Pakistan news January 11, 2013

Ajmal helps fund cricket academy

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Saeed Ajmal, the Pakistan offspinner, has started his own elite academy scheme at the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad. The R70 million ($720,000 approx) multi-facility academy will be spread over 18 acres of land and will be completed in two years' time, in three phases of construction.

Ajmal has provided R10 million ($102,000 approx) of his own money to the academy, with the government and major industry promising to further contribute to its funding. The lucrative project will include an indoor and outdoor practice school, lodging facility, swimming pool and a floodlit ground.

Ajmal, speaking at the launch of the first phase, said he wanted to help develop the next generation of cricketers, in particular spinners, for Pakistan. "I have experienced tough days early in my career but with this facility nobody will have to go through a difficult time," Ajmal said. "I want to groom the enormous talent in the country without fee. I don't want the players to suffer the ordeal I did in coming to this stage."

Ajmal, 35, made a relatively late entry into international cricket, at the age of 30. He started in Tests when he was almost 32 and so far has played 23 Test matches, taking 122 wickets at 27.09. He also has 117 one-day wickets and is the highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 internationals, with 71. Ajmal said he wanted to give "youngsters an opportunity to follow in my footsteps".

Cricket may be the most popular game in Pakistan but there is a lack of modern facilities at the grassroots level. The PCB owns the national academy and regional academies around the country but they are sanctioned only for the use of national and domestic cricketers. Club cricket is the main source of new cricketers but they rely on meagre facilities.

"The idea is to find the talent and give them all the necessary to groom [their skills]," Ajmal said. "They will be paid for their livelihood and we will help develop those who have been marginalised and unable to thrive for many reasons."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent