Islamabad: Pakistan offspinner Saeed Ajmal will resume his pursuit of the top bowler ranking in the upcoming three-Test series against Sri Lanka. Ajmal is currently second in Test rankings behind South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn. He is also second in the ODI ratings behind another South Africa fast bowler, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
"I have set a goal for myself and that is to be No. 1 in test rankings after the series against Sri Lanka," Ajmal said Saturday. The offspinner took 18 wickets in last year's three-Test series against Sri Lanka and 24 wickets against England earlier this year. Both series were played in the United Arab Emirates, where Pakistan won 1-0 and 3-0, respectively. He finished 2011 as the leading wicket-taker in Tests with 50.
The Pakistan team leave for Sri Lanka on May 28 to play two Twenty20s, five ODIs and three Test matches. In the meantime the players are training at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore where four practice matches — two Twenty20s and two one-dayers — will be played over the next week.
Ajmal appeared to put off England's batsmen when he threatened to bowl a mystery ball during the series in the UAE. However, the offspinner didn't need that delivery as English batsmen struggled against his 'doosra' — a delivery that spins away from a right-handed batsman.
The offspinner has no such plans for Sri Lanka batsmen, who are better at playing against spinners with the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera shoring up their batting lineup. "There's no need to introduce any new delivery," Ajmal said with a smile. "It will be good if I bowl the tried ones with full control."
Ajmal added that using too many varieties complicates the game for a bowler, but he promised that "if a new variety comes in I will definitely let you know." Ajmal made his Test debut against Sri Lanka in 2009 and took 14 wickets in his maiden test series. But his strong performance could not stop Sri Lanka from clinching the series 2-0.
He does not expect the wickets in Sri Lanka to suit spinners this time around with retired spin bowling great Muttiah Muralitharan no longer in the Sri Lanka lineup. "We are preparing ourselves as if the wickets won't suit the spinners," Ajmal said. "If there's help for spinners then I think with myself and Abdur Rehman we have a good combination to challenge Sri Lanka batsmen."
Ajmal is one of four players Pakistan selectors picked for all three formats of the game in the hot and humid conditions of Sri Lanka. Opening batsman Mohammad Hafeez, who will lead the side in Twenty20 matches, and fast bowlers Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami are the others.
"We have established a training camp in more or less similar conditions which we would get in Sri Lanka and I hope with four practice matches, we will have enough preparations," he said. "We are focussed on the series and hopefully we will win."