Joe Root acknowledges mistake in saying Moeen Ali ‘chose’ to go home

Joe Root has spoken to Moeen Ali privately and acknowledged his mistake after leaving the all-rounder open to criticism from supporters by calling his pre-agreed exit from India something he had “chosen” to do.

As a multi-format player, Moeen is the latest to take time out of the three-month subcontinental tour as part of England’s rest and rotation policy that has led Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran to miss Test matches in order to stave of so-called “bubble fatigue”.

England had hoped Moeen might forgo his 10-day break at home following eight wickets his first Test in 18 months. But having spent 20 days of the tour in isolation – he contracted Covid-19 before England landed in Sri Lanka and also had to quarantine in India – Moeen has stuck to the original plan.

Speaking after England’s 317-run defeat in Chennai, Root said: “Moeen has chosen to go home. It’s obviously been a very tricky tour for him. As we mentioned at the start [of the winter], if players feel like they need to get out of the bubble, then that’s been an option. It is really important that we stand by that.

“With Moeen it wasn’t more asking if he wanted to stay, it was a decision he had chosen. Of course we wanted as many players available for as long as possible, but you also want them to be very comfortable here.

“If you look at this tour, it’s been a really difficult one for him, having Covid, being in his room for such long periods of time, and I think we’ve come to a point where he wants to get out of the bubble. That’s absolutely fair enough.”

The comments differed from previous explanations of the rotation policy in which the England management looked to publicly own the decisions and take any resulting criticism. It prompted the former England captain Nasser Hussain to tell Sky Sports that Moeen “had been hung out to dry” in comparison to others.

Root is understood to have since spoken to Moeen back at the team hotel to apologise for implying this was a unilateral decision and reassure him of his value to the setup before he returns home to his family.

Moeen will be back for next month’s five-match Twenty20 series, with the white-ball captain, Eoin Morgan, set to be handed a full-strength squad by the selectors in order to tune up for the T20 World Cup in India later in the year.

Asked if he was happy that the Test side is playing second fiddle to the white-ball format this winter, Root said: “My job is to manage the squad of players that we have here, and I’m trying to do that to the best of my ability.”

England are ultimately trying to mitigate the strains of touring during the Covid‑19 pandemic but the situation is complicated by the fact that their all-format players are due to play in the Indian Premier League in April and May. Moeen and Wood do not currently have franchises although both are down to be in the auction that is being staged in Chennai on Thursday.

Root at least has some fresh legs before next week’s day-night third Test in Ahmedabad. Wood and Bairstow are back in India quarantining after their breaks at home and Zak Crawley may return after spraining his wrist at the start of the tour when he slipped on a marble floor.

Jimmy Anderson, rested for the second Test, is due to return, while England hope Archer will be fit following an elbow problem. Moeen’s departure could mean a swift return for Dom Bess, who was dropped after the 227-run win in the series opener and told to work on his consistency.

Moeen returned figures of eight for 226 in the second Test, although whether he adds to his 61 caps remains uncertain. England are unlikely to play two spinners at home during the summer, while a disappointing 2017-18 Ashes tour may rule him out of travelling to Australia at the end of the year.

Asked about this, Root replied: “Why would it be Moeen’s last Test match? I thought he actually got better as the game went on and showed everyone he’s got skills to perform at this level. It means that he’s not going to play a further part out here but I don’t see why that closes the door on him entirely.”