• Pakistan v England 2011-12

Ajmal comment sparks bowling controversy

George Dobell in Dubai
February 7, 2012
Saaed Ajmal's comments appeared to suggest that he has been allowed 23.5 degrees of flexion by the ICC, due to an earlier arm injury © AFP

Saeed Ajmal, Man of the Series as Pakistan whitewashed England 3-0 in the UAE, has sparked confusion over his bowling action by seeming to claim that he has special dispensation to exceed the 15-degree tolerance limit currently permitted by the ICC.

In an interview with the BBC, Ajmal volunteered the belief that the ICC has allowed him 23.5 degrees of flexion to compensate for an accident in which he injured his arm. The ICC, however, was quick to reject the suggestion.

Ajmal said: "Someone is telling me my action is bad because the ICC allowed me as a bowler 23.5 degrees, because my arm is not good. A few years ago I had an accident. Otherwise, no problem, the action was cleared by ICC."

An ICC spokeman denied that was the case. "There is no dispensation for anyone," he said. "It is worth remembering that his first language is not English and this may have been a slip of the tongue."

It may be that Ajmal, having bamboozled England's batsmen all series, was simply leaving his best trick until last. Renowned for his sense of humour, it could be that Ajmal, who started the series talking of a teesra delivery that never materialised, was simply joking.

Ajmal tormented the England batsmen in all three Tests, claiming 24 wickets in the series at an average of just 14.7. Their inability to distinguish between his off-break and doosra caused particular confusion and vastly reduced the effectiveness of England's much-vaunted middle order. Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan and Kevin Pietersen all failed to average more than 13.

While Bob Willis, the former England captain turned pundit, had raised concerns about Ajmal's action at the start of the series, the England team have been reluctant to be dragged into any controversy. Consequently, they have stuck to the line that it is job of the umpires and the ICC to scrutinise bowlers' actions.

However, Andy Flower, the England coach, expressed his surprise after being told of Ajmal's remarks. "If that's the degree, then there's a problem," Flower said. "That's ridiculous.

"That is an ICC issue, though. They are there to police the game, and make sure that it is played within the rules, so they've got to scrutinise his action. We've all got our own views, but our job is to combat whoever is put against us, and part of it is also to play the game in the right spirit."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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