Moeen Ali believes the message that England’s off-the-field culture needs to change is getting through to his team-mates “slowly but surely”.
Moeen led his country for the first time in a drawn two-day tour match against a Cricket Australia XI, a low-profile fixture between Ashes Tests which was largely overshadowed by the latest drinking controversy to rock England’s tour.
Lions batsman Ben Duckett was due to open at Richardson Park but was instead left out and provisionally suspended while he awaits the outcome of a disciplinary hearing after pouring beer over the head of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson late on Thursday night.
Duckett’s prank took place in the same bar where wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow delivered his benign ‘head-butt’ introduction to Australia opener Cameron Bancroft six weeks ago, and at a time when Ben Stokes is still off the tour waiting to hear if he will be charged for his part in a late-night fracas in Bristol back in September.
Moeen, teetotal and a practising Muslim, could be forgiven for feeling a little mystified by events.
He said: “Obviously it’s a shame these things happen … maybe the culture needs to change now. We want cricket to grow for kids, and for families to come and watch, so we have to be on our best behaviour.
“It’s not always easy, and the guys are on tour for a long time and feel like they want to go out … (but) we have to behave ourselves.”
He urges a more responsible attitude, individually and collectively.
He said: “The off-field behaviour needs to improve, and we all know that. We’re all grown men and should know how to behave. Through county cricket all the way up to international cricket, the individual needs to be responsible for his behaviour.
“As cricketers and professionals, the scrutiny that is on us, we have to be careful and behave ourselves. I think it’s really important we inspire the younger generation to take up the game. (Otherwise), it could turn them away – and that’s not what we want.”
England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss imposed – and then relaxed – a midnight tour curfew in response to Bairstow’s faux pas, and coach Trevor Bayliss is beyond frustrated at the continued transgressions of some.
Asked if the message is getting through, Moeen said: “Yes … slowly but surely. It’s not as bad as people make out, but these days people make small things into big things.”
Gary Ballance and Moeen Ali feel the heat in Perth (Jason O’Brien/PA)
His advice is that it is more than possible to have fun without getting drunk.
“We have team gatherings, and I don’t drink and I still enjoy myself as much as anyone else – just without the hangover the next day,” he said.
Moeen had one other topic of minor controversy to handle, confirming he will not be requesting any further action unless the sledging he has received from Australian Test crowds – rather than opponents – gets much worse.
He was subject to one ignorant inquiry about what time his kebab shop was opening, but has risen above that apparently racist theme.
Asked if he will report any concern to the relevant ground or match authorities, he said: “It depends how bad it is. From the crowd, it’s a bit light-hearted. Obviously if it gets really bad my job is to report, but at the moment it’s been fine.”
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