Once a match-winner for Pakistan, Saeed Ajmal on Monday (November 13) announced that he would be retiring from all cricket at the end of the ongoing National Twenty20 tournament in Rawalpindi, two years after a remodelled bowling action rendered his offspin ineffective.
Ajmal, who turned 40 last month, was left frustrated after his action was deemed illegal in 2014. Despite an intense corrective programme, assited by Saqlain Mushtaq, he lost his wicket-taking ability.
“This national event is my last tournament and I don’t want to be a burden on any team,” said Ajmal during a match on Monday. “I am highly satisfied with my career although the last two years were frustrating. The process of dealing with bowlers of illegal action seemed to be only for me and (Mohammad) Hafeez because there are a number of bowlers who are still playing with faulty actions.
“But before anyone can raise a finger against my selection (in domestic matches), I want to leave and that’s my final decision.”
Ajmal played two One-Day Internationals in Bangladesh soon after the 2015 World Cup with his reworked action, but was unimpressive with figures of 0 for 74 and 1 for 49. His last game for Pakistan was a T20 International in Dhaka on the same tour, where he finished with 0 for 25 in 3.2 overs.
He was not selected again after the tour, which left him frustrated as he criticised the Pakistan Cricket Board for not giving him a chance to represent the country again.
“I have forgiven everyone, from Michael Vaughan and Stuart Broad because they were the ones who hurt me with their comments in 2014,” said Ajmal. “I am thankful to all my fellow players, mostly to Misbah-ul-Haq for his confidence in me, and all my friends and family.”
He led his hometown Faisalabad in the recently concluded Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, where he took 16 wickets at 31.06 in six games. But those efforts went in vain as his team was relegated to Division 2.
Despite questions over the legality of his action for a large part of his career, Ajmal enjoyed a successful run at the international level, helping Pakistan become near invincible in the United Arab Emirates.
Ajmal famously took 24 wickets to help Pakistan whitewash England, the then world No. 1 side, in the UAE in 2012. In all, he picked up 178 wickets in 35 Tests. In 113 ODIs, he got 184 wickets, while 64 T20Is fetched him 85 wickets.
The offspinner took 2 for 44 in the 2011 World Cup semifinal against India in Mohali, including the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar. Earlier in that innings, he had a lbw decision against the master Indian batsman bafflingly overturned on review. Ajmal said his duels with Tendulkar were his most cherished memories.
“Sachin was great and bowling against him was a big challenge and I enjoyed that,” he said. “The best was the World Cup semifinal and I still can’t believe why he was given not out early in his innings.”
Tendulkar went on to score 85 in 115 balls then as India put up 260 for 9 before bowling Pakistan out for 231 and then going on to win the tournament by beating Sri Lanka in the final.