There was something bitter in the water in 1947 when Pakistan was created; a taste that lingered for decades to come, making it impossible for the people of this proud nation to celebrate one of their own. There is an inherent sadist in those who bleed green where victories are questioned and the downfall of a hero is pure carnage. Saeed Ajmal is learning the hard way that in the world of Pakistan cricket, the higher you rise, the farther you fall.
You know a spinner is successful when his bowling action is brought into question. Queries arise, articles are written, accusations are thrown around and more often than not it is all a result of simply being unplayable. Saeed Ajmal is one such bowler. Nicknamed “the magician”, this master class has managed to mesmerize some of the best oppositions of the world, singlehandedly ripping through their batting line up. Known for his comedic English one-liners and his lethal “doosra”, Ajmal brought the spark Pakistan cricket needed; a side once known for its fast bowling factory now possessed the best spin bowler in the world.
After the recently concluded Test match against Sri Lanka, the legality of Ajmal’s bowling action was under scrutiny. As a fan of the game, I assumed it to be routine; doosras were so hard to pick and it was understandable the delivery would come under fire, only to realize it was his off-break that was being put to the test and that is when fear settled in.
There is a sinking feeling of familiarity that this wizard who had the commentators on the edge of their seats completely baffled; who has been able to dominate and stay unplayable for many teams and has led Pakistan to several victories may leave us. This is a player we were banking on for the 2015 World Cup, a player who Michael Holding sings eulogies to when he walks onto the field, a player whose every ball is met with baited breath, a player Pakistan cricket cannot afford to lose.
Can Pakistan ever forget Ajmal?
After 2010, when Asif and Amir left the cricket team with a gaping hole, Ajmal stepped in to remind us that magic still existed for the green shirts. In 2014, after these accusations have come into play, in true Pakistani fashion, slowly the fans have begun to abandon him. Twitter analysts are proclaiming they were always uncomfortable with his bowling techniques. Journalists and cricket enthusiasts have now drawn daggers, speaking of how he should retire and make way for the likes of Raza Hasan and Zulfiqar Babar.
Never mind that he was rated the number 1 bowler in the world. It is of no significance it seems that he is one of the primary reasons why Pakistan white washed England (then ranked #1) in 2012 with his spell of 7 wickets. Where were all these critics when Ajmal took 4 for 26 against South Africa in the ICC world T20 in 2010? Why did they celebrate him with such joy if they truly believed he was a fraud all along?
Somehow the grooming of Zulfiqar Babar has now become an exciting option, when earlier Ajmal was thought to be the ultimate force for the upcoming 2015 World Cup. This is a player who made Pakistan cricket worth watching beyond the dirty scandal.
Should we inevitably attune ourselves to losing the best players we find? Was losing Amir and Asif not enough? As fans and cricket lovers, why is it so easy for us to discard our own? Is it a result of the state of our country? Have we just become cold and immune or is this a matter of sheer denial, a defense mechanism to cope? Above all, why can't we give them the respect they deserve? Saeed Ajmal is yet to be convicted and yet we have already passed our verdict on him.
Watching Ajmal bowl has been an absolute honour, not just for Pakistan cricket fans but also for any one who respects the game. The stats add up, the stadiums light up, he stuns batsmen, he brings teams to their knees, and there is beauty in his story. To see such talent leave would be a massive blow to the world of cricket. It is time to stand by the man who licks our wounds and makes us believe. Even if he is found guilty, in my books Saeed Ajmal is and will always be pure magic.