People & society - Meteor

Mohammad Amir: The comeback kid

Published Aug 24, 2016 05:01pm


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Illustration by Aan Abbas
Illustration by Aan Abbas

The last time Mohammad Amir walked off the Lord’s cricket ground, it was in disgrace. After an underwhelming performance by the team in England, the left-arm fast bowler was implicated in allegations of spot-fixing for bowling two deliberate no balls on August 26, 2011. An undercover video of the Pakistan cricket team members accepting bribes from a bookmaker made international headlines, and they were subsequently questioned by Scotland Yard. Along with captain Salman Butt and right-arm bowler Mohammad Asif, Amir pleaded guilty on the verdict handed out by the International Cricket Council (ICC). He was convicted in November 2011 and banned from playing for five years. He was just 18 years old at the time. The promising career of a young bowler, compared to Wasim Akram – the Sultan of Swing – so early on in his career, was forever tarnished.

The Gujjar Khan native had played his first international match during the 2009 ICC World Twenty20, and had a big role in winning the tournament for Pakistan. At the time of his ban, he had played a total of 14 Test matches, 15 ODIs and 18 T20 matches. On January 29, 2015, Amir was allowed an early return to domestic cricket and played several matches at home as part of his rehabilitation under the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). More significantly, he played for the Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League, taking seven wickets, including a hat-trick, in a match against the Lahore Qalandars.

Nearly six years after the scandal – in his first international match, his return to international cricket and his return to the historic Lord’s ground, coming full circle – Amir (now a young man of 24 years of age) struck the last wicket and won the first of the Test series against England in July 2016. According to the head coach, Amir was so nervous that he could not even grasp the ball properly. By the end of the match, however, the cricketer was able to grin victoriously, his arms spread wide open as he sprinted across the pitch; his fellow teammates cheering him on while the crowd roared. Other than helping secure victory for Pakistan, Amir was able to secure his place back in international cricket.

There was one word used by cricket commentators and writers over and over again to describe Amir’s comeback: redemption.

In the subcontinent, when politicians perform poorly, the go-to word on the street is “corruption”. The same holds true for cricketers. Cricket’s association with match-fixing has been around for more than two decades. Since then, allegations of match-fixing and spot-fixing have been common, but the actions taken to curb the menace were previously inconsistent and sporadic. In Amir’s case, the evidence was just too overwhelming to overlook. Arrest and imprisonment were seen as the only remedies.

While the other two players got much longer bans, the court (and public perception) was more lenient towards Amir due to his age and his underprivileged background. Judge Jeremy Cooke, who tried the trio in England, said that Amir received a reduced sentence due to his background — “unsophisticated, uneducated and impressionable”. Others, however, were less sympathetic. Kevin Pietersen, for example, wrote an article for The Telegraph arguing that anyone caught in match-fixing should be banned for life. “If you cheat the system either by taking drugs or money to under-perform then you are mugging the spectators, your teammates and a sport that has been around a lot longer than you,” Pietersen stated.

The sport may have been around longer than this player, but Amir’s predicament is much larger than his own career. There is a concern whether his relatively lenient punishment has set a bad precedent: should a convicted felon be allowed to represent his country on an international level? Or were the PCB and the international authorities justified in accepting him back into the national team? Does everyone deserve a second chance?

This was originally published in the Herald's August 2016 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.

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Comments (18) Closed

Hassan Aug 25, 2016 05:06am

Wow. Thanks for stating the facts once again, for the umpteenth time. Really eye-popping and refreshing. After 5 years, I thought i had not understood the issue properly. Great article.

faisal Aug 25, 2016 09:04am

History tells us many leaders politicians educated people around the world cheat and lies but they don't pay the price why this 18 year boy was treated like cheating was never done in this world before in fact the way he was treated was very unfair by the England justice system if he was from West he would not have been convicted .

Narendra Aug 25, 2016 09:58am

Nothing great!! He is just an average bowler. Over Hyped. Failed miserably in England. If as a fast bowler you can do much in England then what more to say?

omer Aug 25, 2016 11:39am

Please move on. In dawn, 100 thousands of article has been written on amir and his spot fixing scandal. Time to move on. We learned from the past. Every single time when there is the name of amir, writer always mention that spot fixing associated with him. It is not good to repeatedly mention this spot fixing which disgrace our nation. Time to move on..

Khurram Aug 25, 2016 11:41am

Nothing new - just a filler

Lehaar A. Aug 25, 2016 11:49am


Remember the "average" bowling jolting your star-studded line-up in Asia Cup?

Mirza Aug 25, 2016 12:12pm

Performance has not been good as it was when he was banned for spot fixing. Will need to perform by getting top order wickets rather than bask on the past glory.

Faraz Zubair Aug 25, 2016 12:16pm

@Narendra Yeah we saw that when India limped to 8 for 3 and nearly lost Kohli to a vociferous appeal. Pretty ordinary that was. Agreed. :)

Deepak Aug 25, 2016 01:52pm

@Faraz Zubair - He is talking about England... Move On... India Won the Asia Cup and that Match... The Problem isn't Amir, but because of him, other deserving candidates aren't getting the chances.

Dev Aug 25, 2016 02:13pm

Pakistan has surely set a negative precedent by allowing Amir play. Like all convicts he should be allowed to go on with his life, but allowing him to play cricket is too much. On a similar note does Pakistan allows a convicted policeman to perform his duty post his sentence?

citizen Aug 25, 2016 04:09pm

His performance in English tour was mediocre and below average. Just over hype cannot sustain a player. Real performance counts !!

Pakistani Aug 25, 2016 07:56pm

There were other bowlers on the team who performed far better than him - The stats clearly shows that

Rahul Singh Aug 25, 2016 10:58pm

@faisal If he was from west he would not have been involved this much..West has much cleaner ethics than Asian and specially Subcontinent.This sort of leniency which u r demanding for crime is the major reason for this.I believe anyone great let it be Azhar ,Akram or Amir whoever has committed this crime lets us make example of him.If somebody has not been punished in the past then don't make it a reason to get away in the present.If we make tough decision today and let go one amir then tomorrow there won't be other Amir or this chain of committing and forgiving will continue.

Rahul Singh Aug 25, 2016 10:58pm

@Lehaar A. But ultimatly who lost?

Rahul Singh Aug 25, 2016 11:02pm

@Dev Yes tomorrow somebody of caliber of sachin will think himself over cricket and will feel that 1 crime will be pardoned and will indulge in this kind of game

Guru Aug 26, 2016 09:07am

@Narendra Stop being so hard-hearted. Any cricket aficionado who saw him before his fall could straightaway see that he was a special talent. He's digging himself out of the hole he has fallen into; let's hope he recovers his former form and talent going forward instead of dissing him.

Azim Khan Aug 27, 2016 02:06pm

@Narendra he didn't fail but the poor Pakistani fielding let him down. Count how many catches were dropped on his bowling. If Pakistani fielders have buttercup hands do not blame him.

Journal_Pasha Aug 28, 2016 11:46pm

@Hassan Loved your comment!