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Saeed Ajmal desperate to win the ICC Champions Trophy for Pakistan

Offspinner says defeat to Australia at ICC World Twenty20 2010 semis was a "defining point" in his career

Saeed Ajmal desperate to win the ICC Champions Trophy for Pakistan - Cricket News
Saeed Ajmal
Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal wants his team to end its run of semi-final heartbreaks at ICC events and capture the ICC Champions Trophy in June.

Pakistan has lost the semi-final in each of the last four global events it has played in - in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2010 and 2012, the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011 and the ICC Champions Trophy in 2009.

In the history of the ICC Champions Trophy, Pakistan has reached the semi-finals in 2000 (in Kenya, where it lost to New Zealand), 2004 (in England, where it lost to West Indies) and 2009 (in South Africa, where it lost to New Zealand).

Saeed, who is the number-one ranked ODI bowler in the world, wants to improve on that record and make a final of an ICC event for the first time in four years.

"Last time we lost the semi-final in South Africa against New Zealand at Centurion. The last four ICC events we have got through to the semi-final. This time with the ICC Champions Trophy coming, we want to win it. That is what we are dreaming," said Saeed.

"ICC global events are very important for us. If we win the ICC Champions Trophy we will be very happy as it is the last one," he added.

Saeed and his Pakistan side will get an excellent opportunity to prepare for the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 when they face South Africa in a five-match series from 10 March. While Pakistan will be aiming to avenge its clean sweep loss in the recent Test series, it will also be eyeing upward movement on the Reliance ICC ODI Championship table.

Pakistan is currently sitting in sixth position but can move to fourth if it wins the series 4-1 or better.

South Africa leads Pakistan 38-18 on a head-to-head, while, in 21 ODIs played in South Africa to date, Pakistan has won only six, with South Africa victorious on 14 occasions and one encounter ending in a no-result.

One of the most heartbreaking moments for Saeed was when Pakistan lost a dramatic semi-final to Australia at St Lucia in the ICC World Twenty20 2010 - a moment he believes was a defining point in his career.

"In the ICC World Twenty20 2010, we lost and I bowled the last over to Mike Hussey, who hit 18 runs. That was very hard for me. After we lost the game, I went home and my father told me that I performed very well, don't worry about that and perform. After that I bowled well, I performed well, and I am now ranked number one, so I appreciated the advice from my father," recalled Saeed.

Pakistan will be hoping to repeat its success of 2009, when it last played an ICC event on English soil, where Saeed inspired his team to victory over Sri Lanka to win the ICC World Twenty20 2009. "It was my first time playing Twenty20 cricket.

"I didn't know that the batsman played very hard in Twenty20. It was very memorable when we won the tournament in 2009 and that was very exciting for me and the team," he said.

Ajmal, whose side faces India, South Africa and West Indies in the group stages of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, which will be played in Birmingham, Cardiff and London from 6-23 June, is particularly looking forward to playing South Africa in his side's Group B.

When asked about his favourite venue in the UK, Saeed said: "My best venue in the UK is The Oval cricket ground. The ball bounces and turns - I like to play at The Oval."

Saeed revealed that it was Pakistan's victory in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1992 in Australia and New Zealand that inspired him to take up the game.

"Pakistan won the World Cup in 1992 and that was the time I was starting to play cricket, so I have very good memories of 1992," said Saeed.

Time will tell whether a new generation of youngsters will be inspired to play cricket for Pakistan if Saeed Ajmal can inspire his country to victory at Edgbaston on 23 June.

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