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