England star Moeen Ali wants Saqlain Mushtaq’s coaching role made permanent so he can continue to work with him in the upcoming Ashes series following his record-breaking feats against South Africa.
The 30-year-old Ali, an off-spinner and left-handed batsman, became the first man to score more than 250 runs and take 25 wickets in a four Test-match series during England’s 3-1 win over the Proteas.
Afterwards, Ali was unstinting in his praise of spin coach Mushtaq.
The former Pakistan off-spinner is, however, currently employed by the England and Wales Cricket Board on a consultancy basis only and Ali said: “If you are going to have batting, fielding and fast-bowling coaches, it would be nice to have a spin-bowling coach for pretty much all the games. If I do get on that plane for the Ashes, hopefully I’ll have Saqqy sitting next to me. I’d like him to be there. He can help me out.”
Ali has often labeled himself a “second spinner.” But his bowling has improved markedly under Mushtaq’s guidance. “Saqqy has been amazing for me in terms of helping with my fields, helping me understand my bowling a lot more than I had done previously—and I think that has been the biggest difference,” said Ali after bowling England to a 177-run win in the fourth Test at Old Trafford with more than a day to spare on Monday.
Hashim Amla’s 83 held England up but a toilet break gave Ali a chance to consult Mushtaq and he subsequently had the star batsman lbw. It was the start of an Ali burst that yielded three wickets for five runs in 11 balls.
“He [Mushtaq] gave me the option of putting a silly point in,” Ali said. “Maybe it put something in the batter’s mind in terms of playing forward. I bowled a bit shorter, he went back. I think that made the difference. There is always something new with Saqqy. The basics are the same, but he has found a few variations in my bowling, which I am working on. He is brilliant with my mindset,” explained Ali, who ended the match with two wickets in two balls after finishing England’s victory in the third Test at The Oval with a hat-trick. “Before, I just bowled. I didn’t really think too much,” added Ali, who finished with five for 69 on Monday. “I let the captain set the field. Saqlain has helped me understand my action, field settings and the type of batsmen,” said Ali, who took 10 wickets in England’s first Test win at Lord’s.
Ashes-holders England have three Tests at home to the West Indies before they travel to Australia, with Ali hinting at a full-time role for Mushtaq by saying: “That’s not too far from the future.”
The South Africa series also saw Ali make valuable runs, as exemplified by his unbeaten second-innings 75 at Old Trafford. “I feel a lot more confident in my ability,” he said. “I feel like it was building… I had been batting well over the last year, and the bowling was coming.”
Although he won both the man-of-the-match and series awards on Monday, Ali took no part in some of the celebrations that followed England captain Joe Root lifting the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy.
Ali’s Muslim faith prohibits not just the drinking of alcohol but contact too—a risk when champagne is being sprayed around on the winners’ podium. But former captain Alastair Cook made sure Ali was included in all the team photos before the corks started popping at Old Trafford.
“The team respects that, and I’m obviously very grateful,” Ali said. “Cooky said ‘make sure we take the picture first,’ and then I move out the way and they can do what they do. I don’t feel I miss out, it’s just spraying a bottle, not that exciting really.”