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07 December 2023

Ajmal ready to play in World Cup if Pakistan needs him

Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal has been cleared by the ICC just before the World Cup. (AP)

By Agencies

Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal said he was ready to play in the World "if the country needs me" after his bowling action was cleared by the International Cricket Council on Saturday.

It has paved the way for him to make an immediate return to international cricket.

There is a clamour for his recall after Pakistan lost opener Mohammad Hafeez through injury.

Nasir Jamshed has been approved as a replacement for Hafeez by the Event Technical Committee of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

Nasir, the 25-year-old left-handed opener, has played 45 ODIs for Pakistan in which he has scored 1,413 runs with three centuries and eight half-centuries. His last ODI was against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi in December 2014.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq said Sunday he was unsure whether  Ajmal would participate in the World Cup after the off-spinner's bowling action was cleared.

The 37-year-old had  originally withdrawn from the World Cup, which begins on Saturday, after he failed to correct his action in time for the 15-man squad announcement last month.

Ajmal was reported during the Galle Test in Sri Lanka in August last year and he was subsequently suspended by the governing body ICC from bowling at international level after his action was assessed a month later.

His withdrawal left Pakistan's World Cup plans in tatters as they lost four one-day matches - two warm-up and two one-day internationals - in New Zealand.

Ajmal was on Saturday cleared by the ICC (International Cricket Council) to play again, sparking talk of a surprise call-up for the World Cup.

When questioned about his availability for the World Cup, Ajmal told PakPassion.net: "If my country needs me, then I will play in the World Cup. If I am not required, then I will watch the matches on television and wish the team all the best and hope they can lift the trophy."

"I was confident that I would pass the official test this time around. You can never be complacent but I just felt good during the test and very happy with how it went," he told  PakPassion.net.

"My aim is to carry on bowling without any fear of being called for an illegal action and to focus on being the number one bowler in the world."

When asked about his effectiveness as a bowler after the changes to his action, Ajmal replied: "I actually think I can be even more effective now as a bowler as I have added a couple of new deliveries to my repertoire which are the carrom ball and a seam-up delivery, without losing any of my existing deliveries."

"You never know, there are a lot of ifs and buts," Misbah told a press conference when asked of Ajmal's chances of appearing in the showpiece event.

"The main concern is that he hasn't played any cricket yet, let's see how it goes in the next week because the team is already announced and everybody is here so I can't just say anything about that," he added.

Ajmal played two unofficial one-day matches for Pakistan's second string against Kenya in Lahore in December, bowling only 12.1 overs.

Misbah said that Ajmal himself had doubts whether he would be ready to play.

"I can say he is not sure about that because you need some cricket behind you before such a big event," said Misbah.

Pakistani media have reported that the team's management were not in favour of reinstating Ajmal, and the rules state a player can only be added when injury rules out a member of the original squad.

Misbah admitted his team's poor form was a concern, having lost three one-day series last year and going down 2-0 against New Zealand this month.

"I think we are not having good times in the ODIs... but I think this team is capable of turning that around.

"I am excited about this team. This is a bunch of youngsters and a few senior and we are a team which can surprise anybody at any stage.

"I am really hopeful that we are going to improve our performance but we can do that in the World Cup."

Pakistan open their campaign against arch-rivals and defending champions India in Adelaide on February 15, a day after the tournament begins in Australia and New Zealand.

Misbah said loss of key paceman Junaid Khan to injury was another setback.

"Definitely, Junaid's loss is  a big blow," said Misbah. Junaid failed to recover from a leg injury and was replaced by Rahat Ali last week.

"Junaid had been our key bowler, especially in the one-days and it's big blow to lose our best bowler but other bowlers need to stand up and play to their best.

"We need a big effort from all the players. As sportsmen we need to be hopeful. We know that it's the ODIs and whenever you try to do your best and get the momentum you have chances against any side."