic opportunity to learn as a group and for the players to experience those conditions.
“But we have to respect that to get people to the T20 World Cup and the Ashes fresh and on top form, we have to rotate.
“I don’t think there is any frustration [for Root]. Joe understands as well as I do that it is difficult.
“The length of time we are here for Test series compared to a T20 series is chalk and cheese so to play four Tests in this bubble we have to rotate.
“We want to make sure we have a fit, healthy group of players that are all capable of performing in those conditions in the Ashes.
“We are trying to build a big group of players. The planning for the Ashes started a long time ago and we are continuing to build so that at any given point anybody can play. Moeen is a very big part of that.”
England players taking part in the Indian Premier League could potentially miss the two-Test series at home to New Zealand in June, with those dates likely to clash with the IPL play-offs.
Silverwood, though, says he is “at peace” with the situation and believes his charges competing in such a high-quality T20 tournament can only benefit England moving forward.
The former Essex coach added: “I think it is very difficult to say ‘no, you can’t go and play the IPL’. You certainly can’t say yes to one and no to another. If they are playing, they are playing, it’s as simple as that.
“I don’t think it’s an issue. These guys are playing a fantastic, high-level class of T20 cricket which can only benefit us moving forward. We reap the benefits when they come back and play T20 for us
“I can understand [people questioning players playing in the IPL and missing Test matches] but I am totally at peace with where we are at.”
Silverwood also said batsman Zak Crawley and fast bowler Jofra Archer are progressing well ahead of the pink-ball third Test against India from February 24 – Crawley missed the first two Tests with a wrist injury while an elbow issue saw Archer sit out the second.
Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood have also re-joined the group.
The pair were rested for the first two Tests in Chennai and flew home to England but are now training again having served their quarantine period after landing in India and in a 17-man squad for the third Test.
Off-spinner Dom Bess is also in that group having been dropped for the second Test in favour of Moeen.
Silverwood said: “We left Dom out and gave him a bit of time to freshen up and reflect. He and I have spent a lot of time together since then in the nets and he is in a really good place.
“We know he offers us a lot – not just with the ball but with the bat in hand and in the field and what he brings to us in the dressing room. He is a proper team man.
“If we give him the opportunity I’m sure he will jump at it again. I know he will turn up and give everything he has got which is all I can ask of the players.”
England’s 17-man squad for third Test against India: Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Follow text commentary of the day-night third Test between India and England in Ahmedabad on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app from 8.30am on Wednesday, February 24.
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