Former ’homeboy’ Moeen Ali will miss the noise of the Newlands crowd
CAPE TOWN - English cricket professionals have long enjoyed a charming relationship with Cape Town. Even before the days of the late Bob Woolmer, English cricketers have traded dreary cold British winters for blazing African summer days under the watch of Table Mountain.
It remains in vogue in this modern era with Mzansi Super League franchise, the Cape Town Blitz, continuing the tradition by sourcing England internationals David Malan, Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali over the past couple of seasons.
The trio were hugely popular with the Newlands faithful, in particular Moeen during his short stint last season, and returning to Cape Town with the England T20I and ODI squads on Tuesday, it would almost have felt like a homecoming.
However, the world has, of course, changed drastically since Moeen was last here with Covid-19 creating a unique set of circumstances. Both the England and Proteas teams will be housed in a bio-secure environment at the Vineyard Hotel for the duration of the series with no contact from anyone outside the bubble for 24 days.
Equally, there will be no spectators allowed at either of the two venues, namely Newlands and Boland Park. Although Moeen will naturally be on the opposing side during the upcoming series, he admits he will sorely miss the unique vibe and atmosphere a packed Newlands can generate.
“To play in front of fans is huge. You realise how much you miss them when they are not there. That extra motivation they give you when you’re playing. Players all over the world are missing the fans,” Moeen said in a Zoom press conference on Wednesday.
“Obviously though it’s the way the times are at the moment. I know when we played in the PSL (Pakistan Super League) and there were huge crowds and then the last two games there was nobody watching and it was very difficult to get up for the game. The players struggled.
“But it’s been six to seven months now, and you do get used to it. But it's not the same as having crowds. Coming here, Newlands has always been a great crowd and the noise that it creates is fantastic, so it is a shame and hopefully it's temporary and in the near future we will be able to get crowds back in.”
Moeen, probably more than others, will need to discover that inner drive to get back to the high levels that made him one of the most dynamic all-rounders in the world game not too long ago.
A self-imposed Test cricket sabbatical has provided the 33-year-old with clarity of thought going forward and he certainly is ready to push through at optimum capacity in his remaining years at the highest level of the game.
"I know I haven't got that long left in international cricket," Moeen admitted. "But I'll try my best to do as much as I can to get to the level I want to get. I've had enough of a break from Test cricket.
"It's been frustrating for me mentally. That hunger has not been there in the last year or so. There have been glimpses but I know deep down I haven't done well over a period of time.
"It's my job now to go out and perform. I need to get into a good mental space, which I have been working on for the last four or five months. It's been difficult. But it's about clearing everything out and starting afresh.
"My priority is to try to get my game to the level I know I can get it. I've not played for a while now and, having spent time with the family and thought about my game, if the call did come, I'd be quite keen to be on it. I've not retired or anything. It was just to take a step back from the format of the game."