It’s a case of too little too late for Pakistan. International Cricket Council’s announcement on Saturday that Saeed Ajmal’s bowling action has been cleared bears little or no significance for Pakistan and their World Cup campaign which begins with a crucial clash against India at the Adelaide Oval next Sunday.
It’s too late because Pakistan have already landed in Australia with their final World Cup and in addition have even named rookie pacer Rahat Ali as replacement for the injured Junaid Khan. It’s too little because even if somehow Pakistan get the opportunity of making another change to their squad, they will think twice before opting for Ajmal.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan for Ajmal. Who isn’t? Such has been the ace off-spinner’s impact that he remains at the top of the One-day International rankings despite being out of action for the last six months.
The problem with Ajmal now is that you don’t know what you’re going to get after months of remedial work that helped him to remodel his bowling action and pass a retest performed at the Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai on January 24. In the retests experts found Ajmal’s bowling action to be legal and later the ICC decided that he can resume bowling in international cricket. Bangladesh’s Sohag Gazi also passed in his retest.
According to the ICC it was revealed at the retests that “the amount of elbow extensions in both the off-spinners’ bowling actions for all their deliveries was within the 15-degree level of tolerance permitted under the ICC regulations for the review of bowlers reported with suspected illegal bowling actions.”
But that doesn’t mean that Ajmal and Gazi are safely out of the woods.
The ICC also made it clear that the umpires will have the powers to report the spinners in future.
“The umpires are still at liberty to report Saeed Ajmal and Sohag Gazi in the future if they believe they are displaying a suspect action and not reproducing the legal actions from the retests.
“To assist the umpires they have been provided with images and video footage of the two bowlers’ significantly remodeled legal bowling actions,” it added.
Talk to Ajmal and he will tell you that despite his remodeled action he remains as effective as ever stressing that his modified arsenal includes the wicket-taking doosra and a carrom ball.
There is certainly going to be this temptation to pave the path for Ajmal’s return considering that without him Pakistan’s bowling attack seems to be in tatters. But the bitter truth is that with his remodeled action, Ajmal could turn out to be a complete flop which is why Pakistan cannot take a chance with him in the World Cup. Ajmal should play competitive cricket in the coming months and then earn his place back in the squad by impressing the national selectors. If he actually is still as effective as he was before his suspension then Ajmal is going to be an asset when Pakistan take on England in a full ‘home’ series in the UAE later this year.
Till then, Pakistan will have to learn to live without Ajmal and keep focusing on somehow boosting their World Cup campaign with the existing players in the squad.
Pakistan don’t need to be reminded of the fact that despite all their pre-World Cup setbacks, they can provide their seemingly feeble World Cup hopes with a shot in the arm by beating old foes India in their tournament opener.
Pakistan’s critics are unsure whether Misbah-ul-Haq and Co have the firepower to rewrite World Cup history by taming India in Adelaide on February 15. It is true that the Pakistanis are without Ajmal and Junaid Khan while there are doubts whether Mohammad Hafeez will be allowed to bowl because he is yet to clear his howling action. The way Pakistan have succumbed to New Zealand in two ODIs and even in a couple of side games doesn’t inspire much trust. But from where I see it, Pakistan have a perfect chance of beating India for the first time in a World Cup game. That’s not because Pakistan have a strong side but because just like them India too is struggling to find the right combination. Pakistan will need to give their best in all areas of the game and if they managed to do that then I’m sure that beating Indian won’t be that difficult.