Since the retirement of Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, cricket has missed a genuine spinner. The two legends were match-winners for their respective teams and the ball obeyed whatever they wanted to do with it. While the art of traditional spin is getting extinct, there is one man who is adamant to show what it can do to the best of batsmen in the world – Saeed Ajmal.
Pakistan was in a critical state on day three of the ongoing second Test. They were once struggling at 33/4 after which Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq stitched a 219- run partnership for the fifth wicket before they both were dismissed for 111 (and you thought Nelson was just a part of history). At 268/8, one could sense it was time for Proteas’ fearsome pace attack to wrap up the innings. But that was not the case as a coolheaded Saeed Ajmal was involved in two crucial partnerships and Pakistan added 70 more runs.
The best of the batsmen get nervous and are found short of breath while facing the world class pace attack of South Africa comprising Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel. The nervousness is because inspite of all that protection, one bouncer from any of these could spoil their day. But as a cricket fan, it was a delight to see Ajmal’s approach when he came to bat. He might not be confident within, but one cannot judge that from the wide smile on his face. With the body language of a top order batsman, he will keep going to his partner at the other end probably to say, “You can play your game. I won’t be out.” He smiles, and then contributes some valuable runs.
The more time he spends on the crease, the more he upsets the opposition who know that this is the man who will trouble them the moment he gets the rock in his hand. That’s exactly what Ajmal did on the third day of the second Test as he first scored an unbeaten 21 followed by a magical spell of spin bowling!
The batsmen are yet to get accustomed to his doosra. The best part of his bowling is that on most of the occasions, when a batsman is expecting a doosra, it is a top spinner. And when they expect the ball to drift into their body, it happens to be one. Thus Ajmal has this unique way of delivering his lethal weapon when it is expected the least. Batsmen often try to charge down the wicket to disrupt a bowler’s rhythm. Not against Ajmal.
You could be a cricket fan from India, Australia, South Africa or Sri Lanka, but inspite of the love for your own country, you can’t stop praising Saeed Ajmal. The game of cricket is dominated by batsmen. But when Ajmal bowls, one cannot stop but praise the way he traps the best of batsmen into his spin web.
The impact of his performance is evident from the fact that in 2012, Ajmal picked 129 wickets from 25 matches (comprising Tests, ODIs and T20Is). If Pakistani players are allowed to play in the Indian Premier League, undoubtedly the franchises will leave no stone unturned in order to get Ajmal into their side at a record price.
A cricketer would lie if he says he doesn’t want recognition. They put in years of practice, and thus the effort needs to be rewarded at some stage by the concerned authority. For reasons unknown, the ICC didn’t even elect Ajmal for the nominations in their Cricketer of the Year category in 2012 where the off-spinner was at his peak.
Ajmal has started 2013 in a decent manner. If he continues to bowl such marvelous spells and is snubbed by the ICC once again, these awards would lose relevance for sure.