MOEEN ALI: ‘I’m proud to be leading England in historic test in Pakistan, the land of my heritage’


When my grandfather Shafayat came to England from Pakistan after the Second World War, I doubt even he would have imagined that his grandson would return to the country of his heritage and represent his adopted country as a professional sportsman.

I have been privileged enough to do many overseas trips as an England cricketer from Australia to South Africa to the Caribbean but this tour to Pakistan might be the most special of the lot.

It is going to be memorable playing in front of the Pakistani crowds and also an immense honour to deputise for Jos Buttler, while he recovers from injury, and captain England.

For those who do not know, my family background is both English and Pakistani. In fact, my late grandmother was called Betty Cox but I reckon the cricketing side of me definitely comes from my Pakistani side. I grew up playing the game with a taped up ball like they do in Pakistan and my dad always says I have had that Asian style of playing the game without any fear.

I’m extremely honoured to be part of England’s historic tour to the land of my grandfather

Indeed, it is the first time an England men’s side has come to Pakistan since 2005. I was 18 then. I’m 35 now and I must admit I have been looking forward to this trip for a long time. The fact that England are here is huge and it definitely feels like there is something to it.

Quite a few of the squad, including myself, have played in the PSL (Pakistan’s T20 competition) and trust me, the love and the passion for the game in this area of the world is second to none. I have been here a few times now but sharing this journey with Adil Rashid, who is also of Pakistani heritage, was a particularly proud moment.

It was a real pinch-me moment when we got off the plane at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi in our England gear.

This country holds a special place in my heart, for it was here where my mother was born and it was in Karachi where my dad and his twin brother had their lives saved by a doctor when they were seven months old.

Pakistan is very dear to my heart, with several members of my family originating from here

Pakistan is very dear to my heart, with several members of my family originating from here

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They fell ill in the village of Dadyal which is in Kashmir. Back then, Dadyal was a basic village and both my father and uncle were taken to Karachi for medical help.

We are hoping we can raise the morale of the country by playing cricket in times of difficulty, with the devastating floods that have sadly affected Pakistan. It is a great initiative by the ECB to match our donation as players to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal.

We arrived in the hustle and bustle of Karachi on Thursday morning. Over here, they have granted us VVIP protection — the level given to heads of state — so straight from the plane, we were escorted into bulletproof buses and escorted by an armed convoy to the team hotel.

Of course, this tour is important for cricket and it is also crucial for us as a side. Seven T20s will be a stern test in these conditions and a good pointer for where we are, ahead of the World Cup in Australia next month.

Our side has undergone some change since last year’s agonising defeat to New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final and the retirement of Eoin Morgan and the freak injury to Jonny Bairstow means that personally, there is some extra responsibility on my shoulders as one of the seniors but it is something I am looking forward to. As long as I play my best cricket, that is all that matters.

It is not a full-strength squad out here but it is an exciting squad with experience and lots of young talent. With seven games, there is plenty of opportunity for someone to thrive. I’m delighted for Tom Helm who was excellent for us in the Hundred and it is good to see Olly Stone fit and firing again. It is great to see some new faces and some of the older faces back with the squad, like Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.

Alex Hales should be an exciting player to watch in the series after his experience in Pakistan

Alex Hales should be an exciting player to watch in the series after his experience in Pakistan

I’m looking forward to seeing Alex Hales play. He is a gun player with experience of performing in Pakistan and Australia and as Jos said in the first press conference, we discussed internally and no one had any issues with his recall. What’s done is done and we are looking forward to seeing him perform in an England shirt again.

Touring life can be tough, especially when we are restricted to the hotels and grounds like we are here and being away from family is challenging. The hardest part is saying goodbye to my family and my two kids — Abu Bakr and Haadhiya. They are old enough now and they get why their dad has to leave home, but no matter how many times we do it in this job, it is never easy. This is the start of a busy winter schedule that sees England playing in Pakistan, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh. I will also be playing in the new UAE T20 franchise league which starts in January.

There has been some talk in the media about the Test tour to Pakistan in December. Watching the Test side this summer has been amazing and seeing the way that Baz (Brendon McCullum) and Stokesy (Ben Stokes) have shifted the momentum. It has been a breath of fresh air.

From an outsider looking in, it is exciting and it is a brand of cricket that fits in exactly with how I like to play my cricket, with freedom and aggression.

I have retired from Test cricket for many reasons, but it could still be possible I'll be back

I have retired from Test cricket for many reasons, but it could still be possible I’ll be back

I know I said I was unretired this summer after Baz gave me a call. I have had a few conversations with Baz and he is a guy who is very tough to say no to! But I have got to be honest with myself, I retired from Test cricket for a range of reasons.

I have not yet decided so let’s see. It is still a few months away but at the moment, my focus is on the opportunity immediately in front of us to prepare and give ourselves the best chance of winning another World Cup for England.

Moeen Ali OBE will be writing exclusively for Sportsmail throughout England’s tour of Pakistan. You can donate to the Pakistan Floods Appeal via: dec.org.uk/appeal/pakistan-floods-appeal 



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