KARACHI: The absence of a few big names from the England squad touring Pakistan for the upcoming seven-match Twenty20 International series doesn’t make the visiting side a second-string one, its stand-in captain Moeen Ali has said.
Moeen is set to lead England in the series with skipper Jos Buttler nursing a calf injury he picked up during The Hundred last month. The swashbuckling wicket-keeper/batter, though, is part of England’s touring party to Pakistan.
England, however, have left star all-rounder and Test skipper Ben Stokes, big-hitting batter Liam Livingstone and pacer Chris Jordan back home, despite the trio being named in the 50-over world champions’ squad for next month’s T20 World Cup.
While Livingstone and Jordan are recovering from injuries as well, Stokes has been rested ahead of the T20 showpiece, set to be held in Australia. Opener Jason Roy missed out on both tours due to a dip in form while batter Jonny Bairstow and fast-bowler Jofra Archer are out due to injury too.
“The only person who is not here is Ben Stokes,” Moeen said during a press conference before the team’s practice session here at the National Stadium on Sunday.
“The guys who could be here; Jonny Bairstow is injured, Jason Roy has been dropped and obviously Jofra Archer is injured,” added the all-rounder.
Moeen claimed England had selected the best available players for the Pakistan tour and that most changes were forced due to what he believed were unfortunate circumstances.
“It’s not through selection, it’s more through just unfortunate injuries,” he said. “We’ve had bad fortune this summer.
“We still have a very good side, I don’t think it is second-string, obviously Jos Buttler is injured and he is our captain.”
Buttler visiting Pakistan had triggered excitement among fans in Pakistan, who have been deprived of witnessing the world’s top players feature in home towns. The right-handers’ presence in the England squad, however, doesn’t guarantee if he would feature during the series of which the first four matches will be played in Karachi and the remaining three in Lahore.
Moeen revealed England’s preference was to ensure Buttler’s availability for the entirety of the T20 World Cup, even if that meant him missing all the Pakistan games.
“We are not sure, he’s done his calf in The Hundred this summer, he has done it before so he’s just a bit more careful,” said the 35-year-old.
“Maybe in the back end of the tour he’ll play one or two games but we are not sure. It depends on how his calf is.
“Obviously for the World Cup in Australia — it’s huge for us — we want him fully for the whole competition there.”
England mainstays, all-rounder Chris Woakes and pacer Mark Wood, have also travelled to Pakistan and, like Buttler, are not expected to be available for all seven games. The duo, too, is going to be vital for England during the World Cup.
“They’re all coming back from injuries this summer, Chris Woakes and Woody have been injured for most of the summer so they haven’t really played much and they are just going to take their time,” Moeen said.
“There’s no rush in getting back the big players for us all.”
With the top player’s possible unavailability, England will give match practice to some newer faces. Harry Brook and Phil Salt, who won the Pakistan Super League with Lahore Qalandars this year, will be two of those.
“I believe we are a very good white-ball team and white-ball players in England have been coming in,” noted Moeen.
“Phil Salty, somebody who is a fantastic player, and Harry Brook has done well in the PSL, so these guys are very good players so I wouldn’t say they are second string.”
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2022