Ever since Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Amir has made a comeback to cricket, the cricketing world has been divided into two factions. Some argue that Amir has tainted the game and should never be allowed to play it again and that he should be made an example of.
Others contend that the young man deserves another chance, and if cricket is like life, as many compare, another chance should be given to him to rectify mistakes made as a teenager. Most agree that his captain Salman Butt played a major role in influencing him to get involved in spot-fixing in the Lord’s Test of 2010 against England and that it was right for his age and that circumstance to be taken into consideration in both his punishment and reintegration.
Here is what some of the players – past and present – had to say.
The entire controversy started not by anyone else from any other team, but it was started by Mohammad Hafeez in November 2015. The opening batsman had initially turned down an offer in the Bangladesh Premier League from the Chittagong Vikings franchise as the squad also featured Amir. Hafeez had gone on record saying that he could not play “with any player who has tarnished and brought a bad name to the country”.
However, later Hafeez was much more acceptable of Amir in the national team and he has also come out in support of the left-arm bowler in New Zealand when the youngster was put under pressure by the crowd and also by the announcer in the ground.
Another bout of controversy erupted when Azhar Ali, the Pakistan ODI team captain was not willing to join the national team training camp in Lahore as it also included Mohammad Amir. He had also wanted to resign over the issue
“I will not attend the camp as long as Amir is there,” Ali told reporters in Lahore. “Hafeez and I can’t accept Amir’s presence in the camp.”
However, much like Hafeez, Ali too was later more inclusive of Amir in the team.
“Whatever happened in 2010 is now a thing in the past and now we need to look forward. It has been a while now since he has been with us. It could have been tough, had he come in straight on such a tour, but now, after playing with us for a long time, things have settled,” Azhar said.
The West Indies great fast bowler was doing commentary duties when Amir committed his infraction at Lord’s in 2010. He said Amir seemed to be acting reluctantly to the instructions of his captain Salman Butt. He said people committed all sorts of crimes, including murder, spent time in jail, and were allowed to return to society, find jobs and live their lives. He said Amir had transgressed but he had killed no one.
“I am glad that he is back. . .,” Holding said.
Perhaps the most scathing criticism has come from former England off-spinner Graeme Swann. He was present during the fated 2010 series.
He believed that Amir should never have been allowed to walk through the famous Long Room again after his actions in 2010.
‘Mohammad Amir will walk out on the green and glorious turf at Lord’s on Thursday [yesterday] — and it will make me feel sick,’ wrote in a column for The Sun.
“This is a man who crushed the morality of the game. And yet he is being allowed back to play at the Home of Cricket. Amir should have been banned for life for his part in the corruption scandal of 2010”, Swann further wrote in his column.
The entire tirade against Amir as he was about to make his trip to England was started by England Test captain Alastair Cook.
Cook came out saying that Amir will have to deal with the consequences and he will be given a very rough ride by the English spectators.
“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,” Cook said.
Cook was also very vociferous in his opinion that cheats should be handed lifelong bans, but also believed that it is only right Amir is given the opportunity to rebuild what was a promising Test career.
The former Pakistan skipper and the current chairman of selectors, Inzamam-ul-Haq came out in support of the under fire Amir, and also questioned the sanctity of Alastair Cook’s comments.
“How would the England captain feel if they were in Pakistan and our captain made a similar statement about some player?” Inzamam asked.
“I think it would be a good idea if Amir was not made to field at the boundaries because he will then face hostile comments and remarks. It is best to keep him away from the crowd at the start,” he further added.
The former batting great also added that he is hopeful that the English crowd will be supportive of Amir during his comeback.
Discarded English batsman Kevin Pietersen is one who never minces his words, and has come out criticising Mohammad Amir and his return to International cricket.
“They have broken the rules, should pay the price and not be given a second chance,” Pietersen wrote in The Telegraph.
“If you cheat the system either by taking drugs or money to under-perform then you are mugging the spectators, your team-mates and a sport that has been around a lot longer than you. People always deserve a second chance in life but sport is different”, the controversial batsman further added.
However, he also wished that the crowds do not provoke the man when he steps out to play, as Amir is a very competitive bowler.
Amidst all the clamour that Mohammad Amir will get a hostile reception by the English crowd, former Pakistan captain Imran Khan has come out saying that he does not expect the crowd to give the left-arm bowler any hostile reception.
“I don’t think he will get a hostile press or reception because from what I have seen having been to England there is lot of sympathy for him because when the spot-fixing scandal took place he was just 18 or 19 and he later on also quickly admitted his guilt and apologised to everyone,” Imran said in a talk show on Ary Channel.
He also said that there is a general wave of sympathy for Amir as people are willing him success after he has served his punishment.
Coming down hard on British media, former Pakistan skipper, Shahid Afridi has said that the British media is putting undue pressure on Mohammad Amir.
Afridi was the captain of the T20 team when Amir first played cricket after serving his ban and said that according to him, he is the best bowler in the world.
Also, Afridi said that Amir will not be affected by the pressure all around as he is mentally very strong and will certainly deliver on the big stage.
The former South African wicket-keeper too has voiced his displeasure at the inclusion of Amir into the team.
Boucher nodded in affirmation to the article of Kevin Pietersen, and later tweeted: “Good article @KP24! Honest opinion that I fully agree with!”
The former England captain was one of the few players who interviewed Amir after he was banned. Also, he is one the few among the English coterie to back Amir’s comeback.
“He made a bad mistake and he deserved some punishment, there is no getting away from that.
“Five years out of the game and going to jail is a pretty heavy punishment – I think it was a six-month sentence of which he served three.”
“They turned to the youngest and most vulnerable player in that team and put him under pressure to bowl those no-balls. So, I think on those two mitigating factors a ban for life would be unbelievably harsh. A five-year ban – that’s fine”, he added during an interview with Sky Sports.
Indian cricket legend, Sachin Tendulkar, has thrown his weight behind Amir and feels that he should be given another chance because he is a very skilled bowler.
“I think the guys who decided to penalise him have already penalised him. He’s served his sentence and now he’s back to playing after (doing) whatever he was asked to do, so I think it’s fine.
“I’ve seen a couple of (Amir’s) interviews. One with Michael Atherton, I saw that interview and he came across as a mature guy with balance and that is something that will reflect on the field I think”, Sachin added.
Amir took 1 for 65 in 18 overs on his Test return at Lord’s today as Pakistan dominated the second day of the first Test against England.