In September 2014, Pakistan’s ace off-spinner Saeed Ajmal was suspended from bowling after his action was deemed to be illegal for all deliveries.
Before he was banned, tests revealed his elbow extension was going up to 42 degrees on average. He got permission to resume bowling after the ICC cleared his remodeled action in February 2015.
But Ajmal struggled and managed only one wicket for 123 in two ODIs against Bangladesh in April, conceding 6.47 an over, over two runs more expensive than his career economy rate.
Finding out the replacement of great Saeed Ajmal was not an easy task. The management gave chance to leg-spinner Yasir Shah and left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar to prove their mettle.
Before the Pak-Sri Lanka Test series, Zulfiqar predicted that Yasir would take more wickets than him, and Yasir proved it with his outstanding performance.
Yasir, 29, made his Test debut against Australia in Dubai last year. In his first appearance he claimed seven wickets, conceding 116 runs. It was an impressive performance against a world-class team.
The leg spinner from Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, started his first-class cricket career in 2001 and waited for around a decade to play his first One-day International for Pakistan against Zimbabwe in 2011 in which he took two wickets.
His impressive performance in 2010-11 first-class season in which he took 16 wickets in Pentangular Cup’s four matches, 13 wickets in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy’s four games and 3-29 for Pakistan A against Afghanistan opened the door for international cricket.
In his 13-year first-class career he has taken 336 wickets at an average of 25.05.
Yasir bagged eight wickets in the second Test against Sri Lanka — just his ninth Test — after a match-winning seven wickets in the first Test which helped him grab the ninth position in the bowler’s Test ranking with 750 rating points.
He is the only Pakistani bowler in top ten. Yasir is now just 10 points behind Sri Lankan left-hand spinner Rangana Herath who stands at the eight position.
In the second Test, Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews became his 50th wicket. He became the fastest Pakistani bowler to reach the landmark as he did it in his 9th Test, beating Waqar Younis, Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammad Asif, who took 10 Tests each. Yasir’s 24 wickets before the third Test are the most for any bowler in 2015.
England’s James Anderson and Stuart Broad have picked up 23 wickets each and are joint second.
Yasir had 54 wickets — before the third Test — at a remarkable average of 25.11 in nine Test matches. It includes three five-wicket hauls.
Yasir played these matches against Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
Yasir says there were no grounds in Swabi so he had to go to Peshawar academy to play. “Shane Warne was my motivation; I started bowling leg breaks after watching him bowl on TV,” he says.
“And then my brother sent me a video of Warne from London and I used to watch it every day and tried to copy his action. Warne was a legend so he was my idol,” he says.
Warne, who was following the 2014 Pakistan-Australia Test series on television, was impressed by Yasir.
He tweeted after watching Shah bowl: “I like the look of this leggie Yasir Shah, plenty of energy and nice variations of pace.”
Yasir is now almost a permanent member of Pakistan’s squad, especially in Tests.
He has easily 5-6 years to go on top of the ICC bowlers ranking and become a threat like Saeed Ajmal for the world’s top batsmen.