Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal has expressed relief at getting back into the Pakistan set-up for the upcoming Bangladesh series, calling his time out of the game as “torture”. Ajmal, who last played for his country against Sri Lanka in August last year, was banned from bowling in international cricket last September after biomechanical tests showed his elbow to be flexing beyond the permissible 15-degree limit.
Ajmal, much to his and Pakistan’s relief, was cleared to bowl in international cricket once again just before the start of the recently concluded World Cup, after working extensively with Saqlain Mushtaq on remodifying his action. Owing to an injury to Mohammad Hafeez ruling him out of the tournament, the Pakistan selectors could have opted for Ajmal as a replacement player in the 15-man World Cup squad, but he himself decided to stay out as he wasn’t confident enough with his reworked action.
"It was torture living without cricket," Ajmal told reporters. "I have endured eight months of pain and it was the most difficult time of my life."
Was frustrating to watch the World Cup from the sidelines: Ajmal
The 37-year-old watched from afar Pakistan bow out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage to eventual champions Australia, and he said that his frustration only grew as he wasn’t able to help the team progress further in the tournament. Ajmal, with an impressive 183 wickets from 111 ODIs, has been an integral part of the Pakistan side ever since his debut in 2008, and his presence would have perhaps helped them put up a better show.
"I watched the World Cup on television and for 45 days I wanted to enter the television and play alongside my teammates and do my part," he said. "I felt they were missing me as I was always effective in the batting powerplays when I used to pick up wickets and that was missing from our game. I was in regular touch with skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and was always trying to pump him and the other players up through my good wishes, but it was tough to be away from the team."
No dearth of cricketing talent in Pakistan: Ajmal
Post the World Cup, there have been valid concerns raised about the future of Pakistan cricket with a perceptible lack of quality in the batting department, in particular, being a hugely worrisome issue going forward. However, Ajmal insisted that this is just a temporary phase and that there is enough cricketing talent in the country to bounce back strongly.
These are difficult times for Pakistan cricket but I am convinced there is no dearth of talent and in one year's time the team will be settled through concerted efforts and we all will do our best to lift our beloved sport," he concluded.