A month back, Gary Kirsten had told Wisden India that there was much about Moeen Ali’s attitude that he loved. “I can see what his goal is. Whether he plays or doesn’t play, he wants to come here and make sure he goes away from here a better cricketer,” the Royal Challengers Bangalore batting coach and mentor had said.
Moeen didn’t get a go until Bangalore’s 10th game, but he has quickly started to make up for lost time in his maiden Indian Premier League season. His offspin has by and large been tidy, but it was with the bat that he lit up the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday (May 17) night, in his first and last home game of this campaign.
Matching the peerless AB de Villiers stroke for stroke, and sometimes out-batting the South African genius, the England allrounder breezed to a 34-ball 65 against Sunrisers Hyderabad, smacking two fours and six gargantuan sixes. He dominated the third-wicket stand of 107 with de Villiers, contributing 61 of those runs and playing a massive part in Bangalore’s third successive win, that has now given them a realistic chance of aspiring for the playoffs.
Acknowledging the work he has done with Kirsten, the former India coach, and with Trent Woodhill, who complements Kirsten on the batting front, Moeen said after the 14-run win had been secured that he hoped this new dimension to his game would be a permanent addition. “Gary and Trent Woodhill have worked the most with my batting. I have been trying to hit more balls and be consistent in hitting the boundaries. I have really worked on my game and I feel going further in the future for RCB and for England, hopefully it will help me become a better one-day player. Hopefully, it is going to improve my game.”
Moeen has honed his football game considerably, having sat out the six previous home games. Success in his chosen sport, however, came as no surprise to him. “I feel like I have been playing well in the nets and practice. It was almost nice to have a break. I wasn’t in great form coming here,” he conceded, alluding to a relatively barren run across formats in New Zealand after not such a great time in Australia either in the preceding Ashes. “It is just nice to go out and express myself in the last game here and for the fans and the team, and for my own confidence and the team’s confidence in me. Hopefully we can keep going and I can keep this form going.
“It’s great to be in the team and obviously winning. When you are winning, you always sort of stick to the same formula. We have been doing that for the last three games and hopefully we will keep doing that.”
Bangalore found themselves down in the dumps after 10 games, with just three wins and a spot in the next round almost out of contention. Needing to win their last four matches to stand any realistic chance, they have got three-quarters of the job done, with contributions not just from proven Bangalore heroes like de Villiers and Virat Kohli, but also from newcomers to the franchise such as Mohammed Siraj, Tim Southee, Colin de Grandhomme, Umesh Yadav and Moeen himself.
“It’s obviously very important,” Moeen agreed of more and more contributors bursting forth. “It is a massive momentum kind of game, we are going to have to contribute for us to go further and potentially get through and in the future as well. You can’t always rely on two amazing players. They will do their bit but we will also have to chip in in games and win games for the team.”