On the eve of the World Cup, Pakistan’s ‘Magician’, Saeed Ajmal, has been banned from bowling due to an illegal action; his elbow bends more than the permitted 15 degrees when delivering the bowl. While Saeed Ajmal, with his wily skill, held batsmen and audiences spellbound, the only spell that the Pakistan Cricket Board is bound by is a curse of bewilderment and ineptitude. Despite the fact that Ajmal is unrealistically optimistic about working on this action and clearing his name before the World Cup, this is a problem that had been foreseen and could have been easily avoided.
For a moment, let’s leave aside the claims that the rule is arbitrary and archaic - that is an issue for the sport itself - the PCB, knowing that it is bound by these rules should have had contingency plans in place. Saeed Ajmal’s action was under scrutiny in 2009. Although he was cleared then, it should have informed the PCB of something being amiss in his action, which raised doubts in the first place. Once it became clear that the ICC was cracking down on illegal actions and 5 players including Ajmal had been nominated for testing, the board displayed its usual lethargy by doing nothing. No one in the PCB consulted previous national team bowling coach, Mohammad Akram, over this issue. No one tried to work on his action, despite receiving video clips of suspected deliveries. Even if we excuse this massive oversight, one that would have been obvious to anyone even reasonably competent at their job, the failure to plan for the eventuality that Ajmal is banned is even worse. There are no quality replacements, and ‘potential’ reserves are being thought of now, when it may be too late.
The PCB’s job is to protect and promote Pakistani cricket. This is the second high profile cricketer in the news recently. Maybe if Mr Zaka and Mr Sethi hadn’t been busy playing musical chairs with the chairmanship, someone would have done their job.