Kadeer Ali is back with Worcestershire as Second Eleven Coach two decades after making his first team debut for the County.
The 36-year-old is relishing his new role after gaining invaluable coaching experience working as a pathway-performance coach with Warwickshire.
He has been reunited as part of the coaching team with First Team Coach Alex Gidman, his captain during a spell at Gloucestershire, and Bowling Coach-Assistant Coach Alan Richardson who was part of the set-up during his time at Edgbaston.
Kadeer takes over with a new-look Seconds schedule in place, consisting of four-day Championship cricket and fixtures mirroring the first team programme.
Here Kadeer, who was still playing for Staffordshire last summer, looks back at his career, his development as a player and then coach and the challenges ahead.
Question: Fifteen years after you left Worcestershire you are back here, how much are you enjoying this role so far?
Kadeer Ali: “I’m absolutely loving it. When I was 16 I enjoyed the staff, 20 years ago, and to come back and be given this opportunity to be part of the coaching staff is absolutely unbelievable for me.
“At this point of my career is something I dreamed of, to be part of the coaching staff at Worcestershire and it’s been brilliant and the lads have welcomed me in really well and the coaching staff, Giddo (Alex Gidman), Richo (Alan Richardson) who I know pretty well anyway from either playing against them or as coaches, especially Richo at Warwickshire and I played with Alex at Gloucestershire for six years.
“It’s been really good and the winter has been good.”
Question: Did you feel it was the right time of your career to make that step up?
Kadeer Ali: “I was pathway-performance coach at Warwickshire and I think it was the right time. I spent eight years at Warwickshire and absolutely loved it, coaching on the pathway, academy as well.
“It was the right time but I want to thank everyone at Warwickshire especially people like Gary Steer, who got me involved, and then Paul Greetham who has been absolutely amazing and gave me a really good opportunity at Warwickshire.
“I loved it but the time was right to move on and to get involved with the professionals was the right thing for me.
“When I saw the job being advertised I thought it is one I really wanted to go for and the timing was right as well. It was a no-brainer for me to go for it and I’m just pleased I got the role and hopefully try and do the best I can now and hopefully help Worcestershire move forward.”
Question: How do you see the role of a Second Eleven coach, is it to predominantly produce players for the first team, or bring players into the second team from the Academy?
Kadeer Ali: “I think it is a mixture of everything, trying to get people ready for the first team, helping guys who get left out of the first team to get back in, and help players make the transition from the academy to the second team and hopefully kick on from there.”
Question: Last year Alex Gidman said he wanted players knocking on the first team door to try and get in there. Presumably that is one of the things you will be working on this summer?
Kadeer Ali: “One hundred per cent: It is a must. With the way the schedule is, it is important guys are ready for potential call-ups and that is down to the lads to get their heads down and, from a batting point of view, put some big scores on the board and bat a long time.
“It’s brilliant this year that the Second Eleven Championship is four days. It will give the guys opportunities to get big scores and I’m going to be massive on that point. I want guys to get big hundreds in the Seconds and be pushing the guys in the first team.
“You also want the bowlers to be bowling well and being consistent with the ball and leaving no stones unturned.”
Question: How important is four-day cricket for the development of players?
Kadeer Ali: “I think it is absolutely crucial and I’m so pleased that the ECB have done that now because what you find with three-day cricket is that you are manufacturing a lot of games and declaring when you don’t want to.
“You want guys to go on and get big scores so hopefully this move will allow the opportunity to play some ‘proper’ cricket, for the batters to really invest some time in the middle and, once they get in, to make it count and get some big runs.
“With bowlers, it will be about having four or five spells and coming back again on the second day, or the fourth day, and it will also allow spinners to get into the game, bowl 25-30 overs which is what they need to develop as young spinners.
“I think it is brilliant and definitely a right move going forward.”
Question: In general, a lot of Seconds cricket is played on club grounds. It is important the wickets of the relevant standard for four-day cricket?
Kadeer Ali: “As we know, Kidderminster is a really good wicket and also the same at Barnt Green – two grounds where we play quite a bit – so I don’t think that is going to be a massive issue.
“If there is a bit of wear and tear on day four, it is going to be good for their development anyway and I’m pretty confident it will work nicely.”
Question: Batsman need to bat a long time which, in general cricketing terms, seems less of a trait these days with advent of T20-franchise cricket?
Kadeer Ali: “With the limited overs cricket, that is probably going to have a bit of a knock-on effect, and it has, and I think that’s what the ECB are probably looking at now with the four-days Championship cricket and that is definitely something we’ve been big on this winter in training.
“We want guys to make sure their foundations are strong from a batting point of view and we’ve done lots of work on that and also batting for long periods in practice which I think is also important so you can transfer it into the four-day games.”
Question: It can be quite a challenge to have 11 players available for Second Eleven cricket and the coaches have often been delving into their contacts books?
Kadeer Ali: “Having played Minor Counties cricket for eight-nine years, I’ve got a decent contact list but I’m pretty confident anyway. We’ve got some good academy lads coming through as well who are going to be available at the start of the year and hopefully, with the way the whole structure is, I think we should be okay for numbers.
“But, if not, I’ve got plenty of guys out there who would want to come and play. I’ve got messages, emails flying around and a list of people I can turn to if needed but I don’t think that is going to be a massive issue.”
Question: With yourself and Moeen Ali now part of Worcestershire, might that help in terms of attracting Asian cricketers. There are not many Asian coaches in the professional game?
Kadeer Ali: “Potentially. I think there was research recently which showed there are four or five in the professional game.
“We’ve got a couple of lads here on the academy with some good potential and there are a lot of lads, especially in the Birmingham League, and at Warwickshire who seems to have a high ratio of Asian cricketers coming through there, especially on the pathway.
“There are more and more coming through so we will see but they’ve got to be good enough.”
Question: What do you remember about your first spell at Worcestershire?
Kadeer Ali: “One of my biggest memories of that time was Damian D’Oliveira and how he was with me, like a father figure at cricket, and the way he supported me was amazing.
“Also the family culture of the club really stood out for me – and I’m glad to say I’m feeling that again now that I’m back at the club.
“For me it was a massive jump, coming from age group cricket into a professional environment.
“There were players like Graeme Hick, Richard Illingworth, Steve Rhodes, Glenn McGrath who I had watched on TV playing international cricket and then all of a sudden you are in the same changing room as those guys.
“That really sticks out for me and it was as brilliant experience in terms of my playing days and also off the field, learning a lot from those guys in the way they trained, the way they went about their business.
“I remember my first three first class games were with Glenn McGrath playing and I just remember being a 16-year-old lad passing him the ball and making sure I didn’t mess it up from mid off to him when he was bowling.
“Being exposed to that professional environment was a big thing for me.”
Question: Because you’ve been through that yourself, you can relate to how the young lads will feel if they are same position now?
Kadeer Ali: “Exactly. I think from my position as a player I went through the whole cycle of being a young lad trying to get into the first team and then being left out and having to move clubs.
“There are a wide range of experiences in there and hopefully I can pass them on and what I learnt from what I did and keep their spirits high.
“It’s all about performances at the end of the day and scoring runs and taking wickets. That’s all you can and hopefully the opportunities comes for them and, when it does come, they need to take it.”
Question: Presumably Seconds cricket is not all about the results, although you want to establish that winning mentality, but producing players?
Kadeer Ali: “That is what it is about and that’s why I want the guys to be in scenarios and experiences in the games where they are under pressure because that is what the first team is all about.
“You go into the first team and you can’t hide so the lads need to experience that.
“That’s what it is about and getting your head down and working hard and trying to get that opportunity.”
Question: Are you working with all age groups?
Kadeer Ali: “I’m mainly doing the Academy, on Thursday evenings and Sundays, and that’s really been good and I’m a big fan of that because it’s really important I get to know the Academy players so, when they do make that transition into the second team, they are comfortable because they know me. That makes a big difference.
“The Academy sessions, Alex (Gidman) and Richo (Alan Richardson) have been around and Kevin Sharp. They are getting a good range of all the professional coaching staff and there are already some relationships being built there. I think it is a brilliant way.
“Kevin has been brilliant. He has really looked after me so far and has almost been like a mentor to me. We’ve got a similar sort of way of thinking as well. I’m really pleased he is there and I’m sure he will help me through the first few months.”
Question: I wasn’t going to mention the 99 you scored for Worcestershire against Yorkshire – but I have now! What do you remember of it, your highest score for the County?
Kadeer Ali: “It was the second new ball and I was caught down the leg side. It was one of those where I was a bit gutted.”
Question: You did go on and score some centuries for Gloucestershire after moving from Worcestershire?
Kadeer Ali: “In terms of my playing days, Worcestershire was tough. I never played regularly and when I had my opportunity at the start it was a bit of a struggle and I didn’t get too many runs in the first four or five Championship games and that ultimately played on my mind.
“But you learn. It was tough start. I did well in the Seconds, struggled when got an opportunity in the first team. I was only 17 and you learn and try and move on.”
Question: Were you always intending to become a coach eventually when you finished your professional playing career?
Kadeer Ali: “I was to be honest but I wanted to start from the beginning, get involved in the age groups. When I finished playing at Leicestershire, I did a bit of work down there at Grace Road – the Under-10s, Under-11, Under-12s.
“I had a good winter there and then Gary Steer got me involved at Warwickshire and that sort of grew month by month.
“I started doing more age group coaching, academy and then Paul Greetham came along and gave me a full-time role. I really wanted to do those hard yards with the age groups first of all and learn my trade.
“That has put me in good stead and working in the academy at Warwickshire for the past three years, really good experience.”