Moeen Ali thinks it was ‘meant to be’ as he prepares to captain the England men’s cricket team for their game-changing T20 international against Pakistan in Karachi.
Moeen – who is of Pakistani descent – will lead the team for the first of seven games in the T20 series due to the absence of regular skipper Jos Buttler with a calf injury.
England have not played an international in Pakistan since 2006, with an attack by gunmen on the touring Sri Lanka cricket team in 2009 making the prospect too risky for security.
No international cricket was played in Pakistan for six years after the 2009 attack, before Zimbabwe played an ODI series there in 2015, Sri Lanka returned for the first men’s Test match in 2019 and the Australia played in all three formats earlier this year.
Now England – who pulled their men’s and women’s teams from planned tours of the country last year following a security threat – are finally returning and Moeen, 35, knows how important their presence is important to his mother’s country of birth, as well as acknowledging how fitting it is that he specifically directs tourists.
“It was meant to be,” Moeen told BBC Sport. “It’s unbelievable that after so long the time has come for me to lead England there.
“I’ve played in Pakistan before but to represent England for the first time there is special and amazing. I’m really excited and hope we can play good cricket and entertain the crowd.
“Other teams have toured there before, but when England go there, that’s when cricket in Pakistan will really feel like it’s back.
“It’s really important because Pakistan have always been a very talented team, but they have to play in front of their own home crowd and their own kids to be able to inspire the next generation.”
On the pitch, the series will see two of the top four teams in the ICC T20I Rankings face off in preparation for next month’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
Meanwhile, off the pitch, security has been tightened to keep players safe, with bulletproof mini-buses for daily travel and armed security personnel on duty at team hotels, two of the measures taken.
“The biggest shame is that we really can’t go anywhere because Pakistan is an amazing place,” Moeen added. “The food is amazing and the restaurants are really good. I love Pakistani cuisine.
“I love dal and saag with chicken. I love lamb too. To be honest, I just love all curries. I can’t wait to eat. Hope we can order.”