DUBAI: Banned fast bowler Mohammad Amir has received an early reprieve for a return to domestic cricket following his cooperation with anti-corruption officials, the International Cricket Council said on Thursday.
Amir's five-year ban was scheduled to expire on September 2 but the 22-year-old could return to domestic cricket with immediate effect, the ICC said in a statement. The decision to relax his ban came after two years of efforts by the Pakisatan Cricket Board (PCB).
"It's the biggest news of my life," he told AFP by phone adding that "It was the most difficult phase of my life but I am sure it's over now and I am keen to return to international grounds."
Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Amir were all banned for spot-fixing during Pakistan's tour of England in 2010, particularly for incidents during the fourth test at Lord's.
The decision to let Amir play domestic cricket was made following the ICC board meeting in Dubai on January 28. Amir flew to Dubai a few days back to have a one-on-one interview with ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) head Sir Ronnie Flannagan.
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The fast-bowler made headlines as a teenager when he played an important part in helping Pakistan win their maiden World Twenty20 title in 2009, which was his first international cricket tournament.
He quickly evolved into a genuine match-winner, picking up 51 wickets in 14 Tests, 25 in 15 ODIs and 23 in 18 T20Is before he was banned along with teammates Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif in the spot-fixing case.
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Amir’s first domestic appearance may occur in the Super-Eight T20 Tournament, which will be the last event of the current domestic season. However, the dates of the event have not been finalised yet and may be staged after the World Cup.
However, there is also a perception among the current and ex-cricketers, fans and administrators that Amir should not be given a second chance to resume cricket.
Some of the domestic and discarded international cricketers feel that they have worked hard to get into some sort of reckoning and it would be unjust to them if Amir is chosen ahead of them.
Speaking exclusively to Express News Mohammad Amir expressed gratitude to all his fans and family who supported him over the course of the past four and a half years, paying particular attention to his wife.
"My wife has supported me tremendously and has helped me through everything," Amir said adding that he would be announcing the good news of his wedding soon.
He further added that his cricket and fitness were his main focus and he urged his friends and family to continue praying for him.
"I am confident to perform well and I will use my full potential to serve Pakistan," he said.
Concluding, the pace bowler thanked Express News for their support and that he was grateful for never hearing any negative news about himself.
In a press conference this afternoon, Amir reiterated his gratitude for all those who showed him support during his ban and was thankful to the ICC.
"I am very glad to hear ICC's decision," the player said.
Commenting on his performance, Amir said that "all players come under pressure and they have to handle the pressure in a professional manner."
In an answer to a question on how long he thought he would need to polish up on his fitness, Amir said "I don't think I should need more than one month. I know my body and I have been playing in unregistered matches to keep up with my practice."
With reference to the ban and the match-fixing, Amir was adamant to put the past behind him and focus entirely what he said was his 'new life'. "As well as a better player, people will see a better human being," he added.
Not wanting to get involved in Butt and Asif's ban, Amir said that it was between the PCB and ICC and they will make the decision in which he said he had no input.
Amir gave his best wishes for Pakistan's team in the upcoming World Cup next month and said that "as a nation we should all support them and be praying for them."
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