England’s emergent spinner Moeen Ali has distanced himself from comparisons with Graeme Swann, but as the Three Lions’ summer fixtures draw closer, all the indications from the ECB suggest Ali could become his permanent replacement.
Swann walked away from international cricket part way through the winter Ashes, once England’s series defeat had already been sealed. That gave former head coach Andy Flower two Tests to experiment as Australia went on to win 5-0, but county form aside, they appear to be no closer to finding someone capable of eventually rivalling Swann’s calibre. Ali himself insists there is much work to be done if he is ever to reach the kind of accolades possessed by Swann.
The situation has not been helped by the fact that Flower and England have now parted company, and his replacement Peter Moores will be eager to make his own mark upon the team.
Since taking over for the second time, Moores seems to be making a conscious effort to appear aloof when talking about the England of old, from whom he was sacked in 2009 after his infamous fall out with Kevin Pietersen. That the former Lancashire coach is anxious for a new start may work against Monty Panesar’s chances of earning a more regular berth in the side, particularly having failed to impress Down Under, where he was replaced for the final Test in Sydney by debutant Scott Borthwick.
Panesar’s off-field antics are also sure to count against him. His previously squeaky-clean reputation has been tarnished somewhat by an incident during his time with Sussex on a night out, which culminated in the spinner urinating on a nightclub bouncer. A move to Essex was supposed to help Panesar’s disciplinary problems, but he then went on to receive a suspended ECB ban for kicking out during a match against Worcestershire last year.
The combination of the two incidents might leave Moores reluctant to rely on the former England favourite, but not least because he is tried and tested in international cricket, while Ali is less so. Worcestershire’s Ali has so far played in three ODIs and six T20s, and his fitness is also believed to be superior to Panesar’s, who England asked to do extra running in preparation for the last Ashes.
Simon Kerrigan is another alternative, but he made a difficult start to his England career, and will struggle to oust Ali because of the latter’s batting abilities. Replacing Swann, however, is a thankless task, and will probably not be one that is accomplished this summer. Moores’ problems in that department may continue long into his reign, particularly considering none of the top ten bowlers in the County Championship at present are spinners.
Unfortunately, Swann’s talents have allowed England to overlook their lack of top-class spinners for too long while they have relied on the former Notts man.
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