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Pakistan’s misguided bowling gem Mohammad Amir back on the right road

Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | July 10, 2016

There has been a mixed response to Mohammad Amir’s impending return to Test cricket, where he is coincidentally set to play on the same Lord’s ground five years after being involved in one of the most high-profile scandals in cricket history.

However, the vast majority of players and pundits believe that Amir has served his time and should be allowed to continue what was a hugely promising career before being slapped with a ban and prison sentence.

Amir was one of three Pakistan stars that were found guilty after a spot-fixing sting, along with former captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, though many sympathised with the then 19-year-old, suggesting he was young, impressionable and just following orders.

Cook reluctantly accepts Amir’s return

Cricket - Fourth npower Test - Day Two - England v Pakistan - Lord's

But England captain Alastair Cook is seemingly one man that doesn’t have too much sympathy for talented paceman Amir (7/4 with Coral to be top Pakistan series bowler), although he accepts the ICC’s ruling to give him a second chance.

“I’m sure there will be a reaction and that is right,” opener Cook said ahead of the four-Test series that starts on Thursday, July 14th.

“That is part and parcel, that when you do something like that there are more consequences than just the punishment. That is something for him to cope with, whatever comes his way.

“Whether I agreed or disagreed with the punishment, he got it, served his time and he is absolutely right to come back,” Cook added. “What he did wasn’t good, but he served his punishment then.

“It hasn’t happened and the ICC haven’t made any big statements, but if I was in charge if you got caught once that would be it – one strike and you’re out.”

Amir has backing of Pakistan icon Inzamam

Pakistan Cricket England

Cook’s comments seemed to anger legendary former Pakistan skipper and now-chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, though, ahead of what now seems will be a hotly contested series.

“How would England feel if they were in Pakistan and our captain made a similar statement about one of their players?” Inzamam said.

“I see this as the start of a campaign to start pressurising Amir because not only England but also Australia and South Africa see him as a threat. He can be a match-winner in England.”

Amir can still be a great

Somerset v Pakistan - Tour Match - Day One - County Ground

A match-winner indeed he can be as, if the left-arm seamer’s stats as a teenager from his 14 Tests are anything to go by, Amir still has a number of years at the top ahead of him still aged 24. He’s already impressed in ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals in 2016.

Despite not playing a match for Pakistan (6/1 to win the Test series) in the longest form of the game since August 2010, Amir averaged 29.09 in 27 innings, while also has 50 wickets to his name already.

Being just 19 at the time before his career was interrupted, the Punjab-born starlet broke a number of records including being youngest man to gain a half-century of Test dismissals, to take five-wicket haul in England (he did so twice) and of course to be banned for five years.

Many cricketers don’t start their international careers until after 24, so at least Amir has had a head-start, but will he ever be able to emulate the likes of fellow pacemen Glenn McGrath, Courtney Walsh and James Anderson in gaining over 450 Test wickets?

Making his debut aged 17, if Amir can gain more than 50 every two years then he won’t be far off, but he is almost certain to have now missed out on being the best of all – of course behind spinners.

“The past is the past, I’m looking forward now”

Cricket - Fourth npower Test - Day Four - England v Pakistan - Lord's

Amir summed up his journey from when he was convicted until now, and said these words: “Life was very tough and there were times I thought I might not be able to play again. I didn’t pick up a ball for three years.

“They are terrible memories. I am still learning. Nobody can be Mr Perfect. But the past is the past and I’m looking forward now. I want to be the best cricketer I can be for my country. If I work hard, the main aim for me is to be the world’s best bowler.

“It’s very special for me to be representing my country again and at the same place which it ended; same team, same crowd. I think for me it’s a miracle, but dreams come true.

“Lord’s is a very special place, I have good and bad memories but now I hope to make more good memories for the future. I want to put my name on the honours board, like in 2010.”

Amir placates England fans and players

Somerset v Pakistan - Tour Match - Day Two - County Ground

On potential criticism from the English crowd, he added: “Everybody has the right to their own opinion, and the crowd has the right to say some things, but my aim is to do well and behave. If I perform, hopefully they will forgive me and they will shout for me one day.

“England are a good team, and especially in home conditions they are very good, but we will work hard and try to beat them.

“England have a good batting line-up; Alastair Cook is a good player and Joe Root is doing very well. Every batsman is just as important to get out, but especially Cook, as he is the captain and the backbone of the team. I will try my best to bowl him.

“I am still learning as person, but as a player hopefully I am doing well. I can still swing the ball both ways, maybe you will see in the first Test. I think it will be a good series.”

It certainly is going to be an intriguing spectacle, and for now it seems that Amir is finally on the right path to greatness. You can back Pakistan at 7/2 to stun England in the opening Test, while the hosts are firm odds-on 4/5 favourites.

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