The ECB has pledged its support to Moeen Ali as the ICC investigates his political wristband.
Within minutes of Ali arriving at the crease on day two of England’s third Test against India at the Ageas Oval, social media erupted with pictures of ‘Save Gaza’, and ‘Free Palestine’ bands around one hand.
The ICC have spoken out against what is undoubtedly a controversial statement by the spinner.
Numerous high-profile figures have backed Palestine over the renewed conflict with Israel, centred on the area of Gaza. Over 1,000 Palestinians have died since Israel launched its offensive earlier this month.
A game without politics?
However, the ICC claim sportsmen have a duty to separate the game from politics, and particularly refrain from actions that could threaten sponsorship deals.
Players wishing to display a message on their clothing are only able to do so if approved in advance by the official player’s board.
England, on the contrary, believe the Worcestershire all-rounder has “done nothing wrong”. In fact, despite the controversy attracted, they are happy for him to continue displaying the bands for the remainder of the Test at least.
Ali has spoken publicly before of his Muslim faith, and has said in the past that he believes he is representing Islam when he plays for England. He has also helped raise funds for Gaza charities.
That has helped the ECB’s case, as they believe his statement is religious and not political, though naturally, it is very difficult to separate the two.
The 27-year-old did not inform head coach Peter Moores and the rest of the management that he would be wearing the bands while batting, but that is not thought to be an issue with the ECB. Although he only scored 12, his innings is now attracting surprisingly more attention than those of Gary Ballance and Ian Bell, who both hit centuries for the Three Lions.
Cricketers back Moeen
Ali is one of very few Muslims to have played for England, but fellow professionals have come out in support of his move. Lancashire’s Kabir Ali – Moeen’s cousin – and Nottinghamshire’s Ajmal Shahzad both took to Twitter in praise of his actions.
This is not the first time – even during this series – that England have been forced to come out in defence of one of their players. Moores will be hoping James Anderson is cleared of his violent conduct charge for an alleged push on Ravindra Jadeja, who has been fined for his part in the incident.
One reason why England are so keen to back Ali is that they cannot afford to lose him, particularly after his century against Sri Lanka at Headingley. The ICC may struggle to sanction him in the light of such strong opposition from his own board, but he may well find himself in the last chance saloon with the game’s governing body.