Kevin Pietersen sparked a game of claim and counterclaim with his explosive revelations in that book last week.

Among the accusations that spilled from the pages of Pietersen’s autobiography was the depiction of Alastair Cook as a weak England captain. However, that description is not one that Moeen Ali recognises.

Ali made his England debut in a one-day international against West Indies at the end of February, just three weeks after Pietersen was sacked.

During his fledgling international career Ali has already seen much in Cook that impresses him, particularly the way the skipper handled calls to quit in the first part of the summer when he toiled with the bat and England struggled.

Cook admits he considered giving up the captaincy during the Second Test against Sri Lanka in June but Ali says: “I was pretty confident he wasn’t going to go. England picked him to do a job but there was a lot of pressure on him. We weren’t playing well as a team, weren’t bowling well or batting well. We couldn’t blame it on him. Players back him. He was doing a great job.”

This is just the sort of public support you expect from a squad member but it also reflects the special bond that developed between the two following the 95-run Lord’s defeat by India in July — England’s seventh Test loss in 10 matches. At that stage Cook, treating Ali as a batsman, rarely bowled him, reinforcing the critics’ opinion that he was too reactive as a skipper.

But the Worcestershire all-rounder says: “I wasn’t bowling well, especially in the Sri Lanka series and the First Test against India. In the nets prior to Lord’s, Ian Bell told me, ‘You need to bowl a bit quicker, do a job for the team’. I took his advice and, at Lord’s, I started to bowl well. Even though we lost, Cook got a little bit of confidence from that. At Southampton, I bowled in the nets against him and bowled well. I always made sure I bowled at him and the odd time I beat him.”

The result: Cook brought him on despite the fact Indians are supposed to gobble up off-spinners. It paid off sensationally. Ali took crucial wickets in the first innings and his six for 67 in the second — his first five-wicket haul — won the Test and the rejuvenated hosts went to take the series 3-1.

“They [India] didn’t respect me as much as they probably should have,” says the 27-year-old. “They saw I didn’t bowl as well against Sri Lanka and thought maybe this is the guy that we target. In the end, I was bowling so well, I made it difficult for them to target me. When I saw what happened in Southampton, I was very confident we would do the same in the next two Tests.”

That series triumph was part of a summer to remember for Ali, one in which he made his Test debut at an age when many cricketers would have given up hope. He is aiming to defy the odds again when the Cricket World Cup begins Down Under in February.

Experts scoff at the prospect of Cook’s team landing the title for the first time. West Indies great Michael Holding told the Standard this year that England stand no chance as they do not take 50-over cricket seriously.

“Obviously I disagree with Michael Holding,” says Ali. “We have a good chance. We’ve got some good players and Australia will suit us with their type of wickets more than people think.”

Ali even draws consolation from England’s abject 3-1 defeat in the one-day series against India this summer.

“We were a bit rusty playing Test cricket throughout the summer and then we came up against a very good Indian side. This India team are No1. By the end of it, we beat them in the final one-day game [after the series had been lost] and the T20. So we felt we were getting better towards the end.”

England will play 11 or 12 games leading up to the World Cup and Ali says: “The more games we play we can get some momentum.”

Ali will hope to impress with both the bat and the ball this winter, having been encouraged by his dad to become an all-rounder.

Unlike other Asian parents — his family originally come from Mirpur in Kashmir — Ali says: “My dad always wanted me to be a cricketer, study no chance. Once he saw that I was quite good for my age, no school. So, as soon as I did my GCSEs, I got signed by Warwickshire at 15.”

While his father is a great Viv Richards fan, Moeen’s hero is Brian Lara and agrees with Ricky Ponting that Lara is greater than Sachin Tendulkar. This will further anger Indian fans who caused a controversy by booing him during the T20 match against India in Birmingham.

“I cannot understand that,” says Ali. “A lot of the Indian supporters would have been born in Birmingham, have Birmingham accents. It is my home city as well. Second, third generations from the sub-continent still support India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“We are born and brought up in England, we do everything in England but we don’t support England. I disagree with that but people have the right to support who they want. But to boo somebody who is the same as you are…”

With that he shakes his head saying attitudes will, hopefully, change over time. What will not change is his own desire as a devout Muslim to express views on issues he feels strongly about. So he has no regrets wearing wrist bands during the Southampton Test bearing messages Free Palestine and Save Gaza.

An ICC warning forced him to remove them and he says: “I feel strongly about all these humanitarian kinds of things, I care a lot about them all the time.”

For the full interview please go to the Evening Standard Website:


Share |



Latest Tweets

Follow me on twitter

Home | About | Books | History | BroadcastingJournalismPublic Speaking | Contact | Website development by Pedalo