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Mohammad Amir, The return of the Prodigal Son

Earmarked as the next Sultan of Swing, a young bright star of Pakistan Cricket, left arm fast bowler with fearless attitude and style, burst into the international arena in the summer of 2009.

A 17-year-old Mohammad Amir made his debut in World T20 against England at The Oval. He took the new ball and bowled at a pacy 85mph and swinging the white cherry away from the right hander and tasted blood, in the form of Ravi Boppara in only his 2nd ball in International cricket. Everyone sat up to watch this new kid of the block.

The early promise was true to its hype as Amir began to rip and bamboozle opposition batsmen and square them up in all three formats, with a miserly average of 23 in limited overs and 29 in the longer format, this youngster was a boy wonder. Few of his most prominent performances were his 5 wicket haul in Melbourne Test match in 2009 against a strong Aussie batting line up of Watson, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey and co. In the World T20 2010, also co incidentally against the rampaging Aussies, Amir bowl a maiden in the 20thand final over of the innings &claiming 5 wickets (3 against his name and 2 run outs) all in the same over.

This kid was doing most things right and along with Asif was forming a potent frontline partnership for the Pakistanis. With this new found enthusiasm and on the back of sterling performances in consecutive WT20’s in ‘09 and ‘10, the Pakistan cricket team were off to England,first to play the Aussies (England was their make-shift home after unfortunate situations of 2008 attack) and then the English (as an away tour) to play 2 Tests followed by a 4 Test series respectively.

Contemplating to better their record in England, Amir and Pakistan squared off against Australia and Drew a hard fought series 1-1. Then was the turn of the English. In the first Test, they were battered by Morgan & Prior centuries in the 1st& 2nd innings’ respectively and skittled by James Anderson who finished with a 11 wickets. Batting dearly let them down in the 2nd Test.

2 nil down and under pressure, Amir blew the English batsman with a 5-52 for in their 2nd innings and won a historic Test match for his team. Backing it up with another 6-82 in the 4th Test and ending up with back to back Man of the Series Trophies against Australia and England with 11 &19 wickets respectively.

Mohammad Amir could do no wrong, or would he?

Life has many faces and true to its word, in September 2010, life had most certainly shown its ugliest side to Amir, Asif and Salman Butt. After a run around the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), the Court and legal battles, they were convicted of taking bribes from a bookmaker, to under-perform deliberately at certain times in the Lord’s Test match. The three stars were sentenced to LIFE BANS!!

 

The cricketing fraternity was shaken and there was huge concern and questions were being asked on the legality of every game being played around that time. The three Pakistani boys claimed,from their part, that they were innocent, but there were too many evidences and reports, pointing fingers against their actions. Every Television channel and Media report were playing those videos and sting operations and it was brutally apparent that something really wrong had transpired.

Only a few months back, almost every mother in the streets of Rawalpindi and Peshawar wanted their kids to emulate Mohammad Amir. Every batsman was studying Amir’s bowling videos and were scratching their heads how to survive, let alone dominate this left armer, every cricket pundit was going gaga over the potential and prospective future of this maverick teenager, Mohammad Amir, the man with a golden arm, had all of a sudden, turned into an International Villain.

The very people who adored and showered their love and adulation, lambasted him as a traitor. Too much to take for an 18-year-old boy, who was in midst of all the hatred and was wondering what has just struck him. Amir faced extreme mental trauma, and he must have speculated, if he would ever go back and hold that cricket ball and represent his country on the field ever again.

In November’2011, Amir decided to plead guilty for his role in spot fixing and cited extreme pressure and threats to his place in the sideas the reason to participate in the fixing scandal. He claimed full responsibility for his actions and also made clear that this was his first and only involvement and was considered as one off event. Since Amir volunteered and came clean, and was only a juvenile, his punishment was reduced to 5 years. All these years, was certainly a big loss for the game and its fans. Some claim, the reduction in Amir’s ban term was unfair, but life has its own ways of giving everyone a second chance and Amir was undoubtedly one of the lucky few.

Early this year, Mohammad Amir, wonder kid no more, returned to represent Pakistan in the limited overs. His return was no walk in the park, as his own team mates were not willing to talk to him, let alone share the dressing room with him. PCB helped his case immensely and Amir, in one of the team meetings, broke down and begged for mercy in front of all his team mates. He also showed some glimpses of his superlative talent with a dazzling spell against India in Asia cup, swinging the ball both ways and troubling the likes of Rohit Sharma, Rahane and Virat Kohli

Come July 14th, life will come a full circle for Mohammad Amir, as the Prodigal Son returns to Lord’s, the same place where all his troubles began, to face the same opposition, England, again in 4 match Test series. Will Amir show everyone what we have missed out in the last 5 years, let us wait and watch.

 

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