DateLine: 19th January 2015
Our thanks to www.PakPassion.net as exclusive source for the following article:
Pakistan announced their 2015 World Cup uniform with real fanfare in a glamour filled ceremony held in Lahore. Sadly during that evening, as the players lined up on the stage to proudly display their allegiance with the green flag, the familiar figure of Saeed Ajmal that has adorned Pakistan’s ODI colours for 111 ODIs whilst taking 183 wickets was nowhere to be seen.
Banned from bowling in international cricket by the International Cricket Council due to a suspect bowling action and having withdrawn his services for the Pakistan team for the 2015 World Cup, Saeed Ajmal has been busy on the sidelines trying to affect the changes that will, he hopes allow him to be re-instated as Pakistan’s premier bowler in all formats of the game.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, the 37-year old off-spinner spoke candidly on a number of topics including his feelings about missing the 2015 World Cup and also looked forward to the official test in Chennai on the 24th of January as well as his potential return to international cricket.
Ever since the ruling by the ICC in September which banned him from bowling in international games, Saeed Ajmal had been working hard on removing any doubts over his action, but on 27th December came the devastating news that all of his fans had been dreading. Not convinced with the effectiveness of his changed action, Saeed Ajmal informed the PCB that he was not ready to be considered for the 2015 World Cup squad. The decision was, understandably, a tough one for Pakistan's premier spinner who has hardly missed any international game since his ODI debut against India in 2008, as he explained “I was preparing myself fully for this mega event and had been getting ready ever since the last World Cup. I had my mind set on getting my action cleared and then playing in the World Cup. Not playing in the World Cup never initially crossed my mind, but then the issues with my bowling action didn't clear up so I've had to make what was a very tough decision. It was a very difficult decision to make to rule myself out of the World Cup but it's been made with everyone's best interests at heart, particularly the team. I could have rushed the official test to try and get included in the World Cup squad but I didn't feel comfortable doing that and that's why I delayed it so that I could be fully ready for it mentally and physically.”
Those who have seen Saeed Ajmal battle against some of the best batsmen in the world would not have been surprised by the manner in which the Pakistan off-spinner, undeterred by the setback to his plans to play in the 2015 World Cup, went back to the drawing board to ensure that he remained on track for a return to international cricket. Working with one of the foremost authorities on biomechanics, Dr. Paul Hurrion, Saeed Ajmal recently cleared an unofficial test for which he was understandably pleased as he stated that “The hard work of the past few months seems to have paid off after we saw the results of the recent unofficial test in Birmingham. There's been a lot of improvement in the results and I'm absolutely delighted that all of my deliveries were measured at under the 15 degrees limit. I'm very confident that I can pass the official test in Chennai”.
One of the biggest concerns about Ajmal’s situation has been the thought that he may not be as effective as he was prior to the ban. The inability to ask serious questions of some of the world’s top batsmen would surely spell the end of his illustrious career. However, contrary to the fears of many in this regard, the off-spinner has indicated that he has been working on adding more varieties to his bowling.
“I've added a couple of deliveries to my repertoire recently during my time away from international cricket, which are a seam-up delivery and also the carom ball. I've used this opportunity to work on these two new deliveries and I'm pleased with the results. Both of these new deliveries are under the fifteen degree limit also and I'm happy with the results of the hard work we have put in over the last few months. Let me also say that I don't take much notice of those people who say that if I come back into international cricket after being cleared I won't be as effective. In cricket you are learning every time you step on the field. It doesn't matter how experienced you are, you are always learning and I have used this time away from cricket as an opportunity to learn and I think I will be just as, if not more effective as a bowler when I hopefully return to international cricket”.
It is quite probable that Saeed Ajmal's hard work may soon bear fruit in the shape of good news of his reinstatement to international cricket. Regardless of what the future has in store for him, the Pakistan spinner is in no doubt about the role of the man known to the world as the father of the doosra, Saqlain Mushtaq, who stepped in to provide the moral and technical support at a time when the future looked dark for Ajmal.
"Saqlain has been a pillar of strength for me since he's started working with me. He's encouraged me and lifted my morale throughout the process and has backed me all the way even when I wasn't happy with a delivery I was bowling in practice. I cannot thank him enough for his hard work and efforts and he has gone out of his way to help me at this difficult time. He has worked with me on my posture and strengthening and on the analysis of the technical changes I have made and the adjustments that have been required. He has analysed every aspect of my bowling and observed my bowling thoroughly as we work on new deliveries and also ensuring that all of my deliveries are under the fifteen degree limit. What has really been motivating for me when working with Saqlain is that his focus hasn't just been on helping me to come back to international cricket, rather come back to international cricket as effective as I was before the ban and with the aim of once again becoming the number one bowler in the world."
With the 15 member squads from all nations now announced ahead of the ICC’s mega event, which begins on the 14th of February between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, there is an outside chance that Saeed Ajmal could be called up to cover for an unfortunate injury to any of the Pakistan squad members. This possibility has crossed Ajmal’s mind but being a consummate professional at heart, he feels that he would only agree to this proposal if he felt that his confidence was back at the level which existed prior to his ban.
“If the PCB were to call me up at some point as a replacement in the World Cup squad I would have to assess my levels of confidence and have a think about my mindset and if I felt ready to come back to international cricket ahead of schedule. However my fitness levels are fine, I'm practising on a regular basis, but it's more the mental side of things. You have to be mentally ready to play in such a big tournament as the World Cup and we'll have to see firstly if that chance materialises and also if I'm mentally set for the World Cup.”
While Saeed Ajmal works on making a comeback to international cricket, the real question on the minds of most Pakistan supporters is whether the Pakistan World Cup squad has the ability to challenge the world’s top teams in the upcoming World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Saeed Ajmal may not be part of the squad but his heart is firmly with his compatriots and team mates as he pledges his support for Pakistan in the competition.
“I'm a Pakistani so I'm going to say Pakistan will win the World Cup. My heart says Pakistan, I can't even think of Pakistan losing a match. My wish is that Pakistan wins every match at the World Cup. I met a number of the boys recently in Lahore who are heading to Australia and New Zealand and gave them my best wishes.”
Saeed Ajmal’s future as an international player may well be decided by the end of the month based on the outcome of the official test at the ICCs testing center in Chennai but the determination of the Pakistan off-spinner to succeed is for all to see. “My hope is that I pass the test in Chennai, return to international cricket and regain my spot as the number one ranked bowler in the world,” he concluded.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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