FAISALABAD: Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal announced Thursday that he is setting up a cricket academy to find new talent and produce bowlers like himself to torment the world's best batsmen.
The 35-year-old is regarded as the best spinner in all three formats of the game, and was instrumental in Pakistan's rout of the world's then best Test team England in the United Arab Emirates last year.
He said the Saeed Ajmal International Cricket Academy, in the eastern Pakistani city of Faisalabad, will be free of charge to budding cricketers.
“I want to groom the enormous talent in the country and no fee will be charged in my academy because I don't want the players to suffer the ordeal I did in coming to this stage,” Ajmal said at the launch.
The academy, spread over eight acres (3.2 hectares) at Faisalabad's Agriculture University, will cost around 70 million rupees ($720,000) to set up, with an initial 30 million rupees provided by Ajmal himself.
The Pakistan government has also donated 10 million rupees.
“I am thankful to the prime minister for his financial help and hope that the government and affluent people of the country will help me more,” Ajmal said.
“I will also go house-to-house for donations.”
Ajmal has so far taken 122 Test and 117 one-day wickets, and is also the highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 cricket with 71.
Pakistan is rich in natural cricketing talent but hundreds of young people fail to make the grade due to lack of facilities in a country marred by poor governance and Islamist militant attacks.
The Pakistan Cricket Board lauched its own cricket academy in 2000 in the eastern city of Lahore and also has regional academies in the cities of Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar.