Whether tainted cricketers should be given a chance to return to the game is a classic conflict between everyone deserves a second chance and opportunity knocks just once. However, Mohammad Aamer’s successful return to international cricket can serve as a good role-model in a country where stars and cricketers have a huge influence. However, such decisions are better used judiciously and Aamer’s case should be one such exception. Abhijit Banare explains as the hope for Aamer to return to international cricket brightens with PCB taking keen interest.
In the 24×7 media that we live in, the fear of stereotypes sticking to a personality can be enormous. The ‘once a thief always a thief’ perception gets further reaffirmed when you start tagging a person with the events that are associated with them. Just like every human needs to have some level of empathy, it is painful to see a raw talent like Mohammad Aamer being mentioned with a prefix of ‘tainted cricketer’ even before his career took off.
After the intense scrutiny that followed post the 2010 spot-fixing controversy, the fortunes of the three players — Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Aamer is increasingly diverging towards different paths. And Aamer’s case right from the start has been treated with special care considering his age at the time and inexperience of not knowing what he was up to.
The opinions on whether banned cricketers should be allowed to return will always be a debate between ‘opportunity knocks the door once’ and ‘everyone deserves a second chance’. However, it is essential to have a rational understanding that not all fixing cases can be packed in one box. The situation, circumstance and understanding of the players are important too.
Just as a parameter to compare, Butt hailed from a background which could be termed as privileged in Pakistan. However, Aamer’s upbringing comes from the fairytale story of fighting extreme poverty to representing the national side at the home of cricket. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say much of the cases in Pakistan originate from a social crisis. And irrespective of whatever strict codes that are formulated against fixing, it won’t really impact the grass-root level unless the awareness is spread in a way that young cricketers understand the gravity of it. Unfortunately Pakistan is the not the only sub-continent nation facing such a crisis.
Aamer emerges from such a situation where fixing may not be such a gruesome crime compared to other problems. Despite all that he went through at such an early age, Aamer deserves a chance to fight his way back. With such huge disparity in the quality of life in developing countries, stars and cricketers undoubtedly emerge as fine role-models considering the immense popularity of the two fields. However, when such tragedy strikes, the fall from the top is equally fatal. If someone like Aamer rises from the dust and shines once again, it will be nothing short of setting a brilliant example for youngsters to be aware of the menace that surrounds competitive cricket.
In a country like India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or Bangladesh, it is easy to spread awareness through popular role-models than giving booklets of written information. Perhaps that should explain why someone like a Sachin Tendulkar or an Amitabh Bachchan are a huge phenomenon. Pakistan is no different. It is easy to mend perceptions provided those at responsible positions are willing to and Aamer will be a perfect example for an aspiring cricketer to identify with. For that to happen, the young fast bowler needs to pave his way back into international cricket and he himself needs someone to back him up.
Role of a mentor:
Aamer will very well know the difference between a good and a bad mentor. Under Butt, playing for National Bank, Aamer didn’t know where this friendship was leading him into. Fortunately for Aamer there is one more personality by the name of Asif Bajwa, who can script a new story for the bowler. Ever since he was an 11-years-old, Bajwa had nurtured Aamer. Even when the disaster struck after the sting operation, as Aamer explained in the interview to Mike Atherton, it was Bajwa who had complete faith in him and charted out a rehabilitation path for his return to international cricket. The long wait is inching closer to an end as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) too has taken interest in getting Aamer back on track with International Cricket Council (ICC) being receptive to the idea as well.
With a return to First-Class cricket, the pacer from a remote area of Punjab will be hungry to work his way back once the tenure of his ban is completed. It was a delight to watch him bowl in the few matches he played. Let’s hope the game of cricket isn’t deprived of witnessing more from such a wonderful player.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)