PCB in talks with Saqlain to help Ajmal

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Former Pakistan offspinner Saqlain Mushtaq has said he is in talks with the PCB to help Saeed Ajmal remedy his bowling action though an arrangement is yet to be finalised. While the delivery of the doosra has come under increasing scrutiny in recent times, Saqlain, one of the pioneers of the delivery, said it was possible to bowl it with a clean action.

“It is a matter of concern,” Saqlain told ESPN Cricnfo, that all of Ajmal’s deliveries were found to be illegal. “I got a call from the PCB on Tuesday. We are talking but I haven’t yet committed. They have given me short notice. They asked me if I would help Ajmal. I would love to. I said definitely, but we are trying to see if the dates can be worked out. I am hopeful.”

Saqlain said he had not been paying close attention to Ajmal’s action in the recent past. The last time he saw Ajmal bowl live was at Lord’s in July, when the MCC played Rest of the World.Saeed Ajmal’s facing the toughest test of his career.

“I thought he must be bowling legal deliveries so I was focusing on his tactical aspects: how he is setting his field, which ball he would deliver next, how he would trap the batsman,” Saqlain, who was on commentary for the game, said. “In that match I was speaking on those lines.”

Saqlain said he had not worked with Ajmal previously, apart from an informal chat during Pakistan’s tour of England in 2010, when they discussed a variation that did not concern Ajmal’s stock ball or doosra.

Several concerns have been raised over whether the doosra can be bowled with a clean action, and Saqlain said it could be delivered within the ICC’s 15-degree limit for straightening of the elbow. “Of course, it can be bowled within the rules,” he said.

A spinner begins to face technical issues, according to Saqlain, if his muscles have not developed properly. “You have to work on four important things: endurance, strength and power, flexibility, and finally quickness or speed,” he said. “These are the things to be sorted out first, even before we arrive at the bowler’s action, run-up, loading and follow-through.”

When asked if Ajmal’s workload could have contributed to the deterioration of his action, Saqlain said it could be a factor. “If you tire yourself too much, it might affect your strength and power, it might affect your flexibility, it could reduce your bowling speed. So over-working or bowling wrong, or not working at all, depends on the four aspects I mentioned above.”

Despite Ajmal’s age – he’s 36 – Saqlain said he could bounce back through hard work, but making the World Cup depended on how willing Ajmal was. “It depends on the individual. It depends on how much effort he puts in, how early his muscles respond to his routines and how he adjusts to the remodeled action.” Saqlain said he had two 16-year olds with suspect actions but they started bowling legally again after four months of work.

The PCB remained positive about Ajmal. Its illegal bowling committee understands Ajmal’s action needs significant remedial work and a decision on the next course of action, including the possibility of bringing in Saqlain, is likely to be taken by the end of this week.

“We can’t just fight with the scientific evidence,” a PCB official told ESPN cricinfo. “He is on the wrong side of 30 but he has done enough in terms of rehabilitating Pakistan’s image in last four years. His services are significant so we are putting every effort to help him out. At the moment we have called Saqlain and are working out an arrangement to get him here as soon as possible.”

Ajmal had his action tested at an ICC-accredited facility at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. He was reported by on-field umpires Ian Gould and Bruce Oxenford after the first Test of Pakistan’s tour of Sri Lanka in Galle this August.