|| AFP ||
England great Mike Gatting has expressed surprise at Moeen Ali's dramatic Ashes recall after nearly two years out of Test cricket, warning that Australia will look to target the off-spinning all-rounder.
Ali, 35, was persuaded to end his retirement from Tests by skipper Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum this week after regular spinner Jack Leach was forced out of the five-match series with a stress fracture in his back.
Gatting, a gutsy batsman who led England to victory Down Under in the 1986-87 Ashes, said he found the recall hard to fathom.
"When I heard it I couldn't quite understand it, because obviously Moeen doesn't want to play Test cricket and I don't understand why he wants to come back for this," Gatting said at a charity event in Bangkok on Thursday.
Ali, an elegant batsman and more-than-useful spin bowler, has played 64 Tests for England, taking 195 wickets and scoring 2,914 runs.
But Stokes and McCullum have made a bold, aggressive approach -- dubbed "Bazball" -- the hallmark of their team, and Gatting said he thought they could have made a more forward-looking choice to replace Leach.
"You've got a guy called Rehan Ahmed who got five-for in his debut Test against a good Pakistan team and he's been doing reasonably well in T20," Gatting said.
"I suppose they've really gone for the real safe option."
The 18-year-old Ahmed became England's youngest men's Test cricketer on his debut in Karachi in December, putting in an impressive performance against a strong Pakistan side.
But there are fears about exposing him to the pressure and intensity of an Ashes series too early in his career.
Australia have been tough opponents for Ali, with his career bowling average climbing from 36.66 to 64.65 in Ashes cricket, and Gatting warned that Pat Cummins's men would look to target him.
"He hasn't played much Test cricket and it's very difficult to get back into Test cricket when you've been out of it for so long," said Gatting, 66.
"Whoever bowls spin for us, they're going to get after."
Ali will turn 36 during the first Test, which begins June 16 at his home ground of Edgbaston.