Pakistan cricket September 4, 2012

Ajmal, master of a loser's game

Australia won a skirmish in the desert but one player dominated despatches. He was the leading wicket taker in the ODI series, with an average typical of school cricket

Australia won a skirmish in the desert but one player dominated despatches. He was the leading wicket taker in the ODI series, with an average typical of school cricket. For Saeed Ajmal, the man snubbed by ICC's inscrutable panel of experts, such excellence is business as usual.

The mystery of Ajmal's exclusion from the ICC's shortlist for the Cricketer of the Year award is a big one. The Pakistan Cricket Board has submitted a formal complaint, hoping that Ajmal, like Graeme Swann before him in 2010, will be included on appeal. Supporters have turned to social media to berate the ICC for overlooking Ajmal - a firm favourite among Pakistan fans and acclaimed more broadly as the world's leading spin bowler.

Ajmal's absence from the shortlist is truly bizarre. South Africa's rise to number one in the Test rankings was heavily influenced by Ajmal's demolition of England in the UAE; a performance that helped Pakistan's beguiling spinner become leading Test wicket taker in the year covered by the ICC awards. Consider all international cricket and Ajmal took 120 wickets; his nearest rival was a distant second with 84.

Indeed, Ajmal has excelled in all three formats, a versatility that sets him apart from other current international bowlers. With doosras and teesras produced at will, he has been an innovator and possibly a bluffer. He bowls at the death but doesn't bowl defensively. Ajmal tosses the ball in the air, daring a batsman to guess its flight and turn, mesmerising spectators and even his opponent. These are ancient arts with a modern twist.

Saeed Ajmal is a jewel in the crown of the modern game. He is an entertainer with the stats to prove that he deserves top billing. Perhaps Ajmal's failing is that he represents an unfashionable cricket nation? Whatever the explanation, the ICC's expert panel has reached an inexpert conclusion and done little for the credibility of the awards. Including Ajmal now would be a token gesture. In a sport that the administrators have carved out for batsmen, the art of bowling is a loser's game.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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