Moeen Ali has said he always felt destined to return to Edgbaston and he’s determined to succeed in the Vitality Blast to repay the Club for launching his career.
In his first interview with the Club since re-signing for the Bears, England’s limited overs Vice Captain said he still considers Edgbaston his home and has spoken of the pride he’ll feel at leading the side.
Ali progressed through Warwickshire’s pathway and Academy – coaching he says “set him up for life” – before signing a rookie contract in 2004 aged just 15.
He played a handful of List A and red ball games in 2006 but left for Worcestershire at the end of that season in search of more first-team opportunities.
Now after 16 seasons away he’s eagerly awaiting his homecoming and the chance to take in the atmosphere at Edgbaston which he feels is the best in English cricket.
“I’m coming back to a place I consider home and always have done,” said Ali, speaking from his Birmingham home. “Edgbaston is where I played Academy and junior cricket and signed as a professional. I had some great years, amazing memories, but left to pursue my career at Worcestershire but always felt in my heart I would come back to represent the Bears.
“I’ve loved my time at Worcestershire and it will remain a special place for me. But I feel it’s the right time to come back. I’ve captained at Worcester for the last few seasons, got some great experience under my belt in leading a side, and now I want to put that into practice with the Bears.
“It’s an exciting team and I’ll be surrounded by some amazing players. I’ve always felt the Bears are a very good side but haven’t fulfilled their potential. I hope in the next couple of years I can win the Blast, then I’ll feel I’ve given a small bit back to Warwickshire.
“The coaches I worked under at Warwickshire – Steve Perryman, Neal Abberley, and Roger Newman the Academy Director – raised me as a player and I’ll always be grateful. Plus Cookie (Keith Cook) behind the scenes, he’s a legend. They set me up for the rest of my life, I couldn’t have asked for a better start. I still value them as some of the best coaches I’ve ever had.”
Bears have felt the brunt of an in-the-groove Ali in recent Vitality Blast campaigns.
He smashed his maiden T20 century – 115 from 56 balls (12 fours, seven sixes) – for the Rapids at Edgbaston in August 2018 and the following year hit an unbeaten 85 in a nine-wicket win at Edgbaston.
He’s hoping to replicate that form in the 2023 campaign – but joked that he’ll need to be in top form just to secure his place, such is the quality in the Bears squad.
“I initially struggled against Warwickshire when I first left,” added the 35-year-old, a World Cup and T20 World Cup winner with England, “but then all of a sudden it came together and I started playing well.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing at Edgbaston: the wickets are always good, you get good value for the shots you play, and there’s something special about the atmosphere for sure. It’s electric and the best in the country; a lot of England players will say the same.
“Bears squad looks very strong; it will be tough picking an 11. There are some well established players but some really good young players as well. Jacob Bethell looks a really good player, and Dan Mousley. If I’m having a stinker I might have to leave myself out.
“It will be a genuine honour and privilege to captain the side. I want to win trophies, obviously, but I see part of my role to work with the coaches to bring along the younger players and help them into the England team. I hope with my experience and knowledge I can help with their development.”
Ali will join up with his Bears teammates at the conclusion of his stint with the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League.
So how does 35-year-old Moeen walking back into Edgbaston compare to teenager Moeen when he departed Edgbaston in 2006?
“I was really shy back then and wouldn’t say a lot,” said Ali. “I am still quite shy now but of course I’ve got that experience, clarity of thought and hopefully I can bring a calmness to the dressing room and be clear on what I expect from the players.
“I want our players to play with the kind of fearlessness I had as a teenager when I was last at Warwickshire; I’ll encourage that in the players. I just want them to go out and play.
“I’ll be giving as much as I possibly can as Bears Captain. When you do that, good things can happen.”
£15 tickets for home quarter-final
Bears have secured a home Vitality Blast quarter-final which will be on Thursday 6 July, with adult tickets only £15.
Tickets ware available online at tickets.edgbaston.com or on the day via the Ticket Office. Members and Season Pass holders can attend for free by scanning their card at the gate.