Saeed Ajmal: 18 interesting facts about the Pakistani tweaker whose career was curtailed by the 15 degree line

Born October 14, 1977, Saeed Ajmal is a Pakistani off-spinner who is well-known for his the ‘doosra’ which he bowled without a discernible change in action. In the twilight of his career, Ajmal found himself in the middle of controversies when he was reported for suspect action and was subsequently banned from bowling by the ICC in September 2014. On his 38th birthday, Suraj Choudhari lists down 18 lesser-known facts about one of the most effective spinners in world cricket.   

1.  Mystery spinner: Ajmal was undoubtedly one of the most lethal bowlers for the number of variations he had up his sleeve. He troubled every batsman across the globe with his ‘doosra’ which he bowls at quick pace and created doubts in every batsman’s mind. His deliveries were difficult, to pick further making him a mystery spinner.

2.  Late bloomer: Ajmal made his international debut at the age of 30 in a One-Day International (ODI) against India at Karachi in July 2008. But that didn’t deprive him from achieving his dividends, as it goes with the saying ‘better late than never’, Ajmal’s case best fits with it.

3.  Worcestershire: Ajmal was roped in by Worcestershire in the English county season of 2011. He left a mark on the English soil in 2014 when he was the leading wicket taker with 56 wickets in his basket.

4.  Reported but cleared: Ajmal was first reported for suspect action in an ODI match against Australia in April 2009 but was cleared as he passed the test.

5.  Number 1 for three years: Ajmal remained at the pinnacle of the ICC ODI bowlers rankings constantly for a span of three years. He was ranked number one bowler from November 2011 to December 2014 for his splendid run in the ODIs.

6.  Unique record in Tests: Ajmal belongs to the rare breed of those bowlers who made their debut after the age of thirty but still managed to pick 100 wickets in Test cricket. In fact, he is the fastest Pakistani cricketer to have achieved such milestone.

7.  Highest wicket taker: Pakistan made it to the semi-finals of the 2010 World T20 and Ajmal was their highest wicket-taker with 11 scalps in six outings to his name.

8.  Inglorious final over in 2010 World T20: Ajmal will always be remembered for the ultimate over he bowled in the semi-final of the 2010 World Twenty20 (T20) against Australia. Australia needed 18 runs to win in the final over and Ajmal was handed over the job to restrict Australia. But Michael Hussey had other plans; he took Ajmal for cleaners and plundered three massive sixes and a boundary to carry Australia to the winning line. It was a nightmarish over for a bowler of Ajmal’s class.

9.  Second-highest in the tournament: Ajmal was the joint highest wicket-taker in the 2009 World T20 which Pakistan won. He clinched 12 wickets in seven outings at an average of 13.58 and an effective economy of 5.82.

10.  Adelaide strikers: Ajmal was very effective in the shorter formats of the game for the canny variations he possessed. He was a difficult customer to get away with and for this quality of his he was signed by Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League (BBL) in November 2012.

11.  Highest wicket taker in T20Is: Ajmal till date has the highest number of Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) wickets in his kitty with 85 scalps to his name in 64 outings.

12.  MCC side: Ajmal represented the esteemed MCC side in the ‘Bicentenary Celebration’ match at Lord’s in July, 2014.

13.  Reported again: Ajmal again found himself in the middle of controversy when he was reported for suspect action after the first Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Galle in August 2014.

14.  Banned: After a biomechanical analysis of Ajmal’s bowling action, the ICC banned him from bowling on September 9, 2014 as his bowling action exceeded the 15 degrees line.

15.  Terrible Comeback: Ajmal was a fighter and after a few ups and downs he finally reworked his action and got it corrected. He made a comeback to international cricket in an ODI match against Bangladesh on April 17, 2015. His comeback didn’t turn out to be fruitful as he recorded career worst ODI figures where he bowled 10 overs and leaked 72 runs without claiming a wicket.

16.  Worked with Saqlain Mushtaq: Ajmal also worked with Pakistani spin legend Saqlain Mushtaq in a bid to renovate his action and correct it.

17.  Pulled out of the World Cup: After the resurrection of his action, the effectiveness was found to be wanting. Ajmal was no more feared with the ball in hand and looked bereft of oomph. He was named in the 30-member provisional squad of Pakistan for the 2015 World Cup. In December 2014 he withdrew his name from the list after his reconstructed action needed further consideration.

18.  Sitara-e-Imtiaz: In March 2015, Ajmal found himself in the limelight when he was awarded the prestigious Sitara-e-Imtiaz award which is also the third highest civilian award in Pakistan for his outstanding services in cricket.

(Suraj Choudhari, an avid cricket follower who plays the sport at club level, is a staffer with Criclife)