Mohammad Aamer’s ban will end in September 2015 © Getty Images
By Amir Husain
Seldom has a young talent in the world of cricket inspired so much praise at the start of his career than a young Pakistani left-arm fast bowler, hailing from Gujjar Khan in Punjab. Making his international debut at the age of 17 in 2009 at the World Twenty20 in England, the name Mohammad Aamer soon became a subject of tall predictions of future greatness.
However it all turned sour on August 28, 2010 when the 18-year-old precocious talent from Pakistan, who had thus far taken 51 wickets in just 14 Test matches along with 25 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and 23 Twenty20 Internationals wickets in 15 and 18 matches respectively, was implicated in a corruption scandal which put his nascent career on an indefinite hold. He and two other Pakistani players – Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif – were indicted by courts of law and then banned from playing all forms of cricket for five years by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
As the 21-year-old fast bowler looks ahead to the end of his ban, due for completion on September 2, 2015, a much wiser and seemingly penitent Mohammad Aamer is looking forward to a make a comeback. His hopes of a quicker return to the cricket field have been further enhanced by the amendments to the rules concerning banned cricketers being considered by the ICC, which would allow him to play domestic or club cricket before his ban ends and he is understandably excited about this latest development.
“If the amendment that is being discussed comes into force, it will be excellent news” said Aamer in an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net.
“It would be fantastic if I could have the opportunity to train and perhaps play some cricket before my ban ends in September next year. I’d be very appreciative of the ICC if they could make this amendment. To have that opportunity to re-launch my career a few months ahead of the ban could make a huge difference to me. It’s a massive boost for me to hear this potential piece of good news,” added the young bowler who was once tipped to be the rightful heir to the legacy of one of the world’s greatest left-arm bowlers, Wasim Akram.
From the lofty heights of being one of Pakistan’s brightest hopes to the humiliation of being incarcerated at a Young Offenders prison, Aamer has seen it all. Whilst the praise showered on him in his early days would have probably made him blush, the vitriol heaped on Aamer by shocked fans and experts alike would have disheartened anyone in his position.
It is therefore understandable that the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) support for Aamer has been a source of great comfort to him – a fact that he acknowledges. “I’m very grateful to the Pakistan Cricket Board for putting my case forward. I’m particularly grateful to PCB chairman Najam Sethi for his efforts and I hope that their efforts on my behalf will continue.”
Whilst Aamer understands the tremendous support of the PCB in their attempts to rehabilitate and restore him to his former status as an international player representing Pakistan, he is also under no illusion about the strength of feelings of the key stakeholders of Pakistani cricket, namely the fans. He appears determined to make things right and is hoping to take all steps needed to ensure that he is able to return to his previous form as and when the opportunity presents itself.
“I have full faith in my ability to come back and be the player I was for Pakistan before my ban. My start to international cricket was incredible; in fact at times it was unbelievable! I know that I will have to re-launch my career after such a long time away from cricket but I know I can do it. Fans and media alike will have to be patient though as it may take a few games to find my feet, but I’m confident that I will be the same Mohammad Aamer that I was before.”
Although Aamer may have the mental will to redeem himself in the eyes of the fans and to reinstate his form, to what made him so special until that summer’s day in 2010 at Lord’s, the question on the minds of most fans will be centred around his fitness and technical skills.
A period of five years without any form of cricket does place serious doubts on his match fitness and ability to perform on the field, but a determined Amir is in no mood for compromise here.
“As far as fitness is concerned, I don’t think that will be a problem. I’m probably stronger now than I was when I was banned. I’ve continued to train at home and keep my fitness levels up. I feel that the technical aspects of my game will come back soon after I’ve played some first class cricket and club cricket,” he says.
On August 28, 2010, the world saw the images of Aamer deliberately bowling no-balls for financial gain – a sight that many will never forget and will find difficult to forgive. Apart from the fans, there will be many amongst the player community, who will be upset at his return to the game that they feel was soiled forever by the actions of the three Pakistani cricketers.
How the opposing teams and fans will react to another no-ball by Aamer in the future is a quandary that will only be resolved with the passage of time, but for the young talent, there is only determination to return to the passion in his life as he expresses so eloquently.
“After being away from cricket for five years it will be a strange feeling walking on to a cricket field once again. I think the difficulty will be regarding the mental side of the game and to be mentally ready for the rigours of international cricket. I’m going to have to ensure that I do my utmost to prepare myself for my return,” he concludes.
Given Pakistan’s dwindling and at times, insufficient, fast bowling resources, it is no surprise that for many admirers of the left-arm bowler, Aamer’s return to cricket is a necessity that the PCB can ill afford to miss. Whether the world will see, or indeed accept, Mohammad Aamer in a Pakistani jersey and enjoy his talent without a feeling of Déjà Vu is something only time will tell.
For the moment, all eyes remain focused on September 2, 2015.
(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)