Over the last month, Moeen’s teammates, such as Jos Buttler, Joe Root and Ben Stokes have urged cricket’s governing bodies to reassess the schedule during a period in which England played 12 white-ball matches against India and South Africa in 25 days.
Interim ECB chief executive Clare Connor addressed Stokes’s comments earlier this week when speaking to the BBC, confirming the governing body have listened to his and other players’ concerns. “It’s something that we have got to grapple with – that’s us with players, other boards, the International Cricket Council and the Professional Cricketers’ Association.”
It is a problem that is only going to be exacerbated by the increase in franchise competitions in the calendar. Along with the Hundred, which kicked off its second season on Wednesday, new T20 offerings in the United Arab Emirates and South Africa have sprouted by to step on one another’s toes and those of the international game.
Speaking ahead of the launch of KP Snacks’ summer cricket roadshow at The Black Prince Trust in Oval, ahead of his first game of this summer’s Hundred, Moeen, captain of Birmingham Phoenix, lamented a international and domestic programme that needed to be unravelled.
“It’s all over the place at the minute,” he said. “You’re trying to get a couple of franchise gigs which are decent, but you’re going to miss a couple of Test matches or the ODIs – that’s the horrible bit, I think, because you want to play for England as much as you can. You don’t want to be missing… I used to hate resting when I was a bit younger.
“At the moment it’s not sustainable in my opinion. Something has to be done because I fear losing the 50-over format in a couple of years because it’s almost like the long, boring one, if that makes sense. It’s almost like you’ve got T20s, you’ve got the Test matches which are great and then the 50 overs is just in the middle – there’s no importance given to it at the moment.
“So yeah, I think there’s too much – personally I feel like there’s too much going on. It’s great in a way, because there’s always cricket being played, but it should never come in the way of international cricket in my opinion.”
Moeen also warned players are now more like to do as Stokes has done and ditch a format of the game for their own ambitions and well-being. The offspinning allrounder did similar at the end of the 2021 summer when he ruled himself out of Test selection, only to admit he was open to adding to his 64 caps in June.
“International cricket in all three formats is by far the best cricket to play. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “But I do worry there are so many tournaments out there that players are retiring more now – and you’ll see more retiring soon – because of overlapping schedules.
He has no plans at present to trim any of his current obligations. While a Test recall for the tour of Pakistan at the end of the year is likely, it is isolated enough to not impinge on other commitments over the winter. But, at 35, he sympathises with those in the early stages of their career as they decide upon which path to take at a time when cricket’s ecosystem is seemingly in a constant state of flux.
“From my point of view, because I’m in the back end of my 30s, it’s easier for me to go right like I did, where you don’t play Test matches, you now concentrate on franchise cricket. Whereas if you’re a young player coming through there’s so much to be made money-wise away from international cricket as well.
“So you’re almost like I’m not too bothered because in terms of money, you lose that hunger and I guess I think you lose that thirst for Test cricket, which is the absolute pinnacle.
“If I don’t play then I’ve got plenty out there. And that’s the danger really because there’s so much Test matches, there’s so much potential especially during the way England are playing at the moment. And I know it’s very early but there’s so many good players out there that could easily just turn their backs a little bit on Test cricket – not turn their backs, but not be worried that they need to play Test cricket, whereas I reckon about 10 or 15 years ago, it was all about playing Test cricket.”
KP Snacks, Official Team Partner of The Hundred, are touring the country this summer to offer more opportunities for people to play cricket as part of their ‘Everyone In’ campaign. Visit everyonein.co.uk/about
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo