'Working with Gough was an honour and a privilege'
Until this winter, Kabir Ali was a quiz question in the making - which England cricketer didn't bat, bowl or field in his only one-day international? But 18 months on from that washout at Headingley, he has put things right with 13 wickets in the recent one-day campaign in South Africa, including a vital last-over performance to secure a tie at Bloemfontein. Andrew Miller caught up with him after his return to England:
Welcome home - that must have been an intensive little trip
It was certainly an interesting fortnight! The series was a tricky one to judge, because all the games could have gone either way, but I'm pleased with the way things worked out for me. It could have been so close, but cricket's a funny old game. Still, the team has plenty of positives to take home, despite that 4-1 scoreline.
From your personal point of view, the entire tour hinged on that one crucial over at Bloemfontein ...
It had been a funny day for me. Nothing was going right at all, I had no rhythm, I was bowling no-balls and basically things were going downhill when Tres [Marcus Trescothick] wandered over and asked me to bowl the final over. I basically thought that things had gone so badly already, they couldn't possibly get any worse!
For a moment, though, you must have thought they could ...
Yeah, because then I went and threw in a full-bunger which went for five bloody runs, and all I could think was "Oh no!" I was nervous and the nerves definitely took over, because it was only my second game and I hadn't got a lot of cricket under my belt. I refused to give up though, because I always give 100%, and as it turned out, I still had the confidence to pitch it up.
It must have helped having Darren Gough out there on the field with you?
Definitely. He's been great to work with, because he's always there to talk to you and help you out when things aren't going right. He's been there and done that, and it's reassuring to know how he's coped when things get tight. I'd spoken to him in the past, but this was the first time we'd played together, and I can truly say that it was an honour and a privilege.
|If I end up being even half as good as Gough, I'll be delighted|
It seems that you are being groomed to take over his role as England's death bowler?
Well, I bowl at the death for Worcestershire, so I have got some experience there, but it's going to be pretty hard work fitting into his role. If I end up being even half as good, I'll be delighted.
It's taken you quite some time to cement a spot in the England side, seeing as you first joined the squad on the Ashes tour of 2002-03?
Yeah, me and James Anderson were called up from the England Academy during the VB Series. It was a difficult time for the team as we'd just lost the Ashes, but we thought if we kept up our energies we could maybe get some consolation by winning the one-dayers. It didn't happen, and I didn't actually get to make my debut either, but I kept working hard and that's all paying off nicely at the moment.
At present, it's a bit of a role reversal for you and Anderson, with you in the team and him on the sidelines ...
It's a tricky time for James, because he's lacking a bit of rhythm at the moment, but he's a good bowler and I'm sure he'll bounce back. He set a great example for all us academy guys when he got picked for the World Cup squad and then went on to Test cricket. It showed us all what was possible, and it proved that all those 6am starts and that fitness work at the Academy was worth it.
Even when you did finally get a game, you still missed out ...
Yeah, I made my one-day debut against Zimbabwe on a rainy day at Headingley, but I didn't bat and I didn't field and the match ended as a washout. In my mind, it was the match that doesn't exist. I did get one Test against the South Africans later that summer, though, also at Headingley, and I picked up a couple of wickets which helped me a great deal on this tour. And there were some familiar faces on our side as well - guys like Trescothick and Vaughan really helped me out.
You must be keen to add to that one Test cap as well?
I hope so. After this it'll be back to county cricket, but I'll have to put in some hard work to get a chance as there's some healthy competition out there, with loads of bowlers pushing for a place - your Harmisons, Flintoffs, Hoggards. I've worked hard on my fitness since my last Test and because I've had a few injuries I've been able to rest up and get stronger, and I'm pleased with how it's turned out so far. I've also worked on my batting quite a bit, and that can be quite useful lower down the order. Another Test cap would be great, but all I want is that I don't end up feeling I could have tried harder.
You and Vikram Solanki must be important role models for the Asian community?
It's good to have him around the changing-room as we're already good friends from playing together at Worcestershire. Personally, I always looked up to Nasser [Hussain], who was one of the biggest names around when I joined his squad in Australia, but I was immediately made to feel part of the team. Captaincy-wise, I really can't choose between him and Michael Vaughan though.
Finally, I have to ask ... you were apparently once voted one of the top 50 most eligible bachelors in Britain, weren't you?
[Laughs] That was a few years ago now! I did a bit of modelling for Asian Brides magazine and it was just one of those silly things that took off. One thing led to another, but I'm not on the list any more!