After 64 matches, five centuries and 195 wickets, Moeen Ali has called time on his England Test career having won the Ashes in 2015, taken a famous hat-trick at the Oval and been rewarded with the vice-captaincy. But his impact on the wider society of British cricket is perhaps where his legacy will lie.
He was one of the first British Asian Muslims to regularly play Test cricket for England and broke through at a time when he was able to inspire other younger players to follow in his footsteps. Since he made his debut in 2014 we have seen the likes of Haseeb Hameed, Adil Rashid, and Saqib Mahmood all play for their country in Test cricket. This is a seismic change in terms of inclusion for the English game.
“It always takes somebody to inspire you or takes somebody to think if he can do it I can,” Ali said after his retirement. “I hope there are a few people out there who are thinking that. I know he wasn’t English but someone like Hashim Amla, when I first saw him, I thought if he can do it I can do it, it does take that little spark.”
His wider impact on the young players up and down the country won’t truly be known until a decade has past, but Ali is keen to become a role model for future England internationals.
“I’d love someone one day in eight to 10 years’ time to say Ali made it easier for me. There have been guys before me who made it easier, so you hope to open the door for someone else", said Ali on the England & Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) official website.
Ali is somebody who has always played with his head held high, even when batting in every position up and down the order. In some ways, it was his flexibility that meant he never fully established himself as a top order batsman, even after his four centuries in 2016. His displays with the bat could have made him a potent force for several years, but as he batted in every position from one to nine he lost his attacking aura.
Ben Stokes’ emergence as the big hitter in the middle order saw Ali shuffled around, but he was always a man that was representing and inspiring a new generation of British cricketers.
"It didn’t feel like a burden, but I did feel like there was a bigger purpose for me than just batting and bowling. There was a purpose of trying to inspire others.”
This isn’t the end of the road for the 34-year-old, who has made this decision in order to prolong his cricketing career. He will now throw himself into T20 cricket ahead of the Men's T20 World Cup which begins next month and hopefully return from the United Arab Emirates with a trophy, as England look to go one better than the final appearance they managed back in 2016.
However, having played in the Test series against India, Ali felt that his time had come, even with the Ashes on the horizon.
“It’s been a good journey, but during the India series I felt like I was done, to be honest. I felt good, the atmosphere felt good, the dressing room etc, but cricketing-wise, I found it a struggle to get in the zone bowling and batting and in the field. And the more I tried, I just couldn’t do it.”
He exits Test cricket having made a giant impact on the pitch, but his legacy in inspiring other Muslims into the sport could be even longer-lasting.