George DobellSenior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Moeen Ali has claimed he is “refreshed and ready to go” after taking a break from international cricket, but says he has yet to make a decision on whether he will return to Test cricket for England’s tour of Sri Lanka in March.
Moeen, who asked for a break from Test cricket after being dropped following the first Ashes Test, has now admitted he was suffering from “burn-out” and felt he had become “one of the first guys to get the blame” when England lost.
And while he says “no timeframe” has been put on a possible Test return, he has said that “when I’m ready, I’ll be back for sure”.
“I felt burnt out,” Moeen told the BBC Cricket Social. “I felt tired mentally and physically. I needed this break to recharge my batteries and work on a few things on my game. And to just find that hunger and love for the game again.
“It’s not something people would normally do. Especially after you’ve just won the World Cup and the Ashes are playing. I was doing quite well before that. It was tough. But I knew it was the right thing to do.
“A lot of people could see I probably needed a break. It’s easy to just carry on, keep going and almost dig a deeper hole at times. But I just wanted to step back from it. I started reading about my faith a bit more. And I started taking interest in other things rather than focusing on cricket 24/7.
“I love being away and travelling and playing cricket. But it was almost too much and it needed to take a bit of a back seat. I can put my cricket to one side. It’s not my be-all and end-all. I’ve more than cricket in my life and I wanted to spend time being normal in the winters.
“A lot of the time if we lose I feel I am one of the first guys to get the blame for it. Yes, there have been days when I have not had good games but I feel sometimes it is easy to point the finger at me. It did get to me and that was one of the reasons why I needed to step back from Test cricket. I felt like I was drained from it all. But I have got to become a stronger person for that as well. It is difficult, but I will be fine.”
Moeen will join up with the England limited-overs squad in South Africa in the next couple of weeks, and he says he will “probably” come to a conclusion about the Sri Lanka tour after talks with the England management in South Africa.
“I’m not sure yet [about going to Sri Lanka],” he said. “I’m going to go to South Africa now for the one-day stuff and I will probably decide there. I’ll speak to a few people.
“I’ll definitely come back when I feel ready. England – the ECB – have been amazing in terms of support and they fully understand where I’m coming from. Playing all forms of the game is not the easiest thing at the moment as we play so much cricket.
“There’s no time frame. When I’m ready I’ll come back for sure. But I know I’ve got to fight for and earn my spot again. Which I’m looking forward to. I’ve missed being around the guys and being on tour. I missed the banter with the boys. But I know, in the long run of my career, I needed this break.”
While Moeen insisted he still “definitely” saw Test cricket as “the pinnacle” of the sport, he suggested that playing franchise cricket had helped him improve his game and recover his confidence after losing the Test part of his ECB central contract.
“When that contract was taken I had a few approaches from franchise cricket which is great because you feel valued,” he said. “It was just the intensity of Test cricket was too much at the time. I have still got to earn some money, even though it is not all about the money. You want to play a good standard of cricket. I felt valued when all the leagues came in for me.
“For me it is enjoying my cricket. I bat up the order [and] bat low down for England and I want to improve my batting and bowling before I come back and I want to come back a better player I was.”