Pakistan’s ace spinner Saeed Ajmal has brought the curtains down on his cricket career with a “heavy heart”, criticising the ICC’s protocol to assess bowling actions on his way out.
After a successful but controversial career, off-spinner Ajmal finished with 178 wickets in 35 Tests, the last of which was at Galle in Sri Lanka in 2014, where his bowling action was reported for the second time.
His action was first reported during an ODI series against Australia in the UAE in 2009.
Ajmal, 40, is leading Faisalabad and news of his impending end came on a fitting day in which he played a lead role in a win over Lahore Blues. He took 3 for 26 from his four overs, including the wickets of Ahmed Shehzad and Babar Azam, and ran out Mohammad Hafeez in a seven-wicket win. He will hold off from making an official announcement until the end of the tournament.
When he does leave, he will do so as one of Pakistan’s most successful spinners. Though he made his international debut late, in the 2008 Asia Cup, it was under Misbah-ul-Haq’s captaincy, from 2011 onwards, that he became a major all-format force for Pakistan. He ended, ultimately, with 178 wickets from 35 Tests at an average of 28.10; under Misbah, however, he took 141 wickets in just 26 Tests. He played a lead role in a number of Pakistan’s early successes under Misbah, not least his 24 wickets in the 3-0 whitewash of England in 2011-12.
He was equally important in the white-ball formats, an important part of successful sides until 2011, and almost a solitary burden-bearer in the less successful sides thereafter. He ended with 184 wickets from 113 ODIs at 22.72 and another 85 wickets from 64 T20Is.
At the time he was banned, was the no.1 ODI bowler in the world, and in the top ten of both Test and T20 rankings. At that point, nobody had taken more international wickets than him in the preceding three-year period. It was suggested at the time that Pakistan’s excessive reliance on him – only one bowler had bowled more overs than him in that three-year period – had worn away his action and made it particularly ragged.
He was able to remodel his action and return but he was never the force that he had been. He played just two ODIs and a single T20I in 2015 after the World Cup, but he was clearly a different bowler and a much-reduced force.
“I always enjoyed the challenge of international cricket and it would have been ideal to retire with a match for Pakistan.”
Ajmal said he had completed level two coaching and would remain in touch with the sport by coaching youngsters.