Above: Moeen Ali celebrates his match-winning hat-trick against South Africa. Credit: screenshot via YouTube.
If you’re a fan of cricket, you’ll already be familiar with the name Moeen Ali. The 30-year-old all-rounder from Birmingham – to put it in sporting terms – totally tore it up during England’s recent Test series against South Africa, playing a pivotal role in their overall victory.
And we’re not just saying that. Ali really dominated, as in made-history-dominated. Over four Tests, he became only the second England cricketer after Ian Botham to take 25 wickets and score more than 250 runs in a Test series.
In a special moment to cap off the third Test, Ali took a hat-trick of three wickets in a row to end the match, the first by an England spin bowler since 1938-39 and the only hat-trick to ever happen in a test match at The Oval.
Here are highlights of the historic feat (skip to 1:45 for the start of the domination).
What a beast.
So how did a kid from Birmingham become the biggest star in the current England cricket team? Let’s have a look.
Moeen Ali’s cricketing career began at the Moseley Ashfield club in Birmingham. His talent was obvious from the start, but as an Asian teen hailing from a relatively poor background there were many temptations that could have diverted his focus from cricket.
In an interview with the Guardian, Ali said: ‘If it wasn’t for cricket I don’t know what I’d be doing now…I could have easily gone into that whole drugs line. I was pretty open to it because my friends were easily influenced. I get dared pretty easy. If someone dares me to do something I’ll just do it. I used to go: “Yeah, why not?”’
Fortunately, he realised that cricket was the only thing he wanted to do. If something didn’t help him achieve this goal, he rejected it. While Ali can definitely give himself a pat on the back for his own sense of discipline, his father was also crucial to his success.
Moeen Ali outside his first cricket club, Moseley Ashfield in Birmingham. Credit: @MoeenAli.
Ali says that before he was born his father was subjected to a lot of racism in 1970s Birmingham. It was a distressing and continued presence that would see him lose his job and cause him to speak with a stammer, right up to this day. Yet if there was to be one positive take away from his struggles, it was his father’s determination for Moeen to experience something better than him; to follow his passion and achieve his goals.
‘It took a lot of sacrifice from my dad,’ Ali told the Guardian. ‘He managed to put cricket nets in our garden because he knew we had to practice every day. That would also keep us away from the streets.’
Ali is certain that many of his friends could have also made it as cricketers had their parents shown the same level of support as his dad: ‘My dad would watch us, support us as much as he could. He helped us live and breathe the game. One of my best friends was a very talented all-rounder but the difference was that my parents pushed me a lot more.’
When Ali was growing up, many Pakistani families like his didn’t see sport as a viable career. Now that he’s arguably the most popular player in English cricket, you can’t help but think that this attitude will soon be gone for good.
We can’t understate the impact of a Muslim kid from Brum rising to the very top of elite sport. The way he will inspire young athletes – whether they’re Muslim, Asian, or just experiencing adversity – can’t be measured by numbers on a stat sheet.
We hope Moeen Ali’s success continues. At this rate, he’s bound to not only be an England legend, but a legend of the game itself.