Pressure is mounting on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to apologise for failing to act sooner on Saeed Ajmal’s illegal action while bowling for Worcestershire.
Rival counties are now beginning to claim that the delay in proceedings affected the season’s outcome after Worcestershire were promoted to Division One as runners-up to champions Hampshire.
Essex coach Simon Grayson insists his side, who eventually finished in third place, could have been promoted had the umpires been brave enough to report Ajmal, who was recently suspended from bowling with immediate effect by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
For Essex, however, that is too little, too late.
“I’ve no doubt that if Worcestershire didn’t have Ajmal, we would have gone up this year”, Grayson told the BBC.
“My only concern is I wish one of our English umpires had the bravery to call him early season.”
“They all talk about him chucking it, but whether they had that support from the ECB…I’m not sure why they weren’t prepared to call him.”
The Pakistan star, who is currently working on his technique in a bid to return to the game in time for next year’s World Cup, was instrumental in Worcestershire’s success this season. He has taken 63 wickets for the Rapids in just nine matches at an average of 16.47.
Having been investigated by an ICC panel, he was found to have clearly exceeded the 15 degree bend permitted, and so was found guilty of ‘chucking’.
Ajmal admittedly had a diminished impact in the second half of the season considering he left for Pakistan duty in mid-July, but he undoubtedly secured points for Worcestershire that they might not have gained otherwise.
Umpires need support
Grayson’s comments once again highlight the need for the ECB to back its umpires and make them confident enough to report illegal actions, particularly if they are on board with the ICC’s clampdown on chucking.
Adding to the outrage is that Ajmal’s rule-breaking was so blatant, but that is not to say it was entirely deliberate.
However, the real tragedy of his case, and others, is that a generation of spinners have been denied proper guidance by the ECB.
At 36, it will now be all the more difficult for him to perfect his action because it was left undetected for so long.
Worcestershire effectively used an illegal bowler to their advantage, though they did not necessarily know that at the time. Nonetheless, the case will cast a shadow over their promotion long into the close-season as they prepare for Division One.