Moeen Ali will miss the third and fourth Test matches after agreeing to go on a pre-arranged break as a multi-format player.
It is unfortunate for the all rounder that it means he will only play in the one Test match this winter following nearly two years out of the side.
But the two week break has been a stipulation for all those players who have been picked across England’s red and white ball tours and who will be playing in the IPL tournament that follows.
It was strange then for Test skipper Joe Root to suggest that Moeen has ‘chosen’ to go home, implying that he could and perhaps should stay in the oppressive bio-bubble to play in more matches.
As the only player who has actually had coronavirus, and had to suffer with it thousands of miles away from home and away from his family, the need for a break out of that environment is absolutely understandable.
“Moeen has chosen to go home,” said Root. “It’s obviously been a very tricky tour for him.
“As mentioned at the start, if players feel like they need to get out of the bubble, then that’s been an option. It is really important that we stand by that. That decision has been made. Hopefully he feels better for it.
“I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision for him, but it’s one we completely respect and understand.”
Root may well respect Moeen’s decision, but why on earth he was asked to make one is a curious point. England may well have wanted to see him build on his eight wickets in this match but why is his case any different to anyone else?
Did they ask Jos Buttler to stay on after the 1st Test? Sam Curran, Jonny Bairstow, or Mark Wood after the Sri Lanka matches? What about Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes, did they ask them to skip their break during the Sri Lanka tour?
The fact that at no stage were any of these player breaks described as a choice would indicate the answer is no. Which is why it is unfair to paint Moeen in this way.
Root may feel like he has been fair and respectful of his all rounder’s situation, but that one word ‘chosen’ makes all the difference. It makes Moeen different and the resulting accusations that he has somehow turned his back on England are deeply unfair.