Pakistan's ace spinner Saeed Ajmal was not picked for the World Cup squad despite being cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC) because of a tussle with a top official of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), a highly-placed source in the board revealed on Monday.
The ICC on Saturday declared the bowling action of spin wizard Ajmal as 'legal', clearing him to bowl again at the international level. Experts believed that the team management had rushed into naming a replacement for the injured Junaid Khan and should have waited until Ajmal's biomechanics test results had been received.
Rahat Ali was picked as Junaid's replacement on February 5, just two days before Ajmal's results had come in but Pakistan had another opportunity to include the off-spinner after Mohammad Hafeez suffered a calf injury on Sunday and was also ruled out of the World Cup. But once again there was no room for Ajmal and Nasir Jamshed was called up.
According to the source in PCB, Ajmal was not being considered because of a fallout with a top official of the board who was now on the Governing Board.
"While it may seem like Ajmal is not being rushed back into action because he is not match fit, the real reason for not including him goes back to August 2014. The incident took place after Pakistan lost the 3rd and deciding ODI of its series against Sri Lanka at Dambulla. A top PCB official stormed into the dressing room and let fly at the team. In response, Ajmal told the official that he had no business being in the dressing room and that is where this drama started," the official, who requested anonymity, told Dawn.com.
The official questioned the logic behind the PCB asking Ajmal to play domestic cricket before he could be considered for the national team, terming it 'an insult to a bowler who is still the number one bowler in the ICC rankings despite not playing since August last year.'
"The PCB has told Ajmal to play domestic cricket before he could be considered for the national team. That is a joke. By that logic Michael Clarke shouldn't be in the Australian team, let alone be captaining it. Clarke played his last ODI in November 2014. Which team would not jump at the opportunity to get their star bowler back and that too for the World Cup!"
The development comes just as news of Shahid Afridi reportedly not being happy about Pakistan's World Cup selection started coming in late on the eve of their warm up match against Bangladesh in Sydney, the first of their two practice games before the clash against defending champions India on Feb 15.
In Dec 2014, chief selector Moin Khan, while announcing Pakistan's World Cup squad said, “We have included Ajmal in a hope that he will be cleared. We have been monitoring him during his remedial work.”
Pakistan captain Misbahul Haq echoed Moin's sentiments.
“Ajmal has been our trump card for the last five six years and his suspension is a big jolt for us. I am praying that he is cleared before the World Cup,” Misbah had said.
According to the Media and Communications Officer of the ICC, Peter Breen, the fact that Ajmal had withdrawn himself from the World Cup squad did not affect anything and he was eligible to be selected by Pakistan in the event of an injury to a player.
"It doesn’t matter that he withdrew before the World Cup. A player can be selected as and when he’s available for selection," Breen told Dawn.com.
It comes as a surprise then that Pakistan have not rushed Ajmal into the World Cup squad, especially considering that the bowling stocks Misbah currently has at his disposal failed to defend 313 and 267 that his side scored against a New Zealand Board President's XI.
Pakistan then conceded 369 against New Zealand in the second ODI of it two-match series against the hosts, exposing a big chink in its bowling armour to go with the batting frailties.
Despite repeated attempts, the PCB was not available for comment.