Moeen Ali has warned that one-day international cricket could die ‘in a couple of years’ if nothing is done to ease the sport’s imbalanced fixture list.
In a scathing indictment of the game’s governance, Ali suggested others would follow Ben Stokes’s recent decision to quit the 50-over format – because the current model is unsustainable.
And with new T20 franchise competitions popping up with increasing frequency, he even painted a bleak picture for the future of Test cricket, suggesting talented young players may ‘turn their backs’ on a format that has been at the heart of the international game since 1877.
Ali, who retired from Test cricket last year citing exhaustion before reversing his decision in June, said: ‘International cricket in all three formats is by far the best cricket to play. 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.
Moeen Ali believes more players will step away from Test cricket in favour of the new formats
‘I feel like there’s no balance. It’s all over the place at the minute. Something has to be done, because I fear losing the 50-over format in a couple of years.
‘It’s almost like the long boring one, if that makes sense. You’ve got T20s and 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 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.’
Ironically, Ali was speaking at the launch of KP Snacks’ summer cricket roadshow – an initiative tied to the Hundred, in which he is captain of Birmingham Phoenix.
And while, for many, the Hundred is just one symptom of a wider malaise, grabbing primetime weeks in high summer and pushing England’s Test series against South Africa deep into September, Ali believes the players are being asked to make unfair choices by the game’s administrators.
Ben Stokes recently became the latest high-profile player to quit playing over-50 games
‘If you’re a young player, there’s so much to be made money-wise away from international cricket. So you’re almost like, “I’m not too bothered”, because of the money. But you lose that hunger and I think you lose that thing for Test cricket, which is the absolute pinnacle.
‘I know it’s very early, but there’s so many good players out there that could 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.’
But Ali’s greatest fear is for the format in which England are world champions, following their thrilling super-over win against New Zealand at Lord’s three years ago.
With the IPL continually expanding, and its owners buying up teams in T20 leagues outside India, the white-ball balance of power has shifted away from 50-over cricket to its more consumer-friendly 20-over cousin.
Moeen quit Test cricket last year citing exhaustion, but reversed his decision to play again
Meanwhile, the establishment of domestic tournaments such as the Hundred or – more recently – the 6ixty in the Caribbean, reflect nervousness among national boards at the diminishing broadcast value of bilateral international cricket.
Ali is not optimistic about the future of a format that began at Melbourne in 1970-71, when a rain-ruined Ashes Test persuaded the administrators to hold a limited-overs match between Australia and England instead.
‘It just feels like it’s going that way and there’s almost nothing you can do, because I think the interest in 50-over cricket is not there as it probably once was.
‘Having won it in 2019, it’s a difficult one, but I genuinely feel in two or three years’ time, nobody’s going to want to play.
‘It’s a bit like our domestic stuff here at the moment: there’s the Hundred while the 50-over [Royal London Cup] is going on, and there’s not that much interest in it, compared to the Championship, the Blast and the Hundred.’
England in action during their T20 defeat to South Africa, a format that is ‘killing’ Test cricket
Part of the problem, believes Ali, who was in England’s World Cup-winning squad and has won 121 one-day caps, is that 50-over cricket has become too formulaic.
‘There’s that period in the middle where it’s a little bit boring, to be honest with you,’ he said. ‘As a spinner, it becomes negative, where you are bowling 10 overs trying to go at five or six an over. I think the rules have to change – maybe go back to one ball to try and get a bit of reverse swing.
‘Whatever, it has got to be a bit more exciting. At the moment it’s pretty boring. When the guys at No 3 or 4 get in, they get a run-a-ball 100 – they can block four or five balls and hit a boundary in that over. It’s hard to build up pressure in 50-over cricket.’
England will defend their one-day World Cup title in India in late 2023, though by then – if Ali’s fears come to fruition – the game may have other priorities.
KP Snacks, official team partner of the Hundred, are touring the country to offer more opportunities to play cricket as part of their ‘Everyone In’ campaign. Visit everyonein.co.uk/about