KARACHI

Top-ranked Pakistani off-spinner Saeed Ajmal was Tuesday suspended indefinitely from international cricket for an illegal bowling action but vowed to return in time for next year's World Cup. The world's leading one-day international bowler blamed the International Cricket Council (ICC) ruling on his "not usual" right elbow and said he would appeal. Ajmal, speaking to reporters in his home city of Faisalabad shortly after the announcement, shrugged off the ICC announcement as "not an issue." But the ban could cause serious problems for Pakistan, firstly in their upcoming series with Australia and also in the World Cup, which they won in 1992.

It comes as part of an ICC crackdown on illegal bowling actions -- where the arm is bent more than 15 degrees -- in international cricket. "My elbow is not usual, so that's why it seems that I bend it more than normal 15 degree allowed," said Ajmal, who was cleared on medical grounds when his action was first reported in 2009. "We will go into appeal soon... I will be in action in the World Cup next year, that's my resolve," he added -- though the Pakistan Cricket Board later said it has yet to decide whether to appeal.

The ICC said Ajmal, 36, had been suspended with immediate effect following tests by specialists at Australia's National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. Ajmal was reported for a suspect action after last month's first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle. He can apply for a reassessment once he has modified his action. "The analysis revealed that all his deliveries exceeded the 15 degrees level of tolerance permitted under the regulations," the ICC said in a statement.

Ajmal is Pakistan's key bowler, with 178 wickets in 35 Tests and 183 in 111 ODIs. He is also the leading wicket-taker in all Twenty20 matches with 85 in 63 matches. He is ranked number one in ODIs.  Ajmal will require to undergo remedial work on his bowling action at Perth's University of Western Australia, where human movement expert Daryl Foster will work on his action.

The ICC said Ajmal can be tested again once the remedial work report is satisfactory. Even if he is cleared, he faces a ban of 12 months if he is reported again within two years. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said it was a "big jolt" to lose a player with a total of more than 350 Test and one-day wickets. Under the ICC rules a suspended bowler can appeal within 15 days but can risk a ban of six to 12 months in case the appeal is turned down.

Hours after the PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said the board would appeal the ban on Saeed Ajmal to an ICC-appointed Bowling Review Group (BRG), the PCB has backtracked from that position and said it was "contemplating its future course of action and weighing all options." "The PCB has referred the matter to its recently-formed Illegal Bowling Action Committee, which will consider the matter and revert with their views and/or recommendations and the Board shall thereafter decide what action to take", Shaharyar said in a PCB statement.

The ICC rules allow PCB 14-day period to go into appeal. The PCB's five-member illegal bowling review committee consists of M Akram, Mushtaq Ahmed, Ali Zia, Aleem Dar (in case he is on the ICC duty, Ahsan Raza) and Dr Sohail Saleem.

Ajmal became the seventh Pakistani to be reported for a suspect action, joining Shabbir Ahmed, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Riaz Afridi and Shoaib Malik. The West Indies' Shane Shillingford was also banned for a year after his action was reported twice in 2013. The ICC has recently come down hard on suspect actions after its cricket committee decided no bowler should be allowed to play at international level without remedial work. In July this year Sri Lanka's Sachitra Senanayake and New Zealand's Kane Williamson were also reported and subsequently banned until they improved their action. Zimbabwe's Prosper Utseya and Bangladesh's Sohag Gazi were also reported for suspect action last month. All the bowlers reported this year have been off-spinners. Ajmal, who turns 37 next month, started his career as late as 2008 after being spotted in Pakistani domestic cricket. His action was first reported in 2009 over his "doosra," an off-spinner's stock delivery which turns away from the batsman. In 2012, after taking 24 wickets as Pakistan thrashed England 3-0, Ajmal caused uproar by saying the ICC had given his action special dispensation -- a claim denied by the world governing body.

Pakistan have summoned off-spinner Atif Maqbool, a prolific wicket-taker at domestic level, as a replacement for Ajmal.

Twitter reaction

Kevin Pietersen (@KP24)

Wow - Ajmal banned! Never nice to see fellow professionals going through a tough time...hopefully he's back soon!

Saqlain Mushtaq (@Saqlain_Mushtaq)

I will help and support saeed ajmal to the best of my ability if required

Dean Jones (@ProfDeano)

Make no mistake that bowling a Doosra and reverse swing are brilliant skills.. Do we want the Doosra banned?

UmarGul (@mdk_gul)

Wish @REALsaeedajmal can modify his bowling action n get back with a bang.biggest asset of Pakistan cricke.all prayers wd him.

Dav Whatmore (@dfwhatmore)

Sad to hear of Ajmal's ban... I can possibly understand the doosra but offbreaks? I hope he can correct his actions in time for CWC'15

What they say

Rashid Latif

The sad part is that we haven't tried any other specialist offspinner in international matches and now our World Cup plans are severely dented," Latif told The Associated Press. "The (Pakistan) bowling is finished without Ajmal. I had doubts for the last few months; because the way he bowls it's hard to get away with it in Test matches.

Andrew Strauss

Mystery spinners are brilliant for the game but if you were (an orthodox offspinner) like Graeme Swann, you might say: 'Hold on. They (the mystery spinners) are getting an advantage'. The authorities can't go carte blanche, because then you will get bowlers throwing the ball. There has to be a cut-off point somewhere. It's a thorny issue. When it becomes obvious someone is throwing it, there has to be a cut-off point.

Moin Khan

We have time before the World Cup, so Saeed can sort out his bowling action issues but we have also already called up two or three promising spinners to the National Cricket Academy to have a look at them. We need to find a replacement for Saeed until he is cleared to bowl again because we have a tough series against Australia coming up. Saeed is a strong character and I am sure he will work hard to be ready for the World Cup.

Shoaib Akhtar

I would advise Saeed to legally challenge not only the ban but the entire protocol and method being used by the ICC to test bowlers. I don't know how much the PCB is going to support Saeed on this issue but to me the best option for him is to take the ICC to court. The way I look at it he has to fight this case himself if he wants to play in international cricket again.

Waqar Younis

It's unfortunate and the timing is sad. Ajmal is mentally very strong and I am sure he will come back after correcting his action.

Abdul Qadir

“The ICC is biased towards Pakistani players. All its rules and penalties are only for our players. Honestly even when he was playing in recent times the team and our bowling has struggled so I don’t see this as a big big setback. Whenever something like this happens, our players are targeted. When we mastered the art of reverse swing they said it is cheating now everybody is doing it.