Ajmal targets World Cup return
Saeed Ajmal is pleased with the progress he has made with the remedial work on his bowling action, and has said he is targeting the 2015 World Cup for his international comeback.
Ajmal recently underwent unofficial tests on his bowling action at the ICC-accredited testing centre in Loughborough, where biomechanist Dr Mark King noted "substantial improvement" in his action, even though the straightening of his elbow still exceeded the permitted 15-degree mark.
"I'm very pleased with the assessment of Dr. King," Ajmal said, in an interview with Pakpassion.net. "It was very heartening to hear what he had to say. I was expecting a reduction to about 30 degrees but to see that some deliveries are down to 20 degrees is fantastic and positive news for me.
"Also, what is really encouraging is that most of my deliveries are now within the 15 degree limit. The ICC's rules of course stipulate that all deliveries have to be under 15 degrees and I'm very confident that I will achieve that target with the help of [former Pakistan offspinner] Saqlain Mushtaq and all the other individuals who are helping me and guiding me."
Ajmal said his elbow extension exceeded 15 degrees only for the doosra, and that all his other deliveries were now falling within the permitted limit. "I'm working hard on adjusting the doosra to ensure that it is also under 15 degrees and I'm confident that I will manage to do that."
The ICC banned Ajmal from bowling in international cricket in September. He had been reported after the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, and testing of his action in Brisbane revealed his average elbow extension to be more than twice the permissible limit. It was the second time Ajmal had been reported, but the first time - in 2009 - he had successfully cleared tests on his action. Ajmal said he was puzzled by the lack of consistency in the test results.
"The frustrating thing is that I was tested in 2009, tested again earlier this year and have had private tests on my bowling action recently. Every single one of those tests has produced different results," he said. "There is just no consistency at all in these tests and the subsequent reports. If there was consistency then I would know where I stand. I work on rectifying one issue and then in the next report something different is pointed out to me."
Ajmal went on to say that the 15-degree limit was too strict on bowlers, particularly under the ICC's new testing protocol.
"I think 99% of bowlers these days would fail the 15 degree test for at least one or more of their deliveries," he said. "I also think that the technology being used in match situations to assess bowling actions is too strict. I think they should use the normal television cameras to assess our bowling actions, but instead what is being used are cameras that can virtually see the blood running though our bodies."
Ajmal was confident the doosra would survive as an offspinner's weapon, despite the ICC's crackdown on illegal actions and the widespread belief that the delivery can't be bowled legally.
"No I don't believe that will be the case," he said, when asked if the doosra would die out. "The doosra is an art and a weapon to use against batsmen. God willing when I am back playing international cricket, I will bowl the doosra with the same venom that I always have done. The doosra is part of my repertoire and a delivery that I intend to continue bowling in future."
Ajmal said he wanted to return to international cricket in time to play the 2015 World Cup, which begins in February.
"All this effort with Saqlain Mushtaq and the work at Lahore and Loughborough is with the World Cup in mind and I'm hopeful and confident that my bowling action will be cleared ahead of this showpiece event," he said. "However, if I don't make the World Cup then my prayers and well-wishes will be with my Pakistani team mates. If I'm not there in Australia and New Zealand my support will be with the Pakistan team and I'll be cheering them on loudly."
In similar vein, Ajmal said he was delighted with how well Pakistan have done without him in their Tests against Australia and New Zealand.
"It's not easy to have to watch the matches on television and not to be out there with my team mates," Ajmal said. "Having said that, I am absolutely delighted seeing Pakistan play so well. It's been brilliant to watch Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar come into the Pakistan team as my replacements and perform so well. I'm so happy for both of them and I hope they have long and successful careers for Pakistan."
The PCB has extended Ajmal's stay in England by a week to enable him to spend more time with Saqlain at his academy in Leicestershire. This time, Ajmal said, would be spent working on technical aspects of his action, "particularly the doosra".
"I feel that with the implementation of these additional technical modifications all of my deliveries will be under the 15 degrees limit," Ajmal said. "Next week, we intend to have another private test on my bowling action to ensure that all of my deliveries are below the 15 degrees limit. Following on from the private tests and most probably next month we'll go for tests with the ICC and hopefully be cleared for a return to cricket."