aeed Ajmal was suspended by ICC from all forms of cricket in September 2014 © AFP
aeed Ajmal was suspended by ICC from all forms of cricket in September 2014 © AFP

By Amir Husain

On September 7, 2014, the ICC’s Reliance ranking system re-confirmed Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal as the best One-Day International (ODI) bowler in the world. With 183 wickets in just 111 ODI matches and 782 points, the 36 year old off-spinner was looking forward to representing his country against Australia and New Zealand in the coming few months and was marked as Pakistan’s main bowler for the 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia/New Zealand. Ajmal had earlier been cited for an illegal action by match officials at the conclusion of the 1st Test match at Galle in Sri Lanka and later went for tests in Australia organized by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The ICC duly declared Ajmal’s action as illegal on the 9th of September, stating that the analysis had revealed that “all his deliveries exceeded the 15 degrees level of tolerance permitted under the regulations”. He has now been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect, but is allowed to apply for re-assessment after he has modified his bowling action.

The news of this ruling by ICC caused a major uproar amongst fans and experts alike, and former Pakistan off-spinner, Tauseef Ahmed who has himself represented Pakistan in 104 matches and picked up 148 international scalps, also joined in the chorus of disapproval and shock which has met this decision.

In an exclusive interview,, Tauseef spoke about his view on the timing of the suspension and questioned the real motives behind ICC’s decision and cast some light on how some English players and media had a role to play in this outcome, whilst also suggesting a way forward for the beleaguered spinner.

Tauseef, like many admirers of Ajmal was astounded by the speed at which the ICC moved to test and condemn the player and felt that there are sinister motives behind this move which was meant to put a stop to Ajmal’s stellar career.

“To be honest this looks like nothing but an attempt to disrupt Saeed Ajmal’s career. They also put similar restrictions on a few other spinners as a precursor to their ultimate goal of targeting Saeed Ajmal. This does appear to be an effort to create issues not only for Ajmal but for Pakistan as well as we approach the World Cup next year. This is not the first time he has been targeted and he has been able to clear his name in the past, but on this occasion there seems to be a concerted effort to make an example of him” stated Tauseef.

The debate over the legality of actions has spanned many years with such prominent figures such as Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee and Muttiah Muralitharan coming under the scanner of the ICC in the past. The ICC’s 15 degree allowance has been in play for a good many years which is why Ajmal’s situation has left Tauseef puzzled as he stated “It does appear odd how the ICC has become so active in Saeed Ajmal’s case whereas the whole 15 degree principle was used to clear the likes of Muralitharan. It’s also strange that after playing so much cricket in his career, the ICC has only just realized that Ajmal has this problem! The fact is that he was cleared before by the same authorities. It was therefore very shocking to hear the news that he has been banned from bowling, especially as it has happened in such a tight time-frame. What is most disconcerting about this affair is that he also happens to be Pakistan’s premier spin bowler and is considered the backbone of our bowling attack. It’s not just his Doosra, but almost all his deliveries which are deemed to be problematic. This really doesn’t leave much room for any way for him to bowl in a match.”

To many who followed Saeed Ajmal’s progress during the summer of 2014, the odds had started to build up against the Pakistan spinner since the time he arrived in England to play for Worcestershire. Whilst he gained great respect and attracted attention for his mind boggling bowling performances, it also appeared as if certain sections of the English media as well as some ex and current players took it upon themselves to discredit him. Tauseef felt that this type of whispering campaign had an important impact in the way the Ajmal case was handled by the authorities.

“The fact is that when Saeed Ajmal played in the county season in 2014, the English players could not work out the mystery of his deliveries. They seemed to have worked out all other bowlers in the world but were unable to make any sense of Ajmal’s bowling. They then resorted to a whispering campaign and outright allegations as demonstrated by Stuart Broad’s remarks and insinuations. This obviously was a factor in the decision to call him for testing but it almost seems like a personal vendetta against Saeed Ajmal. However, I am sure he will work through this and come out stronger” added Tauseef.

Whilst it was clear that a decision on Ajmal’s action was imminent, it would be fair to say that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the bowler himself were far from prepared to handle this eventuality as it was apparent from a flurry of statements from both quarters. However, Tauseef feels that Ajmal has the mental strength to try and remedy the situation and make a comeback but he also sought to explain the reasons behind why Saeed Ajmal’s action may have become the centre of some unwelcome attention.

“As far as the reaction to this ban is concerned, it all depends on how confident Saeed Ajmal is about his situation. An appeal can be filed but there can be further complications if the appeal is rejected by the authorities. So a very careful plan of action needs to be put in place. Regardless of whether an appeal is or is not made, Saeed Ajmal is a hard working bowler, although this is probably the toughest challenge he has ever faced. I am sure there could be many reasons for this problem including the amount of cricket he plays, including T20 cricket which is known to destroy techniques of bowlers as they try and get on with a fast paced game. “

“Bowlers aren’t machines and if they play too much cricket then it can effect their technique. Saeed Ajmal should have been rested in the summer and this is something which the administration should have taken care of. However, I don’t feel that the damage is irreparable and I am convinced that Saeed Ajmal will fix his issues and play in the 2015 World Cup”

Pakistan’s recent dismal record in the ODIs was fast becoming a matter of concern given the fast approaching 2015 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand and the bad news of Saeed Ajmal’s suspension could not have come at a worse time for this cricket mad nation. If Ajmal, who is regarded as Pakistan’s premier attack option in the ODI format, is unable to participate in the 2015 World Cup then that may well spell an end to any viable hopes of winning the ICC’s mega event. Pakistan’s team management will need to work very hard to find a replacement for Ajmal. There may be others who could be entrusted with the responsibility that Ajmal has so admirably taken on himself in the past few years but as Tauseef explained, in practical terms Ajmal’s return is the only real hope for Pakistan.

“Pakistan does have a problem if he is not allowed to bowl and it would have been better if we had ready-made replacements for Saeed Ajmal but that clearly is not the case. I would be surprised if you can ever find a bowler of his class whether in Pakistan or around the world as such talents are very rare. Again, all is not lost as we do have some spinners in the domestic scene who can help out in this case, such as Atif Maqbool or Adnan Rasool but none really can ever replace a bowler of the calibre of Saeed Ajmal. Having said that, we would be happy if they can achieve even half of what this bowler has done and in that regard, this a tough ask for any other bowler. All said and done, the best outcome for Pakistan is for Saeed Ajmal to work hard and emerge stronger from this crisis”, he concluded.

(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)