County news February 12, 2015

Worcestershire confident of Ajmal return

ESPNcricinfo staff

Saeed Ajmal was all smiles after his remodelled action was cleared by the ICC © Associated Press

Worcestershire are "very optimistic" of a deal to bring Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal back to New Road next season - although their plans could be limited if he forces his way back into the national side.

Negotiations are ongoing with Ajmal, who has had his remodelled action cleared by the ICC, and at the very least he should be available for the second half of the season.

Pakistan have long been scheduled to tour Sri Lanka for two Tests, five ODIs and two T20s in June but an additional tour of Bangladesh, although the subject of a political stand-off between the two boards, is now also pencilled in for April and May.

Ajmal's return to legality did not come quickly enough for him to take part in Pakistan's World Cup campaign, although he has expressed himself ready to be called up during the tournament should injuries cause then to call up reinforcements.

He was central to Worcestershire's wholly-unexpected promotion in the County Championship last season. At a time when his action was coming under unofficial scrutiny, but was not yet outlawed, he took 63 wickets at 16.47 in only nine matches. He is crucial to the club's chances of survival in Division One this season.

"We are very optimistic now that we can put to bed a deal," Rhodes said, "I think he is pleased we stood by him and we are pleased now that he has passed his test that we stood by him.

"There are certain things that are a worry like, for example, the Bangladesh series suddenly cropping up a few weeks ago in the Future Tours Programme which wasn't on the Future Tours Programme. If that goes ahead, that is six weeks at the start of the season which really takes Saeed into a series with Sri Lanka, which is now in the Future Tours Programme.

"If Bangladesh goes ahead, then he may not play until halfway through the season and then will see the season out with us hopefully as he is not going to the Caribbean Premier League now.

"There is a chance this Bangladesh series might not go ahead and I'm only saying that because both boards are discussing over whose series it is and money. We've just got to wait and see on that one. If it means Saeed is not with us for the first half of the year, then we will look elsewhere. We've got irons in the fire but, like Saeed at the moment, nothing concrete."