Pakistan cricket team head coach Mickey Arthur said he is not surprised by Mohammed Amir’s decision to retire from Tests at the age of 27 as he feels the pacer’s career in the longest format was considerably damaged by the spot-fixing ban he served.
Amir was banned for five years for his involvement in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal in England. He returned to all formats of the game in 2015 but announced his retirement from Tests on Friday after having played 36 Tests with 119 scalps in his chequered career.
“He (Amir) had five years out of the game...In those five years, he didn’t do anything. His body was not up to the rigours of day in, day out Test cricket,” Arthur told ESPNCricinfo .
“We pushed him as much as we could during the England and South Africa series, because he is such a good bowler whom we wanted during those tours. We’ve tried everything we possibly could with Amir.
“He could have managed those five years better. He’d be the first one to acknowledge that. But I understand where he was in his whole life, so it was a tough period for him. I understand all that,” he said.
Arthur felt Amir could have become one of Pakistan's best Test fast bowlers had he not lost those five years to the spot-fixing ban. “The Amir hype all those years ago was justified because he is a quality bowler. When the ball swings there’s not much better. But he’s not the bowler now that he was in 2009 and 2010. He was different, his body was different,” he said.
“Making a connection between the bowler now and then would be wrong. But had he not had those five years out of the game, I think he would be up there with the very best Pakistan have ever had,” he added.
The South African also said Amir had in fact been thinking about retiring from Tests for over a year. “It was on the cards for a long while. Amir had been speaking to me about it with me for some time now. His Test career was taking a strain on his body.
“It’s not about management here. It’s about his desire to play Test cricket and the effects it has on his body... reluctantly I accepted his decision because that’s what he wanted to do and that’s what he thought was best for himself,” he said.
Arthur said the management had tried to ease Amir’s workload over the past year, and experimented with the possibility of making him an overseas-only bowler. “Of course there was (a possibility Amir would only play away). We managed him through the South African series. He didn’t play any Test cricket during the UAE last year. That was part of his management, and we started putting that in place because we wanted him for the South African series,” he said.
Amir finished as the most prolific Pakistan bowler at the recent World Cup with 17 wickets, which only six bowlers bettered, and Arthur said the team will now have a “rejuvenated” limited-overs bowler in him.
“I’ve got a very soft spot for Amir. As a person and as a cricketer, I admire him greatly. Yes, I am disappointed he won’t be playing Test cricket for us. But it was made in the best interests of his white-ball cricket in mind,” he said.
“We get a white-ball bowler who’s going to be rejuvenated, refreshed, and with a T20 World Cup just around the corner, in 18 months’ time we’ve got a potential match-winner because we know he performs on the big stage.”
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