‘It was meant to be’: Moeen Ali excited to captain England for historic match in Pakistan

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Moeen Ali believes it was “meant to be” as he prepares to captain England men’s cricket team for their groundbreaking T20 international against Pakistan in Karachi.

Moeen – who is of Pakistani heritage – will lead the side for the first of the seven-match T20 series due to the absence of regular skipper Jos Buttler with a calf injury.

England haven’t 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 much of a security risk.

No international cricket was played in Pakistan for six years after the 2009 attack, before Zimbabwe contested an ODI series there in 2015, Sri Lanka returned for the first men’s Test match in 2019 and Australia played in all three formats earlier this year.

Now England – who pulled their men’s and women’s teams out of scheduled tours to the country last year following a security threat – are returning at last and 35-year-old Moeen knows how important their presence is to the land of his mother’s birth, as well as acknowledging how fitting it is that he specifically will captain the tourists.

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“It was meant to be,” Moeen told BBC Sport. “It feels amazing that after such a long time the timing is right for me to lead England there.

“I’ve played in Pakistan before but representing England for the first time there, that’s special and amazing. I’m really excited and hopefully we can play some good cricket and entertain the crowd.

“Other teams have toured there already 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 really talented team but they need to play in front of their own crowds and their own kids so they can inspire the next generation coming through.”

Moeen is hopeful that seeing international cricket on their doorstep will help inspire the younger generation of Pakistan fans

On the field, the series will see two of the top-four sides in the ICC T20I rankings going head to head as preparation for next month’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

Meanwhile, off the field, security has been tightened to ensure player safety, with bulletproof mini-buses for daily travel and armed security personnel on duty at the team hotels just two of the measures being taken.

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“The biggest shame is we can’t really go anywhere because Pakistan is an amazing place,” added Moeen. “The food is unbelievable, and the restaurants are really good. I love Pakistani food.

“I love daal and saag with chicken. I like lamb too. To be honest, I just like all the curries. I’m looking forward to the food. Hopefully we can order in.”

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