Pakistan wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal has defended Saeed Ajmal's reputation after Pakistan's shock defeat against Australia in the ICC World Twenty20 semi-final in St Lucia. Australia needed 18 off the final over, in which Michael Hussey bludgeoned the offspinner Ajmal for three sixes and a four to hand his team a miraculous win. Ajmal was crestfallen after Pakistan conceded a game which was only theirs to lose, but Akmal said he was still a match-winner.
"Saeed is a magnificent competitor, a great bowler and someone who remains a match-winner," Akmal told PakPassion.net. "He has led Pakistan to many victories and I'm sure in future he will help us to many more victories."
Pakistan were missing their death-overs specialist Umar Gul, who was injured before the tournament began, so Ajmal was handed the responsibility. He bowled a tight final over in their previous game against South Africa, conceding five runs. Akmal praised Ajmal's efforts in that game and added that things didn't go his way during the semis.
"Just look at his over against South Africa right at the end of the match in the Super Eights. He was very upset after the defeat against Australia and we all consoled him, but he can't be blamed for the defeat," Akmal said. "It was an amazing innings from Hussey and one of those days where as a batsman things went for him.
"As a bowler, especially in T20s, any bowler can be hit around the park. I have seen many of the world's finest bowlers take a hammering in the shortest version of the game".
Akmal said the whole team felt the pain of defeat, and that nobody could be singled out for their exit. "We were in control for so much of the match and to lose the match in that way was very difficult to stomach. We went into the tournament as a unit and we were defeated as a unit and take responsibility as a unit. There is absolutely no question of individuals being held responsible for the defeat".
After a tumultuous and win-less tour of Australia, the PCB took drastic steps to punish those players it believed were responsible for the defeats. Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan were give indefinite life bans while other senior players like Akmal himself were fined. Waqar Younis and Ijaz Ahmed were given coaching roles and Akmal praised the support staff for improving the team's fortunes in the West Indies.
"If you look through our squad this time around, we were definitely not as strong as last year in England," Akmal said. "We were missing some key players and whilst of course our aim was to win the tournament, I think we did very well to reach the semi-finals. Credit should especially be given to the coaches for their efforts. I have really enjoyed working with two former Pakistani greats in Waqar and Ijaz and look forward to working with them in future".