The flying Mohammad Amir
Pakistan paceman Mohammad Amir is set to make his international comeback after a five-year ban.
Let’s get this out of the way: Mohammad Amir should be forgiven for all his wrongdoings. Plenty of people disagree and think he should continue to pay for his sins. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but, I’m sorry, are these people heartless?
I want to see him represent the country with pride and reward his compatriots, those who have continued to believe in him even though he disgraced the nation.
It’s not just Pakistan who should get behind this precocious bowler, who some believe was on a collision course to becoming the greatest bowler ever such was his feats at a tender age. The cricketing fraternity should get behind him in a bid to see a cricket prodigy’s unique talents harnessed.
I for one, believe in him and think he deserves another chance. I won’t be able to come close to describing my reaction when I heard that Amir, who was a young prodigy capable of hustling batsmen with sheer pace, had been selected for the Pakistan squad against New Zealand after serving a lengthy ban of five years for spot-fixing.
His selection provoked an outcry from some quarters but we all make mistakes and Amir has learnt the hard way.
Amir along with then Test captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were charged with accepting money in exchange for arranging deliberate no-balls during a Test match at Lord’s in 2010. The trio along with their agent Mazhar Majeed were jailed by a British court in 2011.
After pleading guilty, Amir was sentenced to six months in prison at Southwark Crown Court where he spent only three months. Salman, Amir and Asif were also banned from cricket for at least five years. But last September, the International Cricket Council lifted the sanctions against all three players.
Cricket is Pakistan’s most popular sport, and Amir’s emergence and then subsequent fall has affected the country greatly. In 2009, after a slow start to his international career, Amir’s potential was showcased impressively against Australia and England. He seemed destined to have a legendary career following Pakistan’s production line of great pace bowlers.
Amir had the rarefied ability to bowl express pace and conjure late reverse swing. At 18, he became the youngest bowler to notch 50 wickets. In his 14 tests, he had claimed 51 wickets at an average of 29.09, and in 15 ODIs he had bagged 25 wickets at 24. In 18 T20I, he has picked up 23 wickets at less than 20.
As can be gleamed from those impressive stats, Amir is an all-format bowler. There was hope he could replicate another superstar left-armer – the great Wasim Akram, who even said Amir was a better bowler than him at a similar age. Effusive praise, to say the least.
Amir was also handy with the bat, once scoring an unbeaten 73 in the highest score by a number 10 batsman in ODI history.
I have many fond memories of Amir before his career was halted and life plunged into darkness. No doubt he was foolish for his sins, but I am hopeful the five-year ban taught him a lot. It should have shamed him and hopefully he will emerge stronger and more resilience. More importantly, hopefully he will be a better human being.
An alluring Pakistan fast bowling trio of Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir and Irfan awaits. It has the potential to even trump Australia’s vaunted pace stocks.
But not everyone is happy. Drama has continued with some influential voices and top players opposing the return of Amir, with some seen leaving the training camp at the national academy in Lahore recently.
The Pakistan Cricket Board convinced the ICC to relax his ban, allowing him to feature in domestic matches last April. Since his return, he has taken 22 wickets in four non first-class games, while his tally of wickets stood at 34 in the qualifying rounds of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
“I have a good team around me, a very supportive team who are looking after me in all aspects of my cricket and life. I’m indebted to them for their guidance and help,” Amir said recently.
I’m sentimental over his re-emergence and am eager to see how this plays out.
Hopefully Mohammad Amir’s comeback can inspire many and be a powerful tale of redemption.