Amir, There and Everywhere – A Look At Pakistan’s Squad

We all expected it. Now we have to wait and see if he gets his visa. Mohammad Amir, once the world’s most exciting young bowler, has been picked in Pakistan’s squad to tour England this summer. I guess we’re about to find out if cricket followers in our country can forgive and forget.

Personally I hope Amir does get his visa. Yes, I accept he damaged the sport. No, I haven’t entirely forgiven him. But I do think people deserve a second chance. Amir was young; he was naive; he was a bit of a prat. But who hasn’t made mistakes? He’s served his time and I’m looking forward to watching him bowl again. Test cricket needs stars. Amir is certainly one of them.

Although I can understand why people think Amir should’ve been given a lifetime ban, and that test cricket doesn’t need ‘stars’ like him, it’s entirely possible that he can become a great redemption story. If he’s learned from his mistake, keeps his nose clean from now, and sets a good example, maybe he can end up in credit by the end of his career? Many sporting bad boys have turned their careers around and ultimately become heroes and role models.

I’m not going to pass judgement on whether one crime is worse than another – it’s a moral maze and we’ll be here all day – but George W. Bush was arrested for drink driving, kept it secret for twenty plus years, and then became leader of the free world. Why shouldn’t a young cricketer be allowed to pursue his career after receiving money for bowling no balls? He didn’t put anyone’s life in danger. I don’t want to trivialise what was a damaging affair for cricket, but it’s important to keep things in perspective sometimes.

What’s more, let’s not forget that Yasir Shah is just returning from a ban for taking illegal substances – something Shane Warne was also once banned for. Some people might call this cheating too. As I say, I fully understand that spot fixing undermines test cricket because it makes spectators doubt the authenticity of the action they’re watching (something that’s crucial to any sport), but unless one’s an advocate of zero tolerance toward any kind of cheating or corruption, it’s hard to argue that Amir should be punished indefinitely.

I imagine this debate is going to split opinion. I’m sure the views I’ve expressed above will rile a good many cricket lovers too (and I completely understand why). However, it’s interesting to note that the ECB have supported Amir’s visa application and that Stuart Broad says he has no hard feelings towards Amir either. If Broad can forgive the lad – and let’s not forget that the affair overshadowed Broad’s only test century – I don’t see why us supporters can’t do the same.

Anyway, I’ll put my soapbox away now and quickly examine the rest of the Pakistan squad. I think you’ll agree that their bowling looks pretty strong. Any team that can afford to leave out Junaid Khan, who is a pretty useful performer, can’t be too bad. If Amir makes the trip, he should forge a potent combination with Wahab Riaz. Imran Khan also has a good test and first class record. The spin department should take care of itself, with Yasir likely to cause plenty of problems.

The batting, as ever, is built around an engine room of Misbah and Younis. We know these guys are quality players. Azhar Ali also provides some solidity at the top of the order. Let’s not forget Asad Shafiq either, who’s enjoyed a solid international career thus far. Sarfraz Ahmed, the keeper, also looked a good player when England visited the UAE a few months back. He’s certainly an improvement on Pakistani keeper-batsmen from yesteryear. Who can forget the legendary Ikeep Mateeth Inajar Besideabed?

Pakistan Squad: Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Iftikhar Ahmed, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Sohail Khan

James Morgan


  • I’m not sure your George W Bush analogy makes the point you want it to make. Maybe they should have thrown away the key! Seriously, I agree Amir should get his visa. It’s worth looking at what Baz had to say about this (and Lou Vincent) in the Cowdrey Lecture yesterday. It seems relevant that Amir (unlike Asif and Butt) accepted his guilt. I incline to the “stupid kid lead astray” rather than “criminal mastermind” school of thought. He’s also a damn good bowler! If Amir gets his visa, I think England could be in for a tough series.

    • Sorry: forgot to say that I think Junaid Khan has lost form. Was hoping at some point to see Junaid, Amir, Wahab and Irfan bowl together: a sort of left arm version of the 1980’s Windies attack (not quite that good, though).

      • Yes I saw Inzi’s comments about Junaid. Seems he’s struggling for rhythm. Still a quality bowler though and young enough to come back. After playing for Lancs a while back, I thought he’d still make the trip myself.

        The point I was making (clumsily) re: George W Bush (thus breaking my own rule about commenting on politics on this blog!) is that he was allowed to continue his career, and even take a job where he’s supposed to be beyond reproach, despite having a DUI conviction. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that he turned into some kind of role model. Ahem!

        I wasn’t really commenting on Bush the person, or the politician, just using it as an prominent example of someone who made mistakes but still rose to the top of his profession (having been given a second chance). PS please let’s not turn this into a debate about Bush. It was probably foolish to mention him :-)

        • I fear you’ve taken my tongue in cheek comment about Dubya rather more seriously than it merited, James! From what I’ve seen of the judge’s comments on Amir, he was very much the 18 year old from a poor background lead astray. On Junaid, I agree, he is a quality bowler. I presume Irfan will be in the limited overs side, so that’s 3 90mph left arm quicks!

  • I’ve forgiven him. I forgave him as soon as I saw the interview with Athers.
    I actually thought the ban was harsh. This was an 18 year old be who’d been corrupted. Out in the “real” world people commit far more serious financial fraud, they may get struck off or banned from being a director, but they aren’t banned from earning for 5 years and rarely do they receive a custodial sentence.

    I’ve had discussions over the years with people who wanted him banned for life. Saying that at 18 he should take responsibility for his actions, that they had to at 18.
    We have no idea of the dressing room environment, how much of a father figure Butt was and also what life as an 18 year old public figure is like in Pakistan.

    I’m looking forward to see him bowling and hope the crowds are encouraging.

    • One of the problems with the current ICC code seems to be that there is no incentive for players to co-operate with the ACSU (Amir pleaded guilty, and was given the same sentence as Mohammed Asif, who didn’t, and was much older).

  • Whether he gets his visa has nothing to do with cricket. I seem to recall reading that his custodial sentence was below some hurdle level above which visas are not permitted. So perhaps this is a non-issue.

  • Given that the game is run by people who openly admit to fixing the schedule of tournaments to make more money, I can’t get too worked up about Amir. I’m actually more concerned about the feeble response to Yasir Shah’s drugs’ test but that’s another issue.

    Pakistan’s bowling can make a contest of the series, but they need some runs to play with. With Pakistan’s batting, that’s a major “but”. Their records outside Asia:

    Hafeez 14 Tests, average 20.8 (Age 35)
    Masood 0 Tests
    Azhar 16 Tests, average 28.7.
    Younis 31 Tests average 45.2 (Age 38)
    Misbah 15 Tests, average 42.1 (Age 42)
    Shafiq 9 Tests, average 23.4
    Sarfraz 4 Tests, average 11.

    • Drugs in cricket is a strange one, the ICC are far more lenient. 6 month bans, 1 year bans. And in the case of Andre Russell – zilch

      • Good work Simon. My feelings about Pakistan coming along is that their quicks and Yasir will expose weaknesses in our batting perhaps more obviously than even the Australians when Root was so far head and shoulders above the rest of the top 6.

        That said my feeling is that their batsmen may struggle a lot too. I am sure that many recall that even in the UAE last autumn their batsmen were very wary of playing Anderson and Broad, who were excellent and that given the more seam and swing friendly arenas that they will play in, will hardly help them.

    • I forgot to mention in my piece above that Pakistan don’t tour outside of Asia / UAE very often at all. They’ll need to adapt to conditions to be competitive. I’m confident that Younis and Misbah will be fine, but the other batsmen will have to learn fast. Good work on those stats, Simon.

  • If I committed something akin to what he did I’d never find employment in my career again. Someone in such a privileged position simply shouldn’t be getting a second chance from such an incident. Sure, go be a shop keeper, bin man, McDonald’s man, office worker etc

    But he shouldn’t be in professional sport in any capacity

    • It seems our honourable and distinguished administrators, to a man, from the right kind of family, and definitely “inside cricket” have chosen to support and endorse his visa application! Probably one of the, if not only, laudable and thoroughly decent things they have done since 2014.

  • Madabout, was your experience of employment at the age of 18 in a small village in Pakistan?

    • You know what you’re doing at 18, if you didn’t 18yr olds wouldn’t be sent to war. No excuse. Simply no place in sport for cheats, makes a mockery of games as you simply can’t trust them

      • He did know what he was doing and was punished.

        He’s missed 5 years of cricket during which time Pakistan have played around 40 tests and over 200 internationals across all formats. Saeed Ajmal has taken over 300 international wickets in that time, he’s missed 2 world cups and 2 T20 world cups. Add to that the lost earnings from IPL etc, it’s been a fairly stiff sentence. That’s on top of the 3 months of his sentence he served. He’ll also carry the label for the rest of his career and beyond.

        I’m ready to say enough is enough and say that the punishment definitely fitted the crime.

        • Hamish, as a small point (which doesn’t detract from your wider one) Pakistan players don’t generally feature in the IPL, so I don’t think that part of your argument is valid.

      • Madabout, so 18 year olds are sent to war. They obey orders. You don’t find too many 18 year old generals or officers or even NCOs. A kid from a poor rural background in Pakistan, with a deeply entrenched patriarchal culture of respect for what your elders say. The parallel with an 18 year old soldier is better than you thought. They obey orders.

        • Spoken as someone who has never been in. You don’t follow orders if they are wrong, we aren’t thick monkeys regardless what you think blinding following any old order

  • The skill of Amir, the pace of Wahab and the support of Imran, plus Yasir and either Zulfiqur or Rahat. My mouth is watering already.

    • Should be a good series if Pakistan can acclimatise. Our batsmen will be tested for sure.

  • Well the Batting is suspect to swing bowling, but at least its better and more settled than the batting lineup sent to England in 2010 though.The batting lineup can be best described as stodgy and experienced unlike in the past where batsmen such as Imran Farhat, The Akmal Family held a permanent position. 6 of the top 7 have averages in excess of forty ( mainly due to playing in asia though)

    This time they have sent not one but two competent keepers unlike the last two tours of England where England had the luxury of Kamran Akmal behind the stumps

    Overall it will be a more competitive series than the last tour in 2010

    • Akmal was a decent enough keeper. The problem was his general fitness and weight. These days it is difficult to get away being a few pounds overweight (or a few stone in Akmal’s case). I sometimes long for the entertainment offered by the sight of less than svelte test players like Cowdrey and Inzaman. I still think the best cricket joke ever was when the authorities issued the bios for the test team and listed Rob Key as weighing 12 and a half stone. It was generally assumed they had weighed his lunch.

  • The anticipation surrounding Pakistan tours is generally heightened because you really don’t know which Pakistan is going to turn up.

    It’s bizarre that Misbah has only played 15 tests outside Asia. Lots will depend on him and Younis.

    • That’s an amazing stat Hamish. He’s over 40 years old too. Just shows how infrequently they travel to places like England.

  • I am a bit surprised at the rather harsh comments on drug issues in some posts. Most of the cricket cases are either recreational drugs or it is difficult to see why they are being taken for advantage. And it is nothing new. Back in the 80s I was a marketing manager for a major cricket sponsor and we often used Botham in events. I still remember the occasion (following a particularly undisciplined tour) when one of Botham’s sponsors/partners (Nike I think) proposed (but ultimately chickened out of) an advert reading “Botham’s back on the grass again”. And Botham wasn’t even the worst offender.

    • Certainly in Yasir Shah’s case it was not a recreational drug – as with Warne, it was a masking agent for steroids (and in both cases occurred in circumstances where an injured bowler was trying to come back quickly from injury).

      • I agree. But I am also of the view that it should be possible to get medical exemption if used to speed recovery from injury. I may be a bit biased on this issue with a Warwickshire background. We had Dermot Reeve, Keith Piper, Paul Smith all with heavy cocaine habits. And they paid the price with their careers, especially Smith who should have been the natural successor to Botham after Clive Lloyd labelled him the fastest white bowler on the planet. My view was exacerbated by the habit (in the 80s/90s) of the authorities being happy to turn a blind eye if the player was important, when they should have been dealing with a wider problem at that time. The Chris Lewis saga was a classic example. Accommodate him while performing and then crap on him from a great height once he no longer matters and threatens the status quo.

        • Zero tolerance is the way forward, no ‘exceptions’ and certainly no weak punishments like we’ve seen with amir and yasir

    • What about Andre Russell missing 3 tests in a year.
      We’ve banned athletes for that , Christine Ohuruogu got a year ban for doing that.
      Rio Ferdinand got 8 months and missed a major tournament for missing 1 test.
      Cricket has taken no action towards Andre Russell as yet.

  • I’ve been banging on about this one for years. If you’re a teenager at the start of his career, and your captain and a senior player tell you to do something or you won’t get picked, that everyone is at it and there’s also a fear of physical harm to yourself and your family, then it’s very, very hard to say “No”. It’s similar to when your boss asks you to do something unethical or that involves a conflict of interest. It can put you in an impossible position. Amir made the wrong call and a ban was appropriate, but for me once he’d pleaded guilty the prison sentence was totally over the top. He could have worked in the community; prison was the wrong punishment. Butt and Asif, by contrast, are the lowest of the low who deserved to lose their liberty for the cheating, the pressure they put Amir under and the fact they lied like hell and were totally lacking remorse. They should also have been banned for life – No (As)Ifs and definitely No Butts!

    • Age is no excuse. You know what you’re doing and you know it’s wrong. Sure ou can make excuses but you take responsibility for your actions and he made the wrote choice and should deal with it with losing a privileged career.

      Now he’s back and will be forgiven by half of you and suspected by the other half.. That’s bad for the game. He doesn’t give a crap either, he will make his millions and will be laughing all the way to the bank at the sports expense

      • What will we be looking for? A dodgy no ball? The umpires probably won’t pick it up anyway :-)

        Corruption is hard to spot in cricket, I suspect some T20 games are rigged but of course can’t back this up with any facts, in the international arena are some ODI’s and tests dodgy. How would we find out.
        After the Pakistani spot fixing , it was claimed that a test between Australia and Pakistan the previous Australian summer was fixed but nothing has ever come out
        The spot fixing case was a sting by the NOW , and the bloke involved got the players to bowl no balls to prove he could control them (you actually can’t place bets on no balls) but nothing else has ever come out. All very odd.


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