Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Mohammad Amir is born - talent gone astray
April 13, 1992 - “What I went through, only I can understand. There were times in the beginning, as a human being, where I felt very negative. Would I ever play cricket again? Do I want to play cricket again?”
Mohammad Amir made his international debut in Pakistan’s first game of the World T20 in 2009 at the tender age of 17 and played all the seven matches for the team in the tournament. He did a decent job and also had a role to play in the team's title win against Sri Lanka. Amir kicked off the World T20 final at Lord’s with a maiden, removing Tillakaratne Dilshan with his fifth ball. Pakistan went on to win their maiden World T20 title by eight wickets.
It took the youngster little time to break through the Test and the ODI XIs. While he replicated him success in the ODIs straightaway, it took the left-arm pacer some time to get tuned to the rigours of Test cricket. Soon, he adjusted to the red ball as well.
Amir took 30 wickets at an average of 19.80 against Australia and England on Pakistan’s tour of England, becoming the youngest bowler to take a Test five-for in England and the youngest to take 50 Test wickets.
At Lord's in August 2010, Amir was at his best. He not only swung the ball around corners but bowled really quick, accounting for figures of 28-6-84-6. Two days later, the News of the World is sent to the presses, and there is shock.
The newspaper sting lifted the lid on the spot-fixing scandal after a number of no-balls were bowled in the Test.
It was claimed that Amir, 18, plotted with Pakistan's former Test captain Salman Butt, 27, fast bowler Asif, 28, and corrupt London-based sports agent Mazhar Majeed, 36, to bowl three deliberate no-balls in the Lord's Test as part of a lucrative betting scam.
During the trial of Butt and Asif, it was revealed that suspicious text messages were sent between Amir and associates in Pakistan on the eve of the Oval Test between August 18 and 21 last year. Just after midnight on August 17, Amir sent his bank details to a contact in Pakistan, whom he texted again in a panic after the match-fixing scandal broke on August 28 asking for details of his calls to be deleted.
The teenage bowler also texted another Pakistan number before the Oval match, asking: 'How much and what needs to be done?'
Another text confirmed: 'So in first three, bowl however you want, and in the last two, do eight runs?'
A text from an Indian number to Majeed in the early hours of the first day of the game put Amir in fixing 'brackets', a set period of a game on which gamblers bet, for example, how many runs will be scored. Amir and Majeed also exchanged calls and texts on the morning of the third day of the Oval Test, the court heard.
The court found Amir's involvement in the Lord's Test and Oval Test. Banned from all cricket for five years by the ICC, Amir pled guilty in November 2011 to charges of conspiracy to cheat at gambling, and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments. He was sentenced to six months in prison at Feltham Young Offenders Institution, of which he served three.
“What I went through, only I can understand,” he told Wisden Cricket Monthly. “There were times in the beginning, as a human being, where I felt very negative. Would I ever play cricket again? Do I want to play cricket again?”
By 2016, Amir had returned in all formats for Pakistan. He was not the same bowler though that he was at Lord's on that fateful day. He hasn't been too bad either, dishing out some memorable performances in the 2019 World Cup and the 2015 Champions Trophy - not least in the final against India.
Whether Amir should have been forgiven as everyone deserves a second chance or banned for life for the grave crime he committed, will always elicit strong opinions from both sides. Meanwhile, having turned 28, Amir has retired from Test cricket and is still pretty much part of Pakistan's white-ball plans.
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