Saaed Ajmal has been banned from cricket for six months after the ICC found the Pakistan star guilty of an illegal bowling action, according to BBC Sport.
Ajmal, who has promised fans he will work on his action in order to make a return, has taken over 400 wickets for his country, including 178 in Tests.
Now the possibility has even been touted that his ‘throwing’ method was the secret to his success. The timing of the decision threatens to wreck his international career, with the ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand less than six months away.
Ranked as the world’s number one ODI bowler, the news will come as a huge blow to an already besieged Pakistan side.
He has also spent part of the season plying his trade with Worcestershire, helping the Rapids to the top of Division Two as the County Championship’s leading wicket-taker.
However, he has not featured for them in two months while he has been away with Pakistan, and it appears that his suspect action has finally come to the attention of the ICC.
The ECB have confirmed that the ban is effective worldwide, meaning he will play no further part in their bid for promotion, even though he has never been investigated for his action whilst playing for them.
An ICC statement revealed that, following Ajmal being reported during a Test against Sri Lanka last month: “All his deliveries exceeded the 15 degrees” rule, which dictates how much bowlers are allowed to bend their arms.
Ajmal's World Cup in doubt
The 36-year-old insists it is still possible for him to make a return before the World Cup, but a spokesman for the Pakistan Cricket Board told the BBC that such a scenario would be unlikely, while also hinting that the ban could prove the end of Ajmal’s international career. Worcestershire did not comment on whether he will return to New Road next season.
Although Ajmal is currently looking at a period in the international wilderness, he is able to appeal once he has corrected his action.
His is the latest case in a year that has seen the ICC make an effort to clamp down on illegal action. New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and Sri Lanka’s Sachithra Senanayake were both reported in July, and Prosper Utseya of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh’s Sohag Gazi are also being investigated following allegations in August.
The ICC have had to deal with their own set of accusations, in particular that the suspensions being handed down are too harsh. Nonetheless, their instigation of the ’15 degrees’ rule – which allowed the unique bowling style of Muttiah Muralitheran - has encouraged bowlers to push the rules to the limit.