Worcestershire and England's Moeen Ali has had an excellent debut season in International cricket. This has culminated in him being awarded Professional Sportsman of the Year for 2014 at the Birmingham Sports Awards, beating the likes of Birmingham Knights basketball captain Michael Gayle and British sprinter Danny Talbot to the title.
I don’t think this will be the last of the accolades that Moeen will receive this year.
Since breaking into the England side earlier this year, for the tour of the West Indies and the World T20 tournament, the 27-year old has gone from strength to strength benefiting from a growing faith placed in him by his Test captain Alistair Cook.
At first Cook was wary about giving Ali the chance to bowl in Test matches, perhaps concerned that Ali was a risk not worth taking when he himself was under pressure for his own position.
However, once Cook placed more faith in him, and his own position stabilised, Ali responded with some exceptional bowling spells. Although under-used in the two-Test series against Sri Lanka it was the five-Test series against India where Ali excelled. Albeit on dry, helpful pitches Ali gave India a torrid time and was instrumental in turning what could have been a series defeat into an eventual series victory.
India's batsmen are generally very good players of spin bowling but Ali held the upper-hand virtually every time he bowled, which is a great credit to him and his development as a spin-bowler.
Let's not forget that Ali scored his first Test century against Sri Lanka and has made some useful batting contributions all year.
There is no doubt that Ali has worked hard at his bowling this year and has been helped greatly by his colleague and friend at Worcestershire, Saeed Ajmal. Ajmal has clearly influenced Ali's bowling and evidence of this could be seen in the ODIs against India where Ali was becoming more confident and showing some variations to his stock ball.
Ali has played all three formats of the game for England this year and that is testament to his adaptability as a player. However, with a lengthy career possibly ahead of him he may need, at some point, to make a choice between playing Test cricket or concentrating on ODI/T20 cricket. It is rare these days for players to continully play all three formats of the game due to the intensity of the scheduling and the greater possibilty of burn-out.
However, for Ali to be able to make that choice will be a sign that he has made the grade at international level.
The only sour moment has been the racial abuse received by Ali in the T20 game against India at Edgbaston which was an incident that needs to be clamped out immediately. However, Ali has shown great maturity in his response to the incident and he knows that he has growing responsibilities both on and off the field.
He has been nominated for the Professional Player of the Year award at the Asian Cricket Awards.
As well as his international performances Ali has also helped his county, Worcestershire, gain promotion to Division One of the County Championship with some very good performances with both bat and ball.
In a summer of indifference for England Ali has been one of the major plus points. He has showed great promise and will no doubt be looking to have a starring role over the winter in ODI cricket as he and England prepare for the ODI World Cup in February and March.
I fully expect Moeen Ali to be part of the England set-up for a long time to come, as both a batsmen and a specialist spin-bowler.
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