Saeed Ajmal’s bowling action has come under scrutiny © AFP
Saeed Ajmal was reported for a suspect action for the second time in his career during Pakistan’s ongoing tour of Sri Lanka. Ajmal went through the Tests after the series and in just over a month, Ajmal was suspended by ICC. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at instances in the past when Ajmal’s action was reported or questioned by the cricketing fraternity.
The officials seem to have come down hard on suspect actions in the year 2014. Sachithra Senanayake and Kane Williamson were suspended from bowling in international cricket after being reported for suspect actions earlier this year. Saeed Ajmal, the talismanic Pakistan off-spinner, came under scrutiny after being reported during the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle.
Let us revisit the timeline of Ajmal’s controversial bowling action.
2009: Reported and cleared
Back in 2009, before Ajmal had made his Test debut, he was reported during the Pakistan-Australia series in the Middle East. His doosras had come under the scanner and it took a month for him to be cleared after the tests were conducted. Despite that, the debate regarding his action raged on. As the years went by, he became more lethal, which in turn sparked more murmurs about his action.
2012: Inadvertent comments fuelling a storm
Ajmal too played his part in fuelling the debate, though inadvertently. In 2012, he spun Pakistan to a memorable rout of England in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In an interview after the series, Ajmal claimed that the International Cricket Council (ICC) had given him a special concession of 23.5 degrees. He claimed that the bend in his arm was caused due to an accident and that it is a deformity. Those comments caused quite a stir and the ICC clarified things by saying that there was no special concession granted to anyone.
But, Ajmal may have innocently made those statements in English, a language in which he isn’t very conversant. Perhaps he was referring to the elbow abduction, which is the natural angle between the forearm and the shoulder. A bowler can come in with a bent arm and deliver the ball, but he cannot straighten it beyond 15-degree threshold in place. As days passed, it died down as people gave him the benefit of the doubt.
2014: Stuart Broad’s comments and the call in Sri Lanka
In the year 2014, Ajmal’s action came under some criticism from England all-rounder Stuart Broad. Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, had tweeted a photo of Ajmal bowling, to which Broad replied by saying, “This has to be a fake photo?! Bowlers can bowl very differently in a lab while being tested compared to needing wickets in the middle.” Ajmal cried foul and Broad was warned over his comments.
That did not end there for Ajmal though. After the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle, he was reported again by the officials.
September 9, 2014: Saeed Ajmal suspended by ICC
After evaluation of Ajmal’s bowling by the independent analysis constituted by the ICC it was deemed that all his deliveries exceeded the permitted 15 degrees limit and was suspended from international cricket. The official release from the ICC read: “”An independent analysis has found the bowling action of Pakistan’s offspinner Saeed Ajmal to be illegal and, as such, the player has been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect. The analysis revealed that all his deliveries exceeded the 15 degrees level of tolerance permitted under the regulations.”
At the time of his suspension, Ajmal had topped the ICC ODI rankings and also featured in top 10 of both Tests and T20 bowling rankings.
*Article updated after Saeed Ajmal was suspended on September 9, 2014
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)