The Daily Telegraph

Captain’s proud moment a reminder of when my entire

Village came to support me

- Scrutiny: Captain Moeen Ali faces pressure on both sides

Moeen Ali captaining England on their first tour of Pakistan since 2005-06 will be an extraordin­ary moment, both for him and the Pakistani community in England, who make up the second-largest ethnic minority in England and Wales at 1.1million people, nearly two per cent of the population.

It will be even more significan­t in his home city of Birmingham, where 144,627 Pakistanis live, making up 13.5 per cent of the city’s total population.

This is a momentous moment for Pakistan after the terrorist attacks more than 13 years ago. It has been struggling to host internatio­nal cricket ever since. To imagine in 2006 that when England returned they would be captained by a man of Pakistani heritage would have been hard.

England has come a long way as a nation with diversity and inclusion. Some continue to be critical of the United Kingdom for not doing enough, but Moeen’s elevation shows otherwise. If you go into Eastern Europe, the story is far worse.

My special moment came in 2006 when I made my Test series debut in India. The second Test was at Mohali, which could not have been a bigger occasion for me. My father’s younger brother, who lives in Patiala, was reading the newspaper and saw an article headlined, “England’s own Bishan Bedi to play in India”. As he read on, he soon realised it was his own nephew playing for England.

Since the introducti­on of the Indian Premier League, India has become a far more progressiv­e nation. It is much easier to tour India now than it was 20 to 30 years ago when infrastruc­ture was still developing, and the transport links are much easier and more convenient. The strongest memory for me and my family came in the second Test in Mohali. I remember Andrew Flintoff asking me how many tickets I wanted, to which I said “the whole village is coming” – and he gave me the whole bag of tickets.

There was not another member of the England team who had relatives or family living in north India. This was not exactly a Test in Durham or Headingley, where I would get asked for any spare tickets. Normally, I would give mine away to accommodat­e other players’ families and friends. So, it meant a lot. It was a very proud moment for my grandad, who had never watched me play live in a stadium, and the whole Panesar family tree was present. They even wore England T-shirts to show their support. My family would always say when England faced India, “we are always the winners, if England or India win, we always win” because they were supporting both nations.

When Moeen leads England in Pakistan, it will be a surreal moment for him and his family. He has had success at Worcesters­hire and in the Hundred as a captain, and he comes across as a calm, measured leader on the pitch.

He is softly spoken and with a firm and strong desire to show he can become a successful captain. He is definitely a future captaincy option for England. How soon will that happen? That may depend on how Jos Buttler performs during the T20 World Cup in Australia.

There have been questions over his captaincy since replacing Eoin Morgan after a mixed summer. If Moeen can show the selectors he can win in Pakistan, it will put pressure on Buttler to perform as a leader. We know what to expect from Moeen as a captain in England where conditions are familiar for him, but in Pakistan, he is stepping into unknown territory.

Fans on the subcontine­nt can turn hostile towards Moeen if he starts well, while if England struggle, they will be sure to let them know about it. I expect tremendous pressure will be put on Moeen by the Pakistani players, too.

After all, a victory for a visiting team led by a British Pakistani will not go down well, particular­ly with Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja, who has stressed the importance of this series. The PCB will be very motivated to beat an England side led by Moeen in Pakistan, and, after all, they want to send a strong message to other nations that beating Pakistan in their own backyard will not be easy.

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