KARACHI: Spin legend Saeed Ajmal officially announced his retirement from all forms of cricket on Wednesday, bringing down the curtain on a career that saw the highest of highs before ending in relative doldrums due to problems with his bowling actions.
Having been banned in 2014 from bowling in international cricket, Ajmal tried mounting several comebacks but says the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) lukewarm interest in him left him with no option but to end his playing career and embark on a new journey.
“I tried a lot,” he told The Express Tribune. “The PCB helped me somewhere and somewhere they didn’t. If they wanted me to play they could have made it happen. So I decided to retire on a positive note after leading my team Faisalabad in the National T20 Cup.”
Despite a forgettable tail end to his playing career, Ajmal says he is content with what he achieved and now wants to help cultivate young talent with his expertise.
“I played enough and achieved even more than I had expected at the start of my career,” he said. “I am thankful to all the fans, friends and coaches who helped me achieve what I did in my nine years of international cricket and now I plan on using my experience to make more brilliant off-spinners for Pakistan.”
While that remains a long-term plan, Ajmal says his immediate task is to develop a bio-mechanics lab at his academy and help those who have problems in their bowling actions — a problem he knows a thing or two about.
“I will be setting up a lab at my academy in Faisalabad and want to help those who have been out for suspected bowling action,” he said. “PCB doesn’t do much in this regard, like they didn’t for me, so I want to give hope to players and tell them that they can come back.”
Ajmal, who has been appointed the bowling coach of PSL franchise Islamabad United, continued: “I also want to help up and coming off-spinners and even others who want to correct their actions. I am in talks with an English coach who has worked with the ICC. I want him to work here with banned players in Pakistan so they can be available for Pakistan team again.”
Unlike most others, Ajmal was a notable late bloomer, starting his career in 1991 but making his Pakistan debut at the ripe old age of 31 against India — a career route he had never even envisaged himself.
“When I began playing cricket in 1991 I had never thought I will be representing Pakistan one day,” he said. “I just had the passion to play cricket like every other youngster has in Pakistan. But after performing in domestic cricket gradually, I realised that I have a decent chance of representing the national team. And, of course, playing against India was a dream debut.”
While he may have been a late entrant to international arena, his age became a nonfactor as he quickly bamboozled batsmen after batsman, soon becoming the quickest Pakistani to 100 career Test wickets in just his 20th match.
Such an unexpected ascent surprised Ajmal himself who admitted: “I never in my wildest dreams had thought that after making my debut so late I will be able to take so many wickets. Nut it was my hard work that helped me gain what I did. Me being the only cricketer in my family probably motivated me to do more and more.”
The highest point of Ajmal’s career came in 2011 when he became the number one ODI bowler in ICC rankings. Reflecting back, he says that feat was made possible by his insatiable desire to better his personal bests.
“I just wanted to do well for the team and just do better and better,” he recalled. “When I achieved the milestone of taking 100 wickets in 20 matches, I could’ve relaxed but I didn’t. I wanted more and more.”