Family, faith, and the journey from inner-city Birmingham to poster boy for multicultural Britain
Moeen Ali is an unlikely recipient of death threats. He is an unlikely victim of booing, too. And of a hit-and-run driver seemingly determined to kill him. An elegant batsman and a soft-spoken man with a desire to use his cricketing skills to promote racial harmony and social mobility, it seems odd that he provokes such negative passion. Surely disliking Moeen is like disliking rainbows or ice cream?
But then Moeen's is an unlikely story. In modern England, anyway. It's a story of family, of sacrifice, of unity, of humility, of talent overcoming poverty. The most unlikely thing about Moeen? His ambitions. Many cricketers aspire to a career in the media or as a coach after their playing careers end. But Moeen, among other things (he talks of opening a chip shop named "Big Mo's"), wants to clean the toilets in the local mosque.
To understand Moeen Ali, it is probably helpful to understand the experience of his father, Munir Ali.
Munir had things tough. He was born in Birmingham to a mother from the city, Betty, and a Kashmiri father. As a baby he was sent to Dadyal, near Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, and did not return to England until he was 11. The family was desperately poor and Munir shared an attic room with three others in Birmingham. He went to school not speaking a word of English. Soon afterwards, his parents separated and he did not see either of them for 15 years. He was looked after by an uncle.
But somewhere in there - maybe during the ten-mile round trips he walked to ask the extended family for food, maybe while he was being racially abused in unenlightened Chelmsley Wood of the 1970s, maybe after he was bullied for the ferocious stammer he developed from his lack of confidence - Munir made himself a promise. When he had children he was going to give them all the love and support he lacked. He was going to give them every opportunity, every advantage, every assurance he could. Never would they suffer the loneliness or isolation he experienced.
"They said it couldn't be done. That we, a poor Asian family from inner-city Birmingham, could never break through to the professional game"
It is a promise he has kept. Munir has four healthy, happy children who have imbibed his work ethic and love of family. Now, 35 years after those trying days, he refers to himself as "a blessed man".
It wasn't easy. Despite his late start in education, Munir gained five O levels and qualified as a psychiatric nurse. But the strain of supporting four children may have contributed to him suffering a stroke at a relatively young age. Struggling to return to work, he concentrated instead on coaching his children to play the game he loved, the game that had been one of his few sources of joy in those difficult, formative years.
"I used to lie awake at night," Munir says, "and worry that I was letting them down. I thought to myself, if they don't succeed in life because they lack talent or hard work, then okay. But if they don't make it because I have failed them, I could never forgive myself."
He need not worry on that score. All his children are employed in rewarding professions. Two of his sons make a living from cricket: Moeen, and Kadeer, who recently became just the 12th man to score 1000 runs in the top division of a Birmingham League season (Andy Flower, Graeme Hick, Grant Flower and Graham Yallop are among the others; nobody had done it since 1996).
"He always found the money," Moeen remembers. "Kadeer was better at school, so when they felt it was necessary, they found the money for tuition to get him through the 11-plus. And when I needed some coaching to improve my defence, my dad found the money for ten sessions with Neal Abberley [a legendary figure in Warwickshire circles, whom Ian Bell credits for much of his development]. I've no idea how my mum and dad did it. The sacrifices they made... Well, they make you think."
Moeen speaks on the sidelines of a Chance to Shine event in Sparkhill
Moeen speaks on the sidelines of a Chance to Shine event in Sparkhill
At the end of his first summer as an England cricketer, Moeen bought his dad a new car. "I'll never be able to do enough to repay them," he says simply.
Munir is proud of the car. Not because it is a handsome machine - a large, shiny jeep - but because of what it represents: family, selflessness, success, loyalty, respect. "They're good boys," Munir says quietly. "Their mother must have done a good job."
He is a gentle man. The only time Moeen has ever seen him lose his temper is when he, Moeen, was the victim of a hit-and-run. He was 13 at the time. As he was walking home from school one day a car veered towards him. It missed, but after it skidded to a halt, the driver - an Asian man whom Moeen says he has seen neither before nor since - shouted abuse out of the window and reversed hard into Moeen, who was fortuitously pushed to the side. The car hit the curb so hard that it turned on its roof in the middle of the road. A shopkeeper phoned Munir, who rushed to the scene to find Moeen crying and bleeding heavily from one leg. Munir checked on the driver too, but his concern quickly turned to disgust when he realised this was not an accident.
"He said something along the lines of 'You're lucky I didn't kill him,'" Munir recalls. "And as I understood he had done it on purpose, I lost my temper. I hit him hard on the jaw and the nose. I've never been so angry." Just for a moment, as blows rained down, Moeen thought his father would beat the man to death. But a crowd gathered and pulled the pair apart. The police soon arrived, took statements from witnesses, as well as from Moeen in school the next day, but the family was not informed of further action.
Moeen reminds us that cricket is not just the game of the village green or manicured private-school playing fields, the game of Giles Clarke's "kind of people"
All the while, cricket played a huge role in the Ali family life. Moeen's cousin Kabir Ali had a cricket ball placed in his cot the day he was born, and went on to play Test cricket for England. Munir himself missed the birth of his daughter because he was playing two matches a day in the leagues around Birmingham. Munir and his brother - twins who married sisters in arranged marriages, and then lived next to one another - eventually built a net in the back garden and spent many, many hours playing and coaching there. It wasn't just a game to them. It was a way to a better life.
Sometimes Munir was faced with tough choices. On more than one occasion, he could not afford petrol and food. Once, wanting to ensure Moeen made it to a trial game in Somerset, he scoured the house for coins, and having looked under the sofa and through all his pockets, found just enough to make Moeen sandwiches, fill the car with petrol and drive him to Taunton. At the innings break, Moeen brought his sandwiches to share with his father. "I'd have been very proud of him if he hadn't made it as a cricketer," Munir says. "He's a very good boy."
He wasn't always. As a teenager Moeen was like most boys: a bit cheeky, rarely focused, and often on the fringes of trouble. It is no exaggeration to say that without cricket, and then religion, he could have drifted into a murky world.
"Cricket saved me," he says. "Honestly, I don't know what I would have done without it. My dad was always very good. He instilled discipline. But when I look around at what so many of my friends ended up doing... There weren't a huge amount of opportunities. A lot of them slipped into gangs and drugs. I would like to think I'd have avoided that, but I don't know. It would have been very easy to fall into that world. I've been very lucky."
Part-time spinner? England's selectors have not quite concurred with Shane Warne's opinion of Moeen the bowler
© Getty Images
Part-time spinner? England's selectors have not quite concurred with Shane Warne's opinion of Moeen the bowler © Getty Images
Part of this interview - a collection of interviews and conversations, really - was conducted in Sparkhill Park in Birmingham, as Moeen publicised the fine work of the Chance to Shine charity. Moeen, his brothers and friends spent hours playing cricket here as kids. They played in the summer, they played in the winter. They played in the dark, they played in the rain. When the park was locked, they climbed the fence to play. When their dads dragged them home, they played in a passage of their house.
Sparkhill is not a classically beautiful area. Agricultural until the late 19th century, it then expanded quickly as Birmingham - "the city of a thousand trades" - developed into a key centre in the Industrial Revolution. Houses were built for factory workers; schools and libraries and a police and a fire station followed.
The area was heavily bombed during the Second World War. It was the location of the Birmingham Small Arms Company, which, at the outbreak of the war, was the only factory producing rifles in the UK; Castle Bromwich Aerodrome, where more than half the Spitfires were built, is a few miles down the road. Like much of the city, Sparkhill was rebuilt quickly and cheaply in the years that followed. The first immigrants to the area were Irish. The next were from the Caribbean, then came those from South Asia. These days it has become home to many Somalis. The BBC sitcom Citizen Khan, set in Sparkhill, refers to it as "the capital of British Pakistan". The result is an ethnically diverse locality, considered the centre of the "Balti Triangle".
"Do you know what would make me happier than anything? I'd like to be a caller of prayer in the mosque and I'd like to clean the toilets"
"There are loads of great restaurants round here," Moeen says. "But I don't go to them that often. My mum's cooking is amazing; better than anything you can buy. I'm not surprised my dad has put on some weight."
While Moeen celebrates the diversity of the area - "I feel fortunate to have been brought up among many different cultures; it's why I respect other views" - it is also an impoverished one. With so many first-, second- or third-generation immigrants struggling to start a new life in a city whose gold-rush days are gone, there is little inherited wealth. Many of the houses, and services, are run down. At Moeen's old school, Moseley, 80% of the kids do not have English as their first language; 40% receive free school meals. You don't have to be a genius to work out the long-term effects of charging almost £100 for a ticket to international cricket or putting it behind a paywall on television. The game is in danger of becoming invisible to a huge section of society.
Moeen fell in love with cricket before those days. While a review continues about the value of England's "centre of excellence" at Loughborough, a short distance away, it is ironic that this patch of park - some tarmac with an old milk crate for stumps - has produced so many professional players. Moeen's younger brother, Omar, also represented England at age-group level, while Kabir's brother, Aatif, has played in the county 2nd XIs; Wasim Khan, Rawait Khan, Naqaash Tahir and Zubair Khan, all first-class players, also played here. No amount of coaching schemes, no amount of plastic cricket sets, can replace the inspiration supplied by an hour of riveting cricket on television.
"I love it round here," Moeen says. "I don't ever want to leave." He recently inaugurated a new sports hall at Moseley School - home also to former Test cricketer Gladstone Small, comedian Jasper Carrott, Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg and a couple of members of the rock band Electric Light Orchestra.
Sparkhill found its way into popular culture via the BBC sitcom Citizen Khan, on which the eponymous character is played by Adil Ray
© Getty Images
Sparkhill found its way into popular culture via the BBC sitcom Citizen Khan, on which the eponymous character is played by Adil Ray © Getty Images
During the photo shoot for this piece, Moeen waited in the rain for an hour. Three police constables stopped for a picture with him. Then a group of kids did. He lent them his umbrella. The people around here - whatever ethnicity or religion - are proud of him; they see him as one of their own. And he sees himself as one of them, too.
"Do you think we can ask him to pose up the climbing frame he used to play on?" the photographer whispers. "Sure," Moeen answers. "I'd be up there already if you guys weren't here." International sportsmen aren't always like this.
"When I look at these kids, I see myself and I see my friends," he says. "All the memories come flooding back. I remember the Ashes series we used to play against the guys who lived in the next road. I always imagined I was Marcus Trescothick. He was a left-hander, just like me, and he used to love to take on the bowling. Saeed Anwar, too. I remember Asif Din [the former Warwickshire batsman] coming to the park when I was the same age as these kids. Yeah, I remember being in awe of him, really. Wanting to be just like him. And now I realise I was. I am. These kids are exactly the same as we were."
At Moeen's old school, Moseley, 80% of the kids do not have English as their first language; 40% receive free school meals
Moeen insists he was no more talented than some of those old friends who didn't make it. "There were a couple of guys, a legspinner especially, who turned the ball more than me. And there was one guy, who is still a good friend, who was a really good batsman and bowled seamers. Brilliant fielder. Those guys could have made it as pros. The difference for me was that I had a family who pushed me and encouraged me. Not everyone has that.
"When I was about 13, my dad asked me to dedicate two years of my life to cricket straight after I left school each day. After that he said I could do what I wanted. I think at first he just wanted to keep me off the streets, but he believed in my talent and pushed me to believe in it too. I wasn't the brightest at school. I did okay - I had to or they would give me a detention after school and I wouldn't be able to play cricket - but my dad was adamant I was going to be a cricketer. Those two years really moulded me. By the time they were over, I just trained naturally. It was ingrained in me."
"They said it couldn't be done," Munir says. "They said that we, a poor Asian family from inner-city Birmingham, could never break through to the professional game. They said it was all for public-school boys and the rich. But the boys have shown that if you have the right attitude and ability, there is a way."
"My dad asked me to dedicate two years of my life to cricket after I left school each day. I think at first he just wanted to keep me off the streets, but he believed in my talent and pushed me to believe in it too"
© Philip Brown
"My dad asked me to dedicate two years of my life to cricket after I left school each day. I think at first he just wanted to keep me off the streets, but he believed in my talent and pushed me to believe in it too" © Philip Brown
While Moeen's success shows it can be done, anecdotal evidence suggests it can be done much more easily if you come from an advantaged socio-economic background. And yes, in the past there may well have been a race issue too.
Moeen is having none of that, though. "A kid came up to me," he says. "He was no more than ten years old. He asked: 'Can you tell me which club I should play at where I won't suffer racism?' I told him, 'Every club.' People use race and religion as an excuse. It sounds as if those guys who played a generation or two before me might have had a hard time but I can honestly say there are no barriers if you're good enough and you work hard. That kid's parents had instilled in him an attitude that will hold him back. I blame them."
Moeen's talent was obvious very early. In June 2001, four days after his 14th birthday, he thrashed an unbeaten 195 in an Under-15 20-over game against Solihull Blossomfield. The next highest score was 11. Another time, he was out in the 11th over of a game. He had scored 130. To attend trials at Warwickshire he had to borrow a pair of pads - "they came up to my hip," he says with a smile - but the club liked what they saw. He signed a full-time contract when he was 15. School had long since become irrelevant.
"I remember looking out of bus windows on long journeys and thinking: there must be a reason we're here; someone must have created this"
But it didn't work out at Warwickshire. Despite success on his first-class debut against Cambridge University Centre of Cricketing Excellence in 2005 - at 17 years and 338 days, he was the second-youngest man, after Tom Cartwright, to score a half-century for the club - he was dropped for the next game. The coach, John Inverarity, rebuked him for "loose" strokeplay. A year later, he made his Championship debut. Coming in against Nottinghamshire with his side reeling at 133 for 6, he stroked a classy 68, but was again dropped for the next game. The coach at the time, Mark Greatbatch, talked of seeing Moeen commanding a regular place in the side "within five years". It seemed a lifetime to a young man in a hurry. Unsurprisingly he declined the offer of a new contract at the end of the season.
The relationship between the Ali family and the club had been strained for a while. Kabir had represented the club's youth teams but when he asked for a retainer (£500 would have been enough), it was declined; he moved to Worcestershire and almost immediately became a key member of their side. Meanwhile Munir, who was running a coaching scheme in the Warwickshire indoor school, fought a long-running battle with club officials who felt it was unfair that he benefited from a reduced rental rate in order to encourage working-class participants. While it would be wrong to say the club discriminated against the Asian community, it would probably be fair to say they failed to understand or fully embrace it.
The club has changed a great deal since those days. It understands its wider responsibilities and wants to reach out to the inner-city community that surrounds it. The final of the parks leagues - which almost exclusively involve Asian players - is now played on the main square at Edgbaston. Kadeer is on the coaching staff. Moeen is a regular, and popular, visitor.
A willing poster boy for inclusivity
© Getty Images
A willing poster boy for inclusivity © Getty Images
Moeen's departure from Warwickshire was not just about first-team opportunities, though. He also felt the need for a fresh start. He needed to go to a club where he was free from the past, and free to develop into the man he wanted to be - the Muslim he wanted to be - without baggage. In Worcestershire he found an ideal host.
The club was sponsored by a brewery at the time; a shirt without branding was made for Moeen. If the older players at Worcestershire wondered about the kid with the big salary asking to wear an altered kit, they didn't show it. Moeen talks with particular warmth about the welcome offered by Graeme Hick, a player of such stature at the club that a pavilion would be named after him. It was Hick who, on seeing Moeen struggling to find the space to pray, cleared his own kit out of the way. "People talk a lot about what a great player Hick was," Moeen says. "But he is even greater as a man."
Off the pitch, life progressed smoothly. Moeen met his wife while playing in Bangladesh and was married at 21. His son, named Abu Bakr (in honour of Prophet Muhammad's companion and father-in-law), was born a few years later, and nowadays, aged two, he runs around with a little bat and a bowling action reminiscent of Lasith Malinga.
On the pitch, Worcestershire stuck with Moeen through some tricky times. For a while he lost sense of where his off stump was to an alarming degree. During a spell when he experimented with the stance and trigger movements of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, he was bowled several times leaving straight deliveries. In the 2012 first-class season he averaged just 25.84.
"A kid came up to me, and asked: 'Can you tell me which club I should play at where I won't suffer racism?' I told him, 'Every club'"
But his talent was rarely in doubt. In 2007 he had helped the club win the Pro40 title, forming an aggressive opening partnership with Steven Davies and thumping a 46-ball century on the way. And all the while, he was bowling. While Shane Warne continues to describe him as a "part-time" spinner, the fact is that since the start of the 2012 county season, Moeen has taken more wickets in first-class cricket than Adil Rashid or Gareth Batty. Whereas a bigger club might not have allowed him the opportunity to develop as a bowler, at Worcestershire he was given every chance. He forced his way into England's limited-overs teams as a batsman, but Peter Moores, the former England coach, confirmed that Moeen owed his Test selection more to his bowling.
Moeen struggled with the ball in his first two Tests, against Sri Lanka in 2014, but in Leeds he produced an exemplary unbeaten century, full of disciplined leaves and elegant strokes, to take England to the brink of safety. It probably kept him in the side.
His breakthrough as a bowler came in the nets ahead of the Lord's Test against India later that summer. Advised by Ian Bell that he would need to bowl quicker to flourish at Test level, Moeen then benefited from a chance conversation with the Sri Lankan offspinner turned umpire Kumar Dharmasena. "He advised me to grab my [left trouser] pocket with my non-bowling arm after delivery to get more body into my action without losing flight. I tried it for one ball and knew it would work immediately. It made a huge difference."
Moseley's finest: (from left) Moeen as a 17-year-old; brother Kadeer in 1999; cousin Kabir, the other Test player in the trio
© Getty Images
Moseley's finest: (from left) Moeen as a 17-year-old; brother Kadeer in 1999; cousin Kabir, the other Test player in the trio © Getty Images
The change allowed Moeen to bowl with more pace without sacrificing flight. Against India he gained dip and drift, threatening the bat on both edges. He finished the series with 19 wickets; as Scyld Berry put it, Moeen was "the ugly duckling who became a Swann".
"I thought that my chance had gone," Moeen says now. "Even at the start of 2014, I thought my chance to play Test cricket had passed me by. I thought that if my chance came it would be because of my batting. I thought I hadn't scored the weight of runs I needed over the key seasons in my early 20s, and other guys - younger guys like Joe Root and James Taylor - had come in and established themselves. It's not so long ago that Graeme Swann was still playing and that Simon Kerrigan looked as if he would be the man to replace him in time. I didn't see a way into the side. And once I had, I never thought I'd stay in the side for a year."
Batting at No. 8 is not ideal from a personal perspective. But Moeen has chosen to focus on the positive aspects and take a long-term view towards promotion. The attitude worked pretty well in the Ashes: only two England players (Alastair Cook and Root) scored more runs, and only David Warner in the top eight of either side scored his runs quicker. Moeen's fearless counterattacks stole the initiative from Australia on several occasions.
"I feel fortunate to have been brought up among many different cultures; it's why I respect other views"
"You can look at it two ways," he says. "The way I've chosen to look at it is that batting at No. 8 gives you licence to play some shots. If you're batting with the tail, you probably have to farm the strike a bit and look to cash in if the ball is there to be hit. The downside of that is, you're going to nick off a bit more. In an ideal world, I'd probably bat at No. 5 or No. 6. Maybe if I prove myself at No. 8, I'll get the opportunity to move up one day. I'm happy at 8 for now. It's actually quite nice to have a bit of a break after you've had a long bowl. I know I can bat a lot better than I've shown so far. I know that. But it is a huge step up from county cricket, and that, and the media attention that goes with it, takes time to get used to.
"So this is all bonus time for me. It's a massive bonus and a lot of fun. Cricket isn't the only thing in my life. I try to play with enjoyment and without fear. And if things become difficult, I listen to a clip I found on YouTube. It tells me not to worry about what has been and what will be, but to trust in God's will. I find that takes the pressure away."
Man on a mission
It was through cricket that Moeen found religion. While it is often assumed that he comes from a religious family, it is not really so.
Moeen needed just two Tests to prove he was ready for the biggest stage, with a gritty century against Sri Lanka at Headingley in 2014
© PA Photos
Moeen needed just two Tests to prove he was ready for the biggest stage, with a gritty century against Sri Lanka at Headingley in 2014 © PA Photos
"Not at all," Moeen says. "I didn't know how to pray. I didn't know how to wash myself before prayer. But you get to see a lot of the world when you're playing cricket, and I remember looking out of bus windows on long journeys and thinking: there must be a reason we're here; someone must have created this. It can't just have happened. I remember the first time. We were playing an U-14 game against Somerset and I remember looking outside the bus - looking at the sky and the trees - and thinking, 'There's got to be a reason for all this.'
"I used to go to the Bullring in town [the centre of Birmingham] and sit down and watch everybody. I did not do anything else for an hour. And I remember thinking, all these people here, there's got to be a reason we're here. I'm probably not explaining this very well. I just felt there had to be something more and I needed to know what it was."
The key moment came as a 19-year-old during a game for Warwickshire against West Indies A. He started talking to a West Indian supporter in the crowd, Wally Mohammad, who had recently converted to Islam.
Moeen talks with particular warmth about the welcome offered by Graeme Hick. It was Hick who, on seeing Moeen struggling to find the space to pray, cleared his own kit out of the way
"I wasn't at all sure about it at the time," Moeen recalls. "But he helped me understand that some of the things I had a problem with - such as arranged marriages - were much more to do with culture than religion. He removed a lot of the barriers, I guess, and helped me understand it far better. It was a new start for me."
Moeen has spoken previously about wearing his beard as "a label". He wants people to know he is Muslim and Asian and British and that there is no conflict between any of those. He wants people to know there is no need for extremism. He wants other young cricketers, be they Asian or black, rich or poor, Muslim or Hindu, to know that they too can find a way through the system and represent their country. In that regard, he has a value for English cricket that extends far beyond his merit as a batsman or bowler. A sport that has, for many years now, only been visible to those who can pay for it, that has become increasingly exclusive in terms of its representation of players from private schools, that has not always seemed accessible to ethnic minorities, has a standard-bearer. Moeen is the poster boy for inclusivity and he relishes the role.
He has already received - and politely declined - overtures from one of the major political parties. He talks of setting up a foundation, which he hopes will offer employment to local people and "clean up" the parks and streets that mean so much to him. Moeen reminds us that cricket is not just the game of the village green or manicured private-school playing fields. It is not just the game of Giles Clarke's "kind of people".
All of which makes the boos and the death threat all the more surprising.
Moeen's public stance on the Middle East crisis gave him negative publicity, but he believes some good came of it
© Getty Images
Moeen's public stance on the Middle East crisis gave him negative publicity, but he believes some good came of it © Getty Images
The death threat, a letter sent to Worcestershire CCC, made reference to the wristbands Moeen wore during the Southampton Test in 2014. Moeen claimed that the wristbands - bearing the slogans, "Save Gaza" and "Free Palestine" - were humanitarian rather than political, but accepts that, in retrospect, it was probably not the appropriate forum in which to express himself. Still, he was successful in bringing the issue to wider attention. One of his England team-mates asked, "Who is Gaza, anyway?"
The boos at Edgbaston, during a T20 game against India in 2014, hurt him more. Here was a Birmingham boy, playing a couple of miles from where he was born and brought up, booed by a section of British Indians. Whatever the reasons, it was a reminder that a multicultural Britain remains a work in progress. "Maybe good came of that," Moeen says now. "Maybe it led people to think about those things a bit more. I don't know. Obviously that was upsetting..." His voice tails off.
But isn't all this a burden? Isn't making your way in international cricket and raising a young family hard enough without trying to change the world?
"It isn't a burden. If anything, it helps me. It helps keep cricket in perspective. It helps remind me what's important. My religion is far more important. I'm not scared of being dropped or life after cricket. I just want to be the best person I can be. Look, I love cricket. But God doesn't care how many hundreds I score or how many wickets I've taken. There's a lot more to life than cricket and maybe knowing that helps take the pressure off me when I'm playing.
"I see my role as helping people to understand a bit more about Islam. The image of people who look like me in the media - Muslim men with beards - often isn't positive. If I can change that a bit, and if I can show people - not just Muslims - that you can make it in cricket, whatever your race or religion, then I'll be satisfied with my career. You think it seems mature because you look at society and young men are not behaving in a mature way. But isn't this - raising a family, working hard, trying to be a role model - the way it should be? So yes, I see myself as a role model. And as a role model, I have to behave in a certain way. Do I see it as a mission? Yes, I do."
Moeen wants people to know he is Muslim and Asian and British and that there is no conflict between any of those. He wants people to know there is no need for extremism
Playing cricket might seem a trivial pastime for a man with such grand ambitions. "But it's the only skill I have," he says. "If I could build houses, I'd try and help people that way. If I was a lawyer, I'd use my skills that way. But the only thing I've ever been good at is cricket."
His dad continues to watch him as often as he can.
"During the Cardiff Test, I was getting smashed by David Warner," Moeen says. "And I could see my dad in the crowd looking worried. I gave him a thumbs up to say, 'It'll be all right', and then I got Warner out leg-before in the next over. I gave my dad a massive thumbs up. He's been there for me throughout. It's great that he gets to share in the good times. They wouldn't have happened without him."
And the future?
"Do you know what would make me happier than anything? I'd like to be a caller of prayer in the mosque and I'd like to clean the toilets. I've played a lot of cricket. I've been very lucky. At some stage, I'd like to give something back. I'd like to spend time with people and look after them a bit more. I think that would make me very happy."
Moeen Ali was supporting Chance to Shine Street by visiting a session in Sparkhill, Birmingham. Lycamobile supports the programme as part of its mission to bring communities together
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.