A second chance for Amir
Amir deserves a second chance. He needs cricket, and to some extent, cricket needs his magic.
For a long time, I was so gutted by what Mohammad Amir did that I felt his crime was unforgivable. He had been with the team for a year; a year of travelling, a lot of learning and a lot of guidance. But I guess the guidance came from all the wrong quarters; Salman Butt was his best friend on the Pakistan cricket team, as he once claimed during the World T20 in the West Indies. And that friendship cost him.
Did anyone expect a street-smart character like Amir to be so gullible? Was he so innocent that he just got sucked into this dirty game?
Let's go back in time a little.
Amir was in a league of his own. He was just too good with the little red cherry in his hand and the statistics proved it. Five-fors against the Australians and the English - an unforgettable and devastating spell at Leeds against Australia, with two gems bowled at Steven Smith and Mitchell Johnson.
Aged just a touch above 17, he set up the tone for victory in the World T20 Final - and that too at Lords, Surely, he was someone special.
For the next one year, the accolades just did not stop coming. He was praised and celebrated as the boy to look out for. Fame, money, stardom - he had it all; it all happened for Amir at the tender age of 17. A dream come true perhaps?
Surely, this fairytale too had to have its share of bad patches. But such a rough patch? After securing five-fors in the last two Test matches he played, Amir may have been dreaming of new sponsorship deals, more media attention and more cricketing fame. Surely, a stint at a young offenders institute would not have been on his mind. A five year ban from a game that probably means everything to him, would not have crossed his mind even in his wildest dreams. But this is how real life works. You pay the price for your wrong actions, and sometimes you pay so much more.
But Amir may have paid more than he ought to.
So what will become of this young man?
People like former England captain Mike Brearley feel that Amir deserves leniency. When we talk about Amir's culpability, it is important to understand how his crime was committed. Amir was young, clearly corruptible and was perhaps sucked into the corrupt culture by his 'friends'. The bad guys don’t show up at your door and ask you to fix. Surely, they must have their methods of trapping you. In my head, it plays like any Hollywood movie where a clandestine operation takes place. When you make a small mistake, you are caught in the net. This is perhaps when the threats start floating in. And before you know it, you are in the grips of people you should be far from associating with.
When I put myself in Amir’s shoes, I shudder for a second; what would I have done in a similar situation? When I think of this situation, I remember a time when I was robbed at gunpoint; before the incident took place, I used to talk big about how I would kick the robber in the guts and escape. When it actually happened, with that 9 mm pistol placed on my head, I froze. I had nowhere to run, nothing came to my mind. I gave up.
Perhaps Amir gave in.
When it comes to the question of whether he deserves a place back on the Pakistan team, I feel that after serving his sentence, he should be able to build a new life. But will cricket let someone like Amir back? The powers that be allowed Marlon Samuels to make a comeback. But there was a major difference; Samuels did not commit a criminal offence - he violated ICC’s anti-corruption laws.
Call me biased, but like Amir needs cricket, cricket needs Amir's magic. Asif and Salman will be well past their prime when they complete their bans, and my basis for pleading Amir's case is not just that he was a gullible teenager. What he did was wrong, without any doubt. He admitted that he made a mistake. We need to accept that and move on from it.
My empathy for Amir really just boils down to the fact that he will still have a considerable amount of overs left in his tank once the ban expires. Of course, the underlying assumption is that his bowling will do the talking in the domestic circuit if he gets back in action. With that in mind, the question really is this: will he be forgiven?
I feel he should get a second chance. In fact, he deserves it.