In the previous Test series between the two teams in 2014, England had unearthed a potentially dangerous spinner in Moeen Ali. Upon arriving on Indian shores amidst considerable expectations, their spin attack seems to be struggling despite playing on more conducive pitches in the ongoing 5-match series. The witty Ravindra Jadeja has managed to decipher the sharp contrast in his counterparts’ fortunes.
During the press conference at the end of the third day’s play in Mohali, the all-rounder attributed the underwhelming performance of England’s spinners to the Indian team’s dominant showing.
Jadeja mused, “Hum jab England gaye the tab toh unke spinners bhi aise lag raha tha ki Muralitharan ball daal raha hain. (When we went to England, even their spinners gave the impression that Muralitharan was bowling).”
Though he did not mention Moeen’s name directly, it was quite obvious as to whom Jadeja was referring to. The off-spinner was dubbed ‘Moeenalitharan’ by the British media upon picking up as many as 19 wickets from the 5 Tests at an average of 23 including one five-wicket haul. While all the focus had been on England’s potent seam attack, Ali walked away with the plaudits.
With 800 Test wickets to his name, Sri Lankan maestro Muttiah Muralitharan stands as the gold standard that developing off-spinners aspire to emulate. Although Moeen was compared to him in jest, the tag ‘Moeenalitharan’ became quite popular.
Meanwhile, in this series, Ali has picked up only 7 wickets from 5 innings at an average of 38.85. Even though his spin partner Adil Rashid is currently the leading wicket-taker in the series (*as of 28th November), his high economy rate of 3.43 has not provided skipper Alastair Cook with the control necessary to build pressure on the Indian batsmen. As a result, England have left themselves with a mountain to climb in order to get back into the series.
Jadeja summed up the situation by noting, “In Test cricket, a lot depends on the situation. If a team has the upper hand, obviously the opposition will struggle. In my opinion, if a team has the upper hand, that particular team’s batsmen, as well as bowlers, would look more dangerous.”
Having dented England’s confidence with an all-round show, the hosts’ spin trio will be eager to seal the third Test in the next day or two and pave the way for a 2-0 lead. Unless Moeen has other plans and turns into ‘Moeenalitharan’ once again.