Worcestershire’s bowling coach Matt Mason issued a warning to batsmen around the world, proclaiming that spin wizard Saeed Ajmal was back to his best with a remodelled action.
Ajmal returned figures of 8/100 in Worcestershire’s innings defeat of Hampshire on Thursday, picking up his first five-wicket haul since returning to competitive cricket with a new bowling action in February this year.
Mason, who himself played 98 First-class matches for the county, said Ajmal’s match-winning performance for Worcestershire was a testament to the hard work the Pakistan ace had put in and should bring him under the national selectors’ radar.
“Credit to Saeed. Not only did he remodel his action, he found out new ways of getting people out,” Mason said.
“It must be so tough mentally to go through that but he is such a lovely man, he loves his cricket so much that it never would have stopped him from trying and now he is getting some rewards for all that hard work he has put in.
“He would like to let the people not only in Worcester, but also back in Pakistan cricket know that he is not a spent force in cricket.”
Mason, who picked up 314 wickets for Worcester, said Ajmal had been rushed into the national side a bit too soon and thus a looked a little out of sorts in his comeback.
According to him, Ajmal’s latest performance should restore the selectors’ confidence in the 37-year-old bowler.
“When he returned to their [Pakistan] side, I’m sure it was probably a little bit too soon. He will get great confidence if he keeps bowling like that for us and hopefully the selectors back there are watching for him because I’m sure he still wants to play international cricket.”
Ajmal was banned by the International Cricket Council for a suspect bowling action in August 2014, before being cleared to return in February.
The match against Hampshire was the off-spinner’s fourth First-class match since his return.
Worcester’s Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes said he was ‘comfortable’ with Ajmal’s new action.
“The way that he’s bowling at the moment, is tremendous. His arm is very straight and we are very comfortable where he is at regarding his action,” Rhodes said.
“Now his confidence is growing, hopefully that’s really good signs for the remainder of the season.”
Rhodes said the Pakistan veteran was desperate to prove a point.
“He is desperate to try and prove to people that he can bowl in the manner that took him so many wickets before.”
Ajmal last turned up in Pakistan colours in a Twenty20 match against Bangladesh, finishing with figures of 3.2-25-0.
He also played two ODIs on the Bangladesh tour and had a similarly unimpressive return. His 19.1 overs in the two games cost 123 runs for a solitary wicket.
An international return will be harder now for Ajmal, who has since been replaced by record-breaking leg-spinner Yasir Shah.
Shah picked up a rich haul of 24 wickets from three games in Pakistan’s Test series triumph over Sri Lanka this week.
Published in DAWN on July 10th 2015.