Veteran Ajmal has 'no intention to quit'

Off-spinner responds to talk of a farewell from the game after starring role in recent domestic T20 tournament

Veteran Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal has hit back at the Pakistan Cricket Board's apparent offer a "fitting send-off", saying he has no intention of walking away from the game.

A tweet from PCB executive committee chairman Najam Sethi over the weekend raised speculation that Ajmal and fellow veteran Shahid Afridi were set to announce their retirement from the international game.

But Ajmal says he's still desperate to force his way back into the national set-up, 18 months since he last represented his country, and pointed to his starring role in the recent National T20 Cup as proof that he should be given another chance.

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"I have no intention to quit one-day or Twenty20 cricket at the moment,” the 38-year-old told Dawn.

"I have worked really hard to stage a comeback and my performance in the National T20 Cup reflects that.

"I have proved my fitness in the National T20 Cup. I should be given a chance. If I fail to perform, I will walk away myself.

"The Board doesn’t have a decent off-spinner in its entire domestic structure."

Ajmal took a tournament-high 20 wickets in the National T20 Cup this month at an average of 11 and an economy rate of 6.28 as his Karachi Blues won the title.

The off-spinner has had a turbulent two years since he was banned from international cricket in September 2014 due to an illegal bowling action.

Having been cleared by the International Cricket Council in February last year, Ajmal returned to the Pakistan side with a re-modelled action for their series against Bangladesh two months later, but managed only one wicket in three limited-overs matches and has not been selected since.

He had his PCB contract suspended last November following public criticism of the ICC's testing process and was not offered a contract for the 2016-17 campaign.

Despite missing selection for the upcoming T20 series against the West Indies in the United Arab Emirates, Ajmal is not giving up on an international return.

"I have proved my form and fitness. I am not quitting and will keep on playing domestic cricket,” he said.

"I have played a key role in so many victories; the Board should give me a chance like the West Indies are giving to Sunil Narine."

On Monday, Pakistan confirmed that under fire ODI captain Azhar Ali will hold onto the job for the series against the Windies, starting on September 30.

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Azhar has been widely criticised since taking over as captain from Misbah-ul-Haq, who retired from the 50-over format following the World Cup last year.

He has led his country to 15 losses in 25 matches, with nine wins and one no result, including a 4-1 series loss to England earlier this month. The team have dropped to ninth in the one-day rankings as a result.

But the PCB has confirmed Azhar will hold onto the role for the three-match series, which will be played in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

Sarfraz Ahmed, who had been tipped to replace Azhar as one-day skipper, will lead the side in the three-match Twenty20 series starting in Dubai on Friday.

A three-match Test series will follow the one-dayers, starting in Dubai on October 13.

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