World Cup 2015 February 8, 2015

Ajmal's World Cup still under cloud

Misbah-ul-Haq - "The problem is that Ajmal has not been playing any competitive cricket. That is the major issue for him and the team management. Let's see how it goes in the next week" © AFP

Misbah-ul-Haq has admitted that Saeed Ajmal could yet feature in the World Cup, but cautioned against rushing him back into the side.

Ajmal was given permission to resume bowling in international cricket on Saturday after the ICC cleared his remodeled action, but can only be drafted into the Pakistan squad if an existing player suffers an injury. Misbah, however, admitted there were some fitness concerns within the camp.

Mohammad Hafeez, who is currently suspended from bowling and unable to undergo testing due to a foot problem, is the most obvious injury worry. With Pakistan due to play India on February 15, time would appear to be running out for him.

Pakistan have already been forced to replace Junaid Khan, who had a thigh injury, with Rahat Ali. But that injury came a few days before Ajmal was cleared to resume bowling and, while Misbah admitted that consideration had been given to waiting on naming a replacement to see if Ajmal was available, he said concerns remained over the offspinner's lack of competitive cricket in recent months.

"We want Hafeez to play a major part of the World Cup," Misbah said. "But if he suggests that is not possible we have to take any step. It is totally up to the medical panel and the physio. Let's see in the next two or three days.

"Ajmal has been bowling a lot of deliveries every day. But the problem is that he has not been playing any competitive cricket. That is the major issue for him and the team management. Let's see how it goes in the next week. There are a lot of ifs and buts. The team is already announced and we're already here.

"It was a tough decision to replace Junaid. But even Ajmal is not sure [whether he is ready to return] because he hasn't played any sort of cricket for the last five or six months. That's a big concern for a cricketer going into real cricket. You need some cricket behind you. So let's see how it goes."

Those who have seen Ajmal bowling with his new action suggest he may have lost some pace and for a 37-year-old who has hardly placed since August (he played two 45-over games in December), there is a concern about rushing him back into such a high-profile tournament.

Certainly the idea received a lukewarm reception from Shahid Afridi, who suggested he should prove himself again at domestic level before returning to international cricket.

"You can't say how effective he will be," Afridi said. "He is clear [to bowl] now, but with the new bowling action you can't say how effective he will be. He will play a domestic season and then we will see where is. They've already announced the squad."

Misbah also declined to celebrate news that Mohammad Amir had been cleared to return to domestic cricket ahead of the end of his ban in September. Invited on several occasions to comment on the news - and the implications for Pakistan cricket - Misbah offered the straightest of bats in reply.

"It's a subject I don't want to touch," he said. "Let's see how it goes. It's not me. It's about the ICC and Pakistan Cricket Board. They are the ones who decide that."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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