LAHORE: Our cricket heroes seem to be very fond of making statements to the media without giving much thought to the content. Shahid Afridi is a regular offender in this field but gets away every time due to the lenient attitude towards discipline on part of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Recently, there were reports in the media that Mohammad Hafeez (nicknamed Professor) has vowed not to share a dressing room with or play alongside Mohammad Amir, the fast bowler who had recently been cleared to play first class cricket after serving a punishment for spot-fixing in a Test match. He said that the young cricketer had brought a bad name to Pakistan and to the PCB by his irresponsible behaviour. While no one would disagree with the Professor that Pakistan’s image was tarnished by Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt by their spot-fixing in 2010 in England, it is also true that they have served their respective terms of punishment and have been allowed by the ICC to play at domestic and international levels after due clearance by the PCB.
In the light of these developments, Hafeez’s stance does not appear to be reasonable. One can appreciate the sentiments of the senior member of our cricket team, but then this kind of boycott by Hafeez sounds contradictory when one looks at his willingness to play alongside other cricketers who had brought a bad name to Pakistan. For example, he has been sharing the team’s dressing room with Afridi, who on many occasions, had indulged in acts that embarrassed the PCB and no less tarnished the image of the country. We still remember him biting the ball and tampering with it during a One-Day International in Australia and his act of damaging the pitch by scratching it with his boots during a Test against England in Faisalabad. He was caught on television cameras on both occasions and duly punished. He continued to play for Pakistan without any remorse. Hafeez does not seem to have any issues with Afridi’s acts that brought a bad name to Pakistan cricket. I wonder what the Professor’s take on that will be.
Amir has served his punishment, is showing good form and match fitness and there should be reservations about letting him represent Pakistan. There have been examples where Test cricketers engaged in match-fixing were caught, punished and then allowed to play international cricket again. South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs and West Indian Marlon Samuels are names that come to mind. The ICC had very clearly stated that Amir was allowed to play first class and international matches once he had served his sentence, completed the prescribed rehabilitation programme and was cleared by the PCB. Amir’s performance in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League has been very impressive, which has been appreciated by Misbahul Haq and Shahid Afridi. Pakistan cannot boast at the moment of a situation where its current teams have pace bowlers of Amir’s quality. Everyone is aware of the standard of the pace attack we have. We still keep on chopping and experimenting with new bowlers in search of a settled pace attack.
Amir’s current form and class deserve to be recognised and his hard work in rehabilitating himself should not be allowed to go waste. It will be Pakistan’s loss if we ignore him only because a few narrow-minded current and former cricketers raise voices against his inclusion in the national team. There is a vast majority of cricket fans that favour his comeback. He is young and still has many good years to serve Pakistan cricket.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2015.