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PCB wants Saeed Ajmal to play domestic cricket and be ready for WC

Karachi: The chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Shaharyar Khan wants off-spinner Saeed Ajmal to play some domestic cricket before he could be considered for national selection with his modified bowling action after being cleared by the International Cricket Council.

Even as the PCB appears to be less confident in Ajmal's ability to deliver with his new action, they are others in Pakistani cricket quarters who feel that the selectors should take a gamble with the wily spinner for the World Cup.

Khan, soon after the ICC announced Ajmal had passed his official bowling assessment in Chennai yesterday, said that the off-spinner still had some work to do before he could be considered for national selection.

"I think it is in his best interest that he first plays some domestic and club cricket, tests out the effectiveness of his new action and then decides himself when it is the best time for his comeback," Khan told PTI today.

He, however, admitted that the board had at one stage considered Ajmal as a replacement for the injured Junaid Khan for the World Cup, but the team management felt it would be too early for the spinner to make a comeback to international cricket.

"Yes we had discussed this proposal with the team management as Ajmal's report was due but the team management declined the offer, saying it needs a pacer to replace a pacer (Junaid), and so Rahat Ali was selected," the PCB chief said.

"The team management has to get the best out of the players on the field and they are on the spot, so we have to give value to their decisions," Shaharyar said.

Interestingly, Ajmal himself told reporters in Lahore yesterday that he was targetting a return in April-May when the national team tours Bangladesh, but had added if an emergency arose he was ready to play in the World Cup as he knew his modified action was also effective.

Former PCB chief Ijaz Butt disagreed with the viewpoint of Shaharyar and the team management.

"If you look at the form of the available bowlers in Australia it is worthwhile taking a gamble on Ajmal as he is a proven performer and you never know he could surprise everyone with his new action," Butt said.

"If he has been cleared by the ICC to bowl again in international cricket he should be a strong choice instead of banking on out of form bowlers," he added.

Butt said he was concerned about the spate of fitness issues facing by the team in Australia and said there was no logic behind the team management not playing pacers, Sohail Khan and Wahab Riaz in the one-day series against New Zealand.

"They are different reports coming from Australia about fitness issues and that is worrying me. I would advise the PCB to immediately ask Ajmal to start playing club matches to be mentally prepared for a call even now," the former Test player said.

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