Saeed Ajmal's case highlights ICC's new tough avatar

First cricketer that comes to mind when we talk about chucking is the legendary Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who remained in news throughout his career, either for his superlative performances with the ball or for his controversial bowling action.

In fact, few ICC umpires and former cricketers still criticize the Sri Lankan for his suspect action. One among them is former Indian skipper Bishan Singh Bedi, who is quite outspoken. Murali’s long time critic Bedi, once called the spinner a ‘shotputter’ and even compared his action with a Javelin thrower. Bedi, often criticized the ICC too, for bending its rules to give the offie the license to continue representing his country, all these years.

Very much like Murali, who holds the record of 800 Test scalps, Pakistan’s prime spinner Saeed Ajmal too was suspected for his bowling action by the ICC during his formative years at international circuit. The latter was reported for his 'doosra' at that time but eventually came out clean.

But in August 2014, Pakistan off-spinner Ajmal's action came under scanner after the first Test match against Sri Lanka in Galle. His action was found to be illegal by ICC's accredited team of Human Movement Specialists at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane and he was suspended from international cricket with immediate effect.

It’s certainly a big blow for Pakistan, who must have been making their bowling strategies around their most reliable bowler, Ajmal, for the ICC World Cup 2015, which is just five months away.

Off-spinners under ICC radar

Saeed Ajmal is not the only bowler in the recent past, who has been suspected for chucking or throwing the ball. In fact, Ajmal was the fifth bowler to be reported for a suspect action in the last 10 months. Interestingly, each one of them is an off-spinner. First two to come under the ICC's net were Shane Shillingford and Marlon Samuels – both from West Indies. Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson followed them before Ajmal being booked for the same offence. And the list continues to grow, as after Ajmal, Zimbabwe off-spinner Prosper Utseya and Bangladesh speedster Sohag Gazi were the latest to face the heat from the ICC.

Is the batsman’s game getting a bit harsh on bowlers, especially spinners or for that matter off-spinners? It’s a debate which is yet to catch fire.

Saeed Ajmal running against time

Faisalabad born Ajmal's suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time, for the bowler himself as well as for Pakistan. According to the ICC rules, bowlers can bend their arms by up to 15 degrees. But anyone suspected of going further than the permitted angle, can be sent to Australia for testing. For Ajmal things are more complicated because the report reveals that all his deliveries exceeded the 15 degrees by which the arm is allowed to bend. And this is something serious, especially for a match-winning bowler of a country, that too months before the World Cup.

In fact, the chucking row can prove to be career threatening for the right-arm bowler, who is known to have a happy-go-lucky personality in the dressing room. And the major reason behind it is, he is on the wrong side of 30s. The PCB had an option to appeal against the decision of the ICC. But it decided not to exercise it's right by going ahead with the appeal as PCB was aware if Ajmal's action was found to be illegal for the second time, he might have to face a ban for a year or so, which could possibly be the end of the road of his cricketing career.

This is a tough phase for the bowler and for Pakistan, a country that is known to produce some world-class spinners -- Saqlain Mushtaq, Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed to name a few.

Though, Ajmal looks quite confident of making a comeback in International cricket soon, the road is not looking smooth for him at least for the time being.

Chucking not new among Pakistan bowlers

It’s not the first time a Pakistan bowler has been suspected for chucking. Earlier, Ajmal’s current team mates like Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik too were suspected for their bowling actions. Temperamental speedster from Rawalpindi, Shoaib Akhtar, too came under scrutiny for his controversial bowling action.

Now PCB has roped in former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq for helping the suspended Pakistan offie to undergo corrective measures in his illegal bowling action. So it would be interesting to see how long Mushtaq will take to fix Ajmal's problem, as time is major issue for the ageing Ajmal.

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