Even as former India players shake their heads in collective disbelief at the way MS Dhoni's men have so far played England part-time off-spinner Moeen Ali, Naseer Hussain has lauded the 27-year-old Birmingham all-rounder for taking all the criticism in his stride to show some massive improvement as a bowler. (India's Problems with Moeen Ali)
Hussain, a former England captain and now a respected commentator, echoed Alastair Cook's views on Ali, praising the all-rounder for learning the tricks of the trade in international cricket. Ali made his Test debut against Sri Lanka in June and half-way into August, he has turned the India versus England series on its head. (India's Poor Form Exposes Void)
"The best thing about the 19 wickets Moeen Ali has picked up in four Tests against India is the speed with which he has improved," Hussain wrote in the Daily Mail. "What is so exciting about Moeen is that he has taken on board some of the criticisms of the way he was bowling in the first half of the summer, and now looks much more settled at Test level." (India's Poor Show Shocks Everyone)
While Sunil Gavaskar and Farokh Engineer, two of Indian cricket's biggest stalwarts, have lashed out at the Indian batsmen over their tactics against Moeen, Hussain stressed that the rookie cricketer has worked hard on certain areas after consulting senior teammates like Ian Bell. (Moeen Ali Scripts England's Downfall)
Bell had felt that Ali was bowling in Test matches like he would at nets and he needed to add more pace to his deliveries to tie batsmen down to their crease. Ali worked on it and the results are startling. Ali's 19 wickets are second only to James Anderson's 21 in the series. (India's Defeat Bizarre: Dravid)
"A lot has been made of the chat he had with Ian Bell during a practice session before the third Test at the Ageas Bowl - and rightly so. Bell basically told him he felt Moeen was bowling in Test matches like he was in the nets, mixing up his variations and not finding a consistent pace. He suggested Moeen bowl a little more quickly out in the middle, and that seems to have made a lot of difference.
"We saw on Saturday in Manchester, for example, that Moeen is now harder to get down the pitch to because the ball is arriving that little bit earlier; when MS Dhoni tried to hit him over the top, he ended up dragging one to midwicket. Moeen's gone from bowling around 50mph at the start of the season to over 55mph. It's been a crucial change of gear.
"But it's one thing to listen to a piece of advice - it's another to implement it successfully. It shows the lad has a great capacity to learn and improve, as well as all the elements you need to be a good off-spinner; he spins the ball, he gets drift and he can beat the bat on both sides," wrote Hussain.
However, Hussain urged England not to get complacent with Ali's performance as a spinner. They are yet to find a replacement for Graeme Swann, who retired in the middle of the Ashes in Australia in dramatic circumstances. Hussain, a successful strategist and a much acclaimed captain, insisted England should treat Ali as a batsman who can bowl, although he has now shed his tag as a part-time spinner.
"I would still prefer to see him as a batsman who bowls, and I hope this doesn't make English cricket lazy as they try to produce more spin bowlers.
"There are still problems out there. The moment a county pitch turns, the pitch inspectors perk up, whereas if a team are skittled on a greentop, no-one bats an eyelid. We need more spinning pitches and maybe more cricket needs to be played at outgrounds, which have traditionally turned more than pitches at county HQs," Hussain opined.