Moeen brings fresh thrust to RCB surge

Moeen brings fresh thrust to RCB surge

Moeen Ali

For the first six home games and three on the road, Moeen Ali spent most of his time playing the customary warm-up football and honing his batting and bowling skills in the ‘nets’. It was only after all their options had failed that the Royal Challengers Bangalore decided to hand the England player his Indian Premier League debut against Sunrisers Hyderabad in an away game 11 days ago.

While he experienced mixed fortunes in the first three matches, where he performed better as an off-spinner than as a batsman, Thursday’s do-or-die game against Sunrisers here showcased his under-rated ability to hit the ball hard and long. Having conjured scores of 10, 1, DNB in his first three hits, Ali came to the party with a blistering 65 (34b, 2x4, 6x6) and during the course even overshadowed the imperious AB de Villiers. That’s some batting!

In fact, when RCB were finding the going not so easy, having lost both their openers inside Power Play, it was Ali who got going by slamming four sixes, including two consecutive ones off paceman Basil Thampi. It was the spur that RCB needed to post a total that eventually proved beyond Sunrisers’ reach on a good batting surface.

“I felt I have been playing football quite a lot,” Ali said in jest when asked about his first home match. “… But I guess it’s great to be in the team and obviously winning and 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,” he remarked.

Ali was coming into his maiden IPL on the back of a poor run in the Ashes and then in New Zealand, and the all-rounder felt it was good to get some runs under his belt, both from personal and team’s point of view. “I feel like I have been playing well in the nets and practice,” he pointed out. “It was almost nice to have a break. I wasn’t in great form coming here. It is just nice to go out and express myself in the last game here and for the fans and the team as well. And for my own confidence and the team’s confidence in me. Hopefully, we can keep going and I can keep this form going as well.”

When he sat out the first nine games, Ali was busy improving his ball-hitting ability with batting coach Gary Kirsten and batting talent development and fielding coach Trent Woodhill. The right-hander hoped the work he has put in would help him become a better one-day player for England.

“Gary and Trent Woodhill have worked the most with my batting,” Ali emphasised. “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.”

Having been pilloried as a two-man (Virat Kohli and de Villiers) team, RCB are finding the means and men to win matches in this late surge. Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Colin de Grandhomme, Mohammad Siraj and now Ali have chipped in with important contributions which augur well.

“It’s obviously very important,” he said on other players’ performance. “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 and win games for the team as well,” he reasoned.