Club Cricket Conference

Thursday, 7th July 2022

Family Values

By Richard Edwards

25 February 2021

Whether Moeen Ali plays another Test for England only time will tell – but the story of his rise from humble roots in Birmingham to the pinnacle of international sport will endure regardless.

The England all-rounder – who was snapped up by Chennai Super Kings for £700,000 at last week’s Indian Premier League auction – has always been quick to point to the influence that his father, Munir, had not just on his development but on that of his brothers, Kadeer and Omar, and cousins, Kabir and Aatif.

And Munir tells the Club Cricket Conference that, even at the age of 65, he has one aim left to achieve.

“My ambition is to produce another cricketer in the family,” he says. “And as long as I’m walking I’m going to carry on.”

That should be music to the ears to England cricket supporters up and down the country, and once again illustrates the kind of bloody-mindedness that helped Munir and his twin brother, Shabbir, shape a legacy that looks set to endure long after Moeen has hung up his pads for a final time.

“It’s one of the great cricket stories,” says Gulfraz Riaz, chairman of the National Asian Cricket Council. “At one point one of the brothers gave up his day job so that one of the brothers could drive the boys up and down the country to play county age group games.

“One brother kept working and provided for both families. It’s an inspirational tale and a lesson for a lot of parents, I think. A lot of people don’t appreciate the sacrifices you make when you’ve got a talented kid playing county age-group cricket. It can be hours and hours on the motorway.

“I remember vividly, Munir once telling me that they only had a £1 after one match, so the boys shared a bag of chips on the way home.”

All those sacrifices have paid off, with Munir and Shabbir’s offspring now cricket royalty in the Midlands and beyond. All of them will be involved when Munir opens the Moeen Ali High Performance Cricket Academy layer this year.

First up, though, Munir will be hoping that those who missed out on so much cricket last year will be able to make up for lost time in thet coming months.

“I think there’s a chance we will have lost some players to the game,” he says. “A lot of players didn’t play so much in the summer – some really talented cricketers have missed out. It’s not just the players, the parents potentially lose interest too, they get into different routines, their habits change. A year can be a long time and missing a year of cricket will hinder the progress of a lot of cricketers.

“I think personally, with India coming here this summer, and Pakistan coming to play ODIs here, then the interest will definitely come back.  I really expect that to be the case.”

That must be the hope of clubs and academies across England after recreational sport was given the green light to return from the end of March. Regardless of the restrictions that will undoubtedly remain, the fervent hope will be that April ushers in, not only a new season, but unseasonably warm weather to enable clubs in Birmingham and elsewhere to return to action.

Once that happens Munir can begin to impart his knowledge and experience on the Moeen’s of the future, and that involves far more than discussions around technique.

“There’s a lot of talent but sometimes these boys are lacking the knowledge, the awareness of what they need to do to break into the game,” he says. “I expected more Asian boys to have come through by now and that’s where we’re going to come in.

“It’s all about how you conduct yourself – it’s not just about you scoring runs, it’s about communication skills. You need to be able to mix with the English boys. Some cricketers from the Asian community tend to stay with their own group but they need to be able to go in and make friends. My boys always mixed because you’ve got to be able to communicate with other lads.”

That crossover between communities is happening – and there’s no doubt that cricket has been and remains a powerfully cohesive tool – and is most in evidence in county youth systems.

“There are more and more Asian kids coming through county set-ups, that has grown massively,” says Riaz. “There are pockets of the South Asian communities that have their own academies but I don’t think they are exclusively Asian, it’s just the way they have ended up – but they are most definitely open to all.

“The pleasing side for me is that Asian kids weren’t on the radar 10 or 15 years ago, now they most definitely are.”

The work of Munir should ensure that those numbers continue to increase.

“I always tell the story of me saying to Moeen, ‘you give me two years of your life and I’ll give you the rest of your life’,” he says.  “And I think he has shown that if you set yourself goals, there’s nothing you can’t achieve.”