Life is cruel. It showers you with a lot of splendour after a long period of hard work and dedication but takes back everything in no time. Something similar happened with Pakistani spin wizard Saeed Ajmal. ‘Jadugar Ajmal’, who once was the main man of Pakistan’s bowling line-up, has announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket.
Whenever I think about Saeed Ajmal, a flashback starts playing in my mind. Pakistan was facing Australia in World T20 2014 group stage match. Albeit the fixture was of the group stage, it was a do or die situation for Pakistan. After setting a mammoth 192-run target against Aussies, Pakistan was favourite to win the game but the ballistic innings of 74 runs off just 33 balls from Glenn Maxwell changed the course of the game for Aussies. Maxwell’s innings was just one highlight of the game but it was Ajmal’s genius which rose Pakistan from the ashes. Australia needed 31 runs in 3 overs with 5 wickets in hand. Aaron Finch (65*) along with Brad Haddin were on the 22 yards. At that stage of the game, Australia was all set to win before the then-Pakistani captain Muhammad Hafeez gave the ball to his main man, Saeed Ajmal. Off-spinner conceded only one run in the 18th crucial over of the game and took the wicket of well-set batsman Finch paving way for Pakistan to victory. As a result of magical over from Ajmal, Pakistan won the game by 16 runs and qualified for the semi-final.
Saeed Ajmal’s contribution for Pakistan is not just limited to just one match; he has won countless matches for Pakistan by his magical variations in spin bowling.
Summer of 2010 in England began with a great hope for Pakistan as the Green Team was looking to make their mark in Test cricket once again under the leadership of young captain Salman Butt. With lethal bowlers like Muhammad Amir, Muhammad Asif and Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan had everything in place for the test series against England. Unfortunately, things could not turn out the way they were expected as Pakistani star seamers Amir, Asif along with skipper Salman Butt were found involved in spot-fixing scandal.
After the horrific spot-fixing incident that put tattered Pakistan’s reputation in the cricketing world, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) made Misbah ul Haq the test captain. Faced with dire circumstances with no cricket at home and a badly tarnished image of the spot-fixing scandal, it was Misbah’s cool mindedness and maturity along with Younis Khan and Saeed Ajmal that eventually brought back Pakistan cricket from dark ages.
Under Misbah’s captaincy, we witnessed the rise of Pakistan’s Test side. Saeed Ajmal, as the senior most bowler, was a significant contributor to Pakistan’s success. He fought many battles with his captain to take the jolting Pakistani side to success.
It is no surprise that Saeed Ajmal became the quickest Pakistani to take 100 wickets. It took him only 19 matches to reach this milestone. From November 2011 to December 2014, he was ranked as the number one bowler in One Day Internationals (ODI).
Ajmal got what he wanted after a long period of hard work and dedication but every rise has a fall. The thing about Ajmal is his fall came so early when ICC banned the magician from bowling in international cricket after his bowling action was reported in August 2014. On September 9, 2014, Ajmal was banned from bowling by ICC but he was a fighter. He went to work immediately. With PCB’s support and his will to fight, he remodeled his bowling action and cleared ICC’s bowling test in a hope to play for Pakistan again.
But his return to international cricket did not go as he expected. He went for 74 runs in his 10 overs – worst of Ajmal’s figures.
After Ajmal’s performance against Bangladesh, PCB realized that the magic has gone from the magician. He was no longer effective with his new action so they decided so end Ajmal’s career. The tour against Bangladesh was to be his last one.
He wanted to play for Pakistan one last time and for that purpose, he went back to domestic cricket unlike other renowned Pakistan starts but could not do what he used to do in his prime. Yes, the old Ajmal was gone. Saeed Ajmal, who was used to be the doyen of Pakistan cricket, has now disappeared from the elite class of cricket world. He took nine wickets in 10 matches of two editions of PSL but a cricket follower who followed Saeed Ajmal closely knows that this is not what their hero is capable of.
Cruelty is; after Saeed Ajmal was dropped from ODI side following his disastrous comeback, no one from media and from cricket community spoke in favor of him. When all the headlines were about Afridi and Misbah’s farewell, people forgot a magician who won them countless battles.
With Saeed Ajmal’s new role in Islamabad United (ISLU), Ajmal has now realized that his international cricketing career is over and announced retirement from all forms of international cricket. He will now coach ISLU side in PSL. Upcoming PSL’s playoffs will be played in Pakistan and it is highly likely that ISLU will place themselves in top four of the group and it will be the time for PCB to give farewell to Saeed Ajmal in front of his home crowd.