There’s something about England and Mohammad Amir.
It was in England where Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir was found guilty of spot-fixing in 2010 and was suspended from international cricket for five years. Amir, who was an exciting and gifted 18-year-old pace sensation then, left many in his country and the cricketing world shattered with his actions. Whether he would be forgotten and never be able to make a return was a question on many lips back then.
Amir did make a return after serving his punishment. It took him a while to get back into rhythm and shape and most importantly, to be accepted by the cricket community. His match-winning performance in the finals of ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England was much-appreciated. Many thought that Amir would now be back to his best.
That wasn’t the case, though. In 2018, Amir could manage only three wickets in 10 ODIs at a horrible average of 100.66. He looked listless and flat at times and gave away plenty of runs. Before long, Amir was dropped from the ODI squad.
Weeks before the start of the 2019 World Cup in England, Mohammad Amir wasn’t even in contention for the Pakistani squad. He was being seen as out of form and not someone who could be relied upon in a big tournament. The lack of experience in the Pakistani bowling unit and the way Australia pummeled them in the UAE and then by England in England, though, made the selectors rethink. Amir was hence brought back into the Pakistan squad for the World Cup 2019.
That inspired move has worked like magic for Pakistan. At the halfway stage of the tournament, Mohammad Amir is one of the leading wicket-takers of World Cup 2019 with 15 wickets in 5 matches at a sunning average of 14.60 and an economy of 4.76. Amir isn’t bowling fast and furious. Instead, he is bowling smartly and utilizing the conditions to his advantage.
In his first spell, Amir is letting the ball swing and bringing it into the right-handers sharply – his dismissal of Hashim Amla at Lord’s was perfect testimony of that. Towards the end overs, Amir is bringing out his full repertoire – yorkers, slower ones, off-cutters, slow bouncers, wide ones and the inswinging ones. Batsmen are finding him increasingly difficult to hit and often end up giving away their wickets.
Undoubtedly, the pitches and conditions in England suit Mohammad Amir. In 14 ODIs here, he has snared 24 wickets at an average of 24.50. That he is producing an astounding performance at cricket’s most prominent stage will do wonders to his confidence. Whether Pakistan make it to the semi-finals or not, the way Amir has bowled with such heart, passion, and skill will ensure that he serves the team well in the coming years.
Mohammad Amir is 27 years old now. He looks fit, mature, and raring to go. This is his redemption arc, which seems to become a full circle with this scintillating performance in the very place where he had committed his unforgivable sin.