MAN of the moment Moeen Ali remains one of the most grounded professional sportsmen you could hope to meet, regardless of the astronomical take-off in his career.
On the back of a superb 2013 domestic season in all formats – with both bat and ball – the elegant left-hander was elevated into the England set-up and played every match of the ill-fated World Twenty20 campaign in Bangladesh.
With his distinctive flowing beard and a dazzling array of attacking shots in his armoury, it is little surprise Moeen has caught the eye on the national stage.
However, there are many examples of youngsters – and Moeen is still only 26 – whose careers have gone off the rails after an initial exposure to international cricket.
Having burst onto the national scene as Moeen did, you could almost forgive him for seeing Worcestershire duties as secondary to his pursuit of an England Test team call-up and further honours.
That is not Moeen’s style, though. Not by a long chalk. After all, this is the man who, despite being hotly tipped for England, didn’t think twice about signing a five-year contract extension at New Road.
Many of his Worcestershire predecessors have jumped ship for a more ‘fashionable’ club – usually one of the Test match venues – at the merest whisper of their name in connection with England. For more than a few, it turned out the grass on the other side wasn’t quite as green as they expected it to be.
“There was no doubt in my mind about signing a new contract,” said Moeen.
“I love playing for Worcestershire and it is a place I really enjoy being at, even if they are in Division Two.
“Last year was the first season we’d been in Division Two for three years so it doesn’t matter to me.
“If I have to score more runs than everyone else, I’ll try to do that. I did that last year and it is an opportunity to play every game for Worcestershire and do well.
“I can bat where I want in the one-day stuff and, as long as I’m happy, then that can only be good for my cricket.
“That is one of the main reasons I signed the contract, because Worcester makes me feel happy and I can perform then.”
While it is rightly Moeen’s imperious work with the willow that earns him the most plaudits, his mastery of the leather shouldn’t be ignored.
He is no longer a back-up spinner, but a genuine all-rounder and feels he is nearly ready to unleash the ‘doosra’ mystery delivery Moeen has worked hard to perfect.
He added: “I can’t wait for (overseas player) Saeed (Ajmal) to arrive – I’ve already had a few chats with him.
“I did a lot of work with Mushtaq Ahmed when I was with England in Bangladesh, which was really good, but I’m looking forward to Saeed coming so I can further my bowling even more.
“I hope to roll out my doosra this season. I’ve been back a few days already, but it has been too cold to bowl the off-spinners, so I don’t know how the doosra will come out!
“It’s almost there, but I’m just waiting for Saeed so I can finish it off, then hopefully it will be ready.”