Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal jokes he forced Sachin Tendulkar to retire from ODIs
One of the world's leading off-spinners, Ajmal says Kumar Sangakkara has been the toughest batsman to bowl. Ajmal also wants resumption of India versus Pakistan cricket, opining that Test cricket was the real thing.
Among his 140 one-day International wickets, top Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal perhaps cherishes his Asia Cup wicket of Sachin Tendulkar the most. On March 18, 2012 at Dhaka's Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, Tendulkar edged an Ajmal 'doosra' to Younis Khan at slips after scoring a 48-ball 52. India won the match by six wickets and with 13 balls to spare but interestingly, Tendulkar quit playing ODIs after that Asia Cup game.
Speaking to Wisden India in an exclusive interview, Ajmal jokingly says that it was his wicket that forced Tendulkar to call time on his ODI career after 463 matches. Ajmal says he has always been successful against Tendulkar. "I took his wicket in Mohali (2011 World Cup semifinal after Tendulkar scored 85 as an opener with Virender Sehwag) as well. He is a super superstar, that's what the world calls him. He has nearly 50,000 runs in professional cricket. So obviously it was great moment for me when I took his wicket.
"He was having trouble in picking the 'doosra' in his last ODI in the Asia Cup. Misbah said to me we could get him out caught at slips. Younis Khan moved to slips and it worked out exactly as planned. I got the wicket of the world-class batsman and it came off such a great delivery that he was compelled to quit ODI cricket after it," Ajmal said.
Ajmal wants to renew his battle with Tendulkar in the Test arena. The Faisalabad-born spinner, who is going to be 36 in in October 14, feels sad that he may not have the opportunity to bowl to Tendulkar on Indian wickets.
"I want to play Test cricket against every team. There is nothing better than performing at the home of the opposition. I haven't played Test cricket in Pakistan either. I want to play in every country. We have a great rivalry with India. It benefits both the countries. But I don't know why the political tensions are not letting us play. I regret that Pakistan and India are not playing cricket against each other," Ajmal said.
One of the world's leading off-spinner reckons Kumar Sangakkara as one of the toughest to bowl at. "In Test cricket, Kumar Sangakkara has given me the toughest time. He plays on the back foot and plays very late, which create problems for me. He is a wicketkeeper too and judges beforehand which ball is coming in and what sort of delivery is being bowled. Other than him, no batsman has troubled me in any format," says Ajmal.
Saying he wanted to play the 2015 World Cup Down Under, Ajmal is sad that Pakistan's top players do not get enough international opportunities and that leads to poor rankings. (Suggested read: Kallis hopeful of playing 2015 World Cup)
"I still want to become No. 1 in Test cricket. But it will be possible only if Pakistan play enough Tests. We play a series and then the next one does not come before six months. If you look at England, India, Australia ... they play 15-odd Tests annually. Pakistan get around five or six."
"I have played only three Tests so far this year. I want Pakistan to play around 12 Tests a year. And Test cricket is the real cricket. I really like this format. It has its own appeal. It looks nice too, with the white clothes - it is pleasing to the eye. You get more pleasure when you take a wicket in a Test match because you set up the batsman before removing him. This is the real cricket and Pakistan should be playing more Tests."
Ajmal wanted the Pakistan Cricket Board to arrange for more international games. "We are now playing fewer ODIs too. I am into my sixth year of ODI cricket and haven't played 100 matches yet. The Board should also think about it and arrange more matches," he said. (Also read: New Zealand too want to play more Tests)