Ajmal remarks fuel action controversy

Pakistan offspinner Saeed Ajmal has added to the debate over his bowling action by claiming that the ICC allowed him to bend his arm beyond the permitted 15 degrees tolerance.

In an interview with the BBC, Ajmal volunteered the belief that the ICC has allowed him to bend his arm upto 23.5 degrees. “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.”

The ICC were quick to reject this claim by the off-spinner. An ICC spokesman said “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.” He hwoever said that the game’s governing body was looking into Ajmal’s comments and will make a formal announcement soon. “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.”

Ajmal was named Man of the Series as Pakistan whitewashed England 3-0 in Dubai.

Former England fast bowler Bob Willis has questioned Ajmal’s “doosra,” a delivery that spins away from a right-handed batsman. But while Willis 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.

Ajmal was cleared by the ICC in 2009 after he was reported for a suspected bowling action.

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.”

The PCB, however, clarified the claims made by Ajmal. Pakistan Team Manager Naveed Akram Cheema, while clarifying off-spinner Saeed Ajmal’s comments on his bowling action, has issued the following statement: “The ICC’s level of tolerance of 15 degrees relates to the degree of elbow extension that is permitted in the bowling action i.e. the amount by which the arm is straightening.

“Previous tests conducted on the action of Saeed Ajmal show that the degree of elbow extension is well within ICC’s tolerance levels.

“Saeed Ajmal was referring to the angle of elbow abduction i.e. the angle of the upper arm to the forearm and not the degree of elbow extension. This angle is approximately 23 degrees in Saeed’s case.”

ICC General Manager for Cricket, David Richardson, said: “There is a big difference between the “elbow carry angle” (elbow abduction) and the degree of elbow extension. There is nothing preventing a bowler bowling with a bent arm, provided he does not straighten it beyond the permitted degrees of tolerance.”

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No substance in Modi’s comments

BCCI President N Srinivasan on Tuesday rubbished Lalit Modi’s claim that the 2009 IPL auction of Andrew Flintoff was rigged and said that the former Commissioner was only seeking “publicity” by making such baseless statements.

“I haven’t watched the television programme where he (Modi) has said all this. All I can state is that, there is absolutely no substance or truth in what he is saying,” Srinivasan told PTI on Tuesday.

Modi in an interview to has said that he was “arm-twisted to allow Andrew Flintoff to go to CSK” during 2009 IPL auctions.

Srinivasan on his part said, “He (Modi) is talking about 2009 auctions and this is 2012. If what he is saying is true, then why didn’t he speak out earlier?”

When questioned that whether his silence on many issues has sent wrong signals, he replied, “If you say so, then you must be knowing that I have spoken to the media and expressed my views on Sahara issue. I am an honest man. I don’t seek any publicity and that’s why I maintain a dignified silence.”

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Gavaskar slams rotation of Indian players

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Former captain Sunil Gavaskar on Tuesday, slammed the proposed rotation of the top-order batsmen in the Indian team in the cricket tri-series in Australia, saying that it suggested that the players were unfit.

Opening batsman Virender Sehwag said earlier in the day that either Gautam Gambhir or Sachin Tendulkar will be rested ahead of India’s match against Sri Lanka, but Gavaskar criticised the move and said that the best players should be fielded till the knock-out stage.

“The primary thing is to to field a balanced team and to win matches. This business of rotation suggests that the players are unfit. The best team should be fielded even if a player has played eight matches successively. If all the players are fit, everybody should be in the mix,” he said.

“If you are rotating the players, you are only resting the players but not thinking of winning matches. It brings to the fore that the players might be unfit or the question what the physiotherapist was doing,” he added.

Gavaskar refused to buy that line that resting senior players would give chance to youngsters who could play for the country in the 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia.

“Then send back the senior players, why select them? If the senior players are selected they have to be picked. The best players should be on the park,” he said.

Gavaskar felt that there was no reason to tinker with the order in the top three with Sehwag and Tendulkar as openers and Gambhir following them, which was the case in the World Cup-winning side.

“Why do we need to change the order of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir? That (order) won the World Cup,” he told ‘NDTV’.

Gavaskar said he would want three seamers and one spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin on the Perth wicket in India’s second tri-series match against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.

“I would prefer three seamers and Ravindra Jadeja bowling, besides Ashwin. Ashwin though looked tired and jaded in the first match. But if he is fit he should be there in the team,” said Gavaskar.

Talking about the BCCI-Sahara face-off, Gavaskar said that he and two of his former cricketer colleagues of the IPL Governing Council were never influenced on any decision when he was a member of the GC.

“I, Ravi Shastri and late (MAK) Pataudi spoke to all the franchises and gave our views. We were never told to do this and that,” he said.

Gavaskar also said that he was not aware of any arm-twisting by a big franchisee to get former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff in their team.

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Flower laments England lay-off

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England coach Andy Flower blamed his team’s lengthy lay-off as being one of the factors contributing towards the 3-0 Test series rout by Pakistan, assuring he will adjust preparations accordingly in the future.

England, who didn’t play a Test since beating India in August last year, succumbed to their first-ever whitewash against Pakistan following a 71-run defeat in the third and final Test here on Monday.

“I certainly think that one of the differences between the two sides was that – while we were sitting at home resting for two months prior to Christmas, and our players did need rest – Pakistan were playing against Sri Lanka, who are a very fine side,” Flower said on Tuesday.

“They (Pakistan) were then playing against Bangladesh in Bangladesh – tough conditions – so they were hardening themselves up for this series, and we weren’t.

“That, I would imagine, is a factor in this result – and we will adjust our preparation accordingly, and take those lessons into Sri Lanka series and the India tour,” said Flower of his team’s tours later in the year.

Flower said England’s batsmen lacked skill against spinners, failing against off-spinner Saeed Ajmal (24 wickets in the series) and Abdul Rehman (19).

“Unfortunately, our skills against their spinners have not been good enough. We haven’t been able to learn quickly enough … our batting has been under par all the way through,” said Flower.

Ajmal recorded a career best 7-55 in Pakistan’s ten wicket win in the first Test in Dubai while Rehman fetched 6-25 to help his team win the second by 72 runs.

For England, Jonathan Trott remained top scorer in the series with 161 with Alastair Cook 159 and wicketkeeper batsman Matt Prior finishing at 150.

Strauss also managed 150 but key batsmen Kevin Pietersen (67), Ian Bell (51) and Eoin Morgan (82) were major let downs.

“There’s a lot of work to do, both in the lead-up to this one-day series – which is very short – through that and then on into the Sri Lanka trip,” said Flower of his team’s four-match one-day series starting from February 13.

Flower, who took over in 2009 and helped England to two Ashes victories which saw his team rise to world number one in Tests, said there had been high hopes prior to the series.

“We’ve been soundly beaten, and it’s been a very disappointing result for us. We came out here with high hopes of carrying on our great form in Test cricket, and we haven’t been good enough to do that,” said Flower.

Flower showed his surprise over the batting failures.

“It was quite strange and surprising to find so many of our batsmen low on confidence during this tour. But we can do something about that, and are working hard to do so,” said Flower, backing Bell who is dropped from the one-day squad.

“Bell is a very fine player, who has had a hard time in this Tests and hasn’t had that many chances recently in one-day for us. He’s not too old to fight his way back into the side.”

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Pakistan clarifies confusion over Ajmal’s bowling

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Pakistan cricket authorities and the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Tuesday clarified the confusion over Saeed Ajmal’s bowling action, saying the spinner had been cleared within the specified limits.

Ajmal himself created more confusion, by claiming he has special dispensation from the ICC to straighten his arm beyond the allowed 15 degrees.

The 34-year-old off-spinner, who took 24 wickets in the 3-0 Test series whitewash of England, claimed that the ICC has allowed him extra leniency, up to 23.5 degrees.

As per the ICC rules a bowler can only straighten his arm up to 15 degrees, beyond which his action will be deemed illegal.

“I don’t know about my bowling action, but somebody was telling me your action is bad. ICC has allowed me 23.5 because my arm is not good because of an accident, that is why a problem,” Ajmal told BBC television on Monday after being declared man-of-the-series.

“Otherwise no problem, straightaway cleared by ICC.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said Ajmal was referring to elbow extension, and not the arm.

“Ajmal was referring to the angle of elbow abduction i.e. the angle of the upper arm to the forearm and not the degree of elbow extension. This angle is approximately 23 degrees in Ajmal’s case,” the PCB said in a statement.

“The ICC?s level of tolerance of 15 degrees relates to the degree of elbow extension that is permitted in the bowling action i.e. the amount by which the arm is straightening,” it added.

The PCB said the previous tests conducted on the action of Ajmal showed that the degree of elbow extension is well within ICC?s tolerance levels.

ICC general manager cricket David Richardson also backed the PCB’s stance.

“There is a big difference between the elbow carry angle (elbow abduction) and the degree of elbow extension. There is nothing preventing a bowler bowling with a bent arm, provided he does not straighten it beyond the permitted degrees of tolerance,” said Richardson.

Pakistan won the third and final Test here by 71 runs.

Ajmal’s bowling action, reported by match officials during a one-day series against Australia here in 2009 before it was cleared after remedial work by experts, once again came under suspicions following his career-best 7-55 in the first Test, also played in Dubai.

Former England paceman Bob Willis raised suspicions over his ‘doosra’ (second one) — a ball which turns the other way than a normal off-break — while England coach Andy Flower said he has his own opinion and left the matter to the ICC.

But after Ajmal’s claim on relaxation, Flower on Tuesday showed surprise.

“If that’s the degree, then there’s a problem, said Flower when asked about Ajmal’s claim of special dispensation. “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.”

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Malik included in Pak ODI & T20 squads

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In a rather surprising decision, the Pakistan cricket Board on Tuesday announced the inclusion of former captain Shoaib Malik in the national squad for the one-day and Twenty20 series against England.

Just hours after the national selection committee had ignored Malik while announcing separate squads for the four ODIs and three T20 matches against England, the board did a U-turn insisting that captain Misbah-ul-Haq had requested for the inclusion of the all-rounder

“On the request of Pakistan team captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, the national selection committee has agreed to send Shoaib Malik to join the Pakistan squad for the ODI and T20 matches against England in the UAE,” the PCB statement said.

It, however, didn’t explain as to why the selectors had not accepted Misbah’s request for Malik earlier in the day.

“The whole incident smells of politics and nothing else. The board, the selectors and Misbah himself are making a mockery of themselves,” a former test selector said.

He said it was strange how in only a few hours the selectors had a change of heart in sending Malik.

Chief selector Mohammad Illyas was unavailable for comments as he was attending to the last rites of his brother who expired today.

Malik was dropped from the Pakistan squad for the Test series against England after poor form in the one-day series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Last year also, the board had sent Malik at the last moment to join the national squad in Zimbabwe just a day after he was cleared by the board’s integrity committee.

With the selectors having announced 16 players for the ODI series and 15 for the T20 matches, it is most likely that one player will be sent back from the UAE.

Malik’s inclusion is a bit perplexing as his run tally in the last five one-day innings is a mere 33 runs. His form in the T20s has shown a similar mediocrity as he has scored only 22 runs in the last 3 T20Is.

All-rounder Shahid Afridi returned to the 16-member one-day squad while right-handed batsman Hammad Azam, who played the last of his five one-dayers against Ireland in May 2011, was named in both the ODI and Twenty20 squads.

“We have selected a team that is a blend of experienced and young players. We have also called up some specialist one-day and Twenty20 players like Ovais Zia and Hammad,” chief selector Mohammad Illyas told Reuters.

“The team has won the test series comprehensively. But England are a top side and there is more hard work to be done in the one-day series.”

Uncapped Zia, the only new face in the Twenty20 squad, is an opener who was rewarded for scoring heavily in the format.

Afridi, who has quit test cricket, was confident Pakistan could replicate their test success against England in the limited over series.

“I think after the way we swept the test series we are in a very good position morally and psychologically to also win the one-day series,” Afridi told reporters.

Pakistan one-day squad:

Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Adnan Akmal, Hammad Azam, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Aizaz Cheema, Wahab Riaz, Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman.

Twenty 20 squad:

Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Ovais Zia, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal, Hammad Azam, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Aizaz Cheema, Wahab Riaz, Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman.

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Sachin only Indian in ICC Top 10 list

Sachin Tendulkar rose three places to be the only Indian cricketer in the list of top-ten batsmen in the ICC Player Rankings for Test released here on Tuesday.

Sachin is placed at 10th position along with Pakistan’s Azhar Ali, who scored a match-winning 157 during the second innings of the third and final Test against England in Dubai earlier this week.

India’s pace spearhead Zaheer Khan remained static at the 10th spot with an aggregate of 697 points. The bowling chart continued to be dominated by South Africa’s Dale Steyn while Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal consolidated his second position, achieving a career-best rating of 835 points.

Ajmal, who won the player of the series award for claiming 24 wickets in the 3-0 drubbing of England, now trails Steyn by just 69 points.

The other Pakistani bowler to have made an upward leap is left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman, who gained two more places to sit in seventh position.

England’s Monty Panesar is the other left-arm spinner to head in the right direction. Panesar’s two for 25 and five for 125 in the last Test enabled him to gain four places to be placed at 30th spot.

Meanwhile, veteran Pakistan batsman Younis Khan, who recorded his 20th Test century and shared a 216-run stand with Azhar Ali for the third wicket during the second innings of the concluding Test against England rose five places to be at fifth place.

England captain Andrew Strauss and Pakistan’s other youngster Asad Shafiq have also made gains. Strauss has jumped five places to 28th position while Shafiq has moved up four places to 43rd spot. Sri Lanka’s Kumara Sangakkara continued to top the batting chart with 850 rating points followed closely by South Africa’s Jacques Kallis.

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