Hat-trick hero calls for greater Asian in­volve­ment in Eng­land

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Moeen Ali be­lieves English cricket is miss­ing a trick by not reach­ing out to more po­ten­tial play­ers from Bri­tain’s Asian com­mu­ni­ties. Ali, whose hat-trick sealed Eng­land’s 239-run win in the third Test against South Africa at The Oval on Mon­day, is the lat­est of sev­eral play­ers of Asian de­scent to rep­re­sent Eng­land, in­clud­ing for­mer cap­tain Nasser Hus­sain, with cricket deeply em­bed­ded in the life of many Bri­tish Asian com­mu­ni­ties. But Ali, who was born and brought up in Birm­ing­ham, a city with one of Bri­tain’s largest Asian pop­u­la­tions, said more work was needed if English cricket was to make the most of this en­thu­si­asm for the sport. “Now, a lot more south Asian peo­ple are think­ing: ‘Ac­tu­ally, I could make a good ca­reer from this now.’ But it’s also down to the coun­ties to do more to help South-Asian kids,” Ali, who started his ca­reer with Birm­ing­ham-based War­wick­shire be­fore mov­ing to Mid­lands ri­vals Worces­ter­shire, told the Guardian yes­ter­day.

“Look at War­wick­shire. This is a big city of Asian peo­ple, so why can’t you pro­duce any south Asian play­ers? I don’t un­der­stand.”

‘VAST TA­LENT POOL’

The Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board have launched a south Asian ini­tia­tive to help de­velop play­ers from those back­grounds and Ali said: “It’s a very good step in the right di­rec­tion to ask peo­ple how the ECB can help them. It’s very pos­i­tive be­cause the pool of ta­lent is vast.

“But the south Asian men­tal­ity must also change. Cricket is not just bat­ting and bowl­ing. There’s a lot of phys­i­cal stuff, fit­ness, field­ing, diet, dis­ci­pline, be­ing on time.” The bearded Ali, a 30-year-old off-spin­ning al­lrounder, is also one of the most high pro­file prac­tis­ing Mus­lims in Bri­tish pub­lic life and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a com­mu­nity that has of­ten felt stig­ma­tised fol­low­ing re­cent ter­ror at­tacks in Manch­ester and Lon­don.

“There is such neg­a­tiv­ity in the me­dia around Is­lam but when I play cricket for Eng­land I don’t have to say any­thing,” Ali added. “I’m hop­ing peo­ple look at me and other Mus­lims and think: “Ac­tu­ally, it will be all right. They’re not too bad.’”

Mean­while Ali, who made his name as a bats­man, was hailed as an “un­sung hero” by for­mer Eng­land cap­tain Alas­tair Cook. Eng­land are now 2-1 up against South Africa ahead of the fourth and fi­nal Test start­ing in Manch­ester on Friday. Ali is the lead­ing bowler on ei­ther side with 18 wick­ets-in­clud­ing a 10wicket haul in Eng­land’s se­ries-open­ing win at Lord’s where he also made 87. “It has been an amaz­ing se­ries for Mo, he is a leg­end,” open­ing bats­man Cook told BBC Ra­dio Four’s To­day pro­gramme. “He is the un­sung hero in one sense.

“He came into the side a few years ago when I was cap­tain as a guy who could bal­ance the side and bowl a lit­tle bit of off-spin and now he is the lead­ing wicket-taker in the se­ries. “His off­spin is ac­tu­ally very good, he’s not (for­mer Eng­land off-spin­ner) Graeme Swann but his record is im­prov­ing all the time.”

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