DUBAI - Ace spinner Saeed Ajmal is in Pakistan's 30-man preliminary squad for next year's World Cup, despite serving a suspension at the moment for an illegal bowling action. The 37-year-old off-spinner is undergoing remedial work on his bowling action which was deemed illegal in September this year. His action was reported as suspect during the Galle Test against Sri Lanka in August.

Ranked as number one bowler in the world in one-day cricket in August, Ajmal's suspension was a huge blow to Pakistan's hopes of lifting the World Cup, being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand and being held in February and March. However, chief selector Moin Khan hoped Ajmal will be cleared. "We have included Ajmal in a hope that he will be cleared," Khan told AFP. "We have been monitoring him during his remedial work."

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) earlier this week requested the International Cricket Council (ICC) to have Ajmal's action reassessed but seemed to have backed out of the plan after unofficial tests on the off-spinner showed little improvement. Under the ICC rules a bowler is allowed to flex his elbow by 15 degrees but Ajmal's action showed his goes to 43 degrees. Misbah-ul-Haq has already been named as captain of the squad, which has to be trimmed to 15 by the stipulated January 7 deadline.

The 30-man squad also includes another players whose bowling action has been referred for assessment, all-rounder M Hafeez. A report on his bio-mechanical analysis is likely to come next week and if Hafeez is also suspended Pakistan's bowling attack will be weakened further.

Misbah-ul Haq admitted Ajmal's suspension was a huge blow. "Ajmal has been our trump card for the last five six years and his suspension is a big jolt for us," said Misbah on Saturday. "I am praying that he is cleared before the World Cup." The ICC World Cup commences in Australia and New Zealand on February 14, with Pakistan facing arch-rival India in their first Group B game a day later at Adelaide.

Khan said Pakistan's final squad will take shape after the five-match one-day series against New Zealand starting in Dubai on Monday. "In our assessment, by the time the five 50-over games against the Black Caps and the short away series in New Zealand as well as the practice games are over in the next two months Pakistan will be close to hitting its peak," said Khan, a member of Pakistan's only World Cup winning team in 1992 in Australia. The preliminary squad also includes former captain Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal who have not played for Pakistan for over a year.

SQUAD: M Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Sharjeel Khan, Sami Aslam, Misbah-ul Haq (capt), Younus Khan, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Sohaib Maqsood, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, M Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Ehsan Adil, M Talha, Saeed Ajmal, Zulfiqar Babar, Raza Hasan, Yasir Shah, Shahid Afridi, Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti, Sohail Tanvir, Sarfraz Ahmad, Kamran Akmal.