Worcestershire: Rhodes confident Ajmal will return to New Road

Saeed Ajmal (left)
Ajmal has helped Worcestershire to the top of the Division Two table

Worcestershire director of cricket Steve Rhodes says he is "very optimistic" that spinner Saeed Ajmal will return to the county in 2015.

The Pakistan Test star, 36, has been a revelation for the Division Two leaders, taking 63 wickets in nine Championship matches.

"We're already having talks and I know he's really enjoyed playing here," Rhodes told BBC Hereford & Worcester.

"I'm very optimistic we can get him back to New Road which would be great."

Ajmal's impact at New Road
County ChampionshipT20 Blast
Matches: 9Overs: 437.3Maidens: 116Runs: 1,038Wkts: 63Average: 16.49Best: 7-39 Matches: 10 Overs: 39Maidens: 1Runs: 237Wkts: 12Average: 19.75Economy: 6.07Best: 3-17

Ajmal will now link up with Pakistan ahead of their tour to Sri Lanka next month, but signed off his stint with Worcestershire by taking seven wickets as the county hammered Leicestershire by 204 runs at New Road.

It was Ajmal's fifth five-wicket haul and helped take him further clear as the top leading wicket-taker in the country.

"The amount of wickets he's taken in county cricket and T20 cricket has been outstanding," Rhodes said.

"He's not just been here taking his wickets, his experience and help for Daryl Mitchell out in the middle has been great.

"Until you get a signed contract you can never know for definite.

"Hopefully, if we can get the right deal sorted out and the right availability, we'll get him back here at some stage next year."

Ajmal, described by Rhodes as a "magician" for his ability on the field, has also had an equally important effect off it.

"He's been like a father figure and contributed to the all-round development of our young players. He's got an infectious, unbelievable enthusiasm for cricket," continued Rhodes.

Pakistan in Sri Lanka
Wed 6 - Sun 10 August - first Test, Galle
Thu 14 - Mon 18 August - second Test, Colombo (PSS)
Sat 23 August - first one-day international, Hambantota
Wed 27 August - second one-day international, Colombo (RPS)
Sat 30 August - third one-day international, Dambulla

"When you got so many young players it's great to see someone, at the age he's at, with a real thirst and energy for the game."

Ajmal will be replaced at New Road for the rest of the season by New Zealand left-arm fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan, who is in line to make his debut in Friday night's T20 Blast game at Northants.

"Mitch has been around for about 10 days, so he's full acclimatised," Rhodes said.

"He's got a real point to prove in four-day cricket and he's desperate to get back into the New Zealand Test side."

Worcestershire are currently 22 points clear of Hampshire at the top of Division Two and have a game in hand.

After winning six successive T20 Blast games, the Rapids have lost their last two matches - against Lancashire and Birmingham Bears - to leave their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals in the balance with two fixtures left.