Amir — reinstated and it feels so good!

Punished for a spot-fixing episode, Mohammad Amir has come back to international cricket after serving a ban, to the very place where the earth caved in for him, Lord’s!

Mohammad Amir has done resonably well for himself after returning to international cricket. He should lead Pakistan's attack for many years to come.   -  AP

When Mohammad Amir’s name was announced in Pakistan’s Test squad to tour England, all the attention naturally turned to the fast bowler. He was making a return to Test cricket at the same place where he had lost it all six years back.

At the age of 18, he became the youngest bowler to take 50 Test wickets. In the 2010 tour of England, Amir was the highest wicket-taker for Pakistan with 19 scalps. He was named Man of the Series for Pakistan. With genuine pace and reverse swing in his arsenal, the world was seeing an exciting fast bowling prospect.

But it was all about to go horribly wrong for the youngster. Amir, along with Mohammed Asif and captain Salman Butt, was accused of spot-fixing. After a string of court cases, all three were found guilty. He was banned for five years and given a six-month prison sentence of which he served three.

 

There were many who thought he should have been banned for life. The likes of Ramiz Raja, Andrew Flintoff, Michael Vaughan and many others went on record saying that Amir got away lightly and deserved stricter punishment.

Even in the build-up to the current series, England captain Alastair Cook said, “My feelings are clear, if you get caught matchfixing, you should be banned for life.”

But Amir had his set of supporters as well. Former England captain Michael Atherton said Amir was too young and vulnerable, and that a life ban would have been harsh. Nasser Hussain too termed Amir as ‘young and naïve,’ blaming Salman Butt for misleading the youngster. West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding lent his support to Amir as well saying, “People have made mistakes in life, and been given second chances. People have committed murder, served their term, and found themselves back in society. What Amir did is minor in comparison.”

The pressure was firmly on Amir as the first Test began at Lord’s, ironically the same venue where he had last played a Test match. The crowd at Lord’s was largely supportive of him, there were occasional jeers and shouts of ‘no-ball,’ but they were firmly drowned in the sea of cheers for the fast bowler. Amir seemed a bit nervous early on as he struggled with his line and length.

But as Pakistan registered a resounding 75-run victory, it was Amir who got the final wicket and the joy on his face showed that he wasn’t going to forget this moment anytime soon. Many termed it as a redemption for him and Pakistan cricket.

Stuart Broad later on said that the Lord’s crowd was warm and that he (Amir) would be glad that he wasn’t playing in Brisbane.

Amir didn’t have to wait that long and got a taste of the English crowd at Old Trafford where he was greeted by jeers and calls of loud ‘no-ball’ as he began to run in. But credit must be given to him as he didn’t let that affect him. He showed some high class swing bowling and accounted for the wickets of both the England openers in the first innings. Both of them were bowled and Cook saw his stumps rattle after scoring a hundred.

In Birmingham too, Amir got a couple of wickets in both the innings. He hasn’t exactly set the series on fire in the way he can. But he has shown glimpses of his talent with high quality swing bowling at fast pace. He has been supportive of the other bowlers and hasn’t leaked many runs.

Amir sought help from a psychiatrist before the start of the tour, and that has certainly helped him stay calm, but Pakistani fans and cricket fans all over the world expect more from this bowler who will lead Pakistan’s bowling attack for many years to come. He has just shown glimpses of his talent and he will surely get more opportunities when Pakistan tours Australia and New Zealand later on this year.

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