Did you buy Mohammad Amir’s story?

Published: March 20, 2012
Email

I want to.

I really want to.

I want to believe that Mohammad Amir is an innocent 18-year-old boy who was set up by his friend and captain – his fixer.

But I can’t.

There are a lot of things about Mohammad Amir’s interview that are bothering me. I feel like we are being told a story that is not true. I feel like we, Pakistani cricket fans, are being lied to… again.

Since the interview aired, I’ve heard a wide variety of thoughts from the general public and Twitterati. One section feels sorry for the kid and believes that he was truly set up; the other section believes he is lying.

Many also feel that this is just the start of his rehabilitation and image-building plan, which has been put in place by his well wishers.

Let me start with explaining why I am having a hard time believing the story of an alleged ‘set-up’.

My first question is: why now?

Even those who believe Amir have been asking the same question. Why now? Why tell the world that you were set-up now, when you had 18 months to do it? Why stay quiet all this time?

The day the story was broken by the News of the World, there were senior men in the Pakistan dressing room like Yawar Saeed, and many back in Pakistan, like Ijaz Butt, who had repeatedly requested Amir to be honest and tell them the truth.

But Amir remained quiet.

Why?

I understand that at first he denied all accusations because he panicked and then finally pleaded guilty after he was guided appropriately. But why remain quiet after pleading guilty? Why not tell your story immediately? Wouldn’t that have been the right time to tell the world that you were set up?

I am not sure if there is a law that allows a self-confessed criminal to become a witness in a case; but if there isn’t, what stopped Amir from becoming a witness in this whole spot-fixing hoopla? His story would have surely helped the prosecution.

So why now, Amir? Why couldn’t you trust anyone else besides Salman Butt?

Amir says that the reason he chose to remain quiet was that he did not know who to trust since the person he trusted the most had betrayed him. According to him, he hadn’t even spoken about this to his family.

Did he really not trust anyone else more than Salman?

Wasim Akram is his self-proclaimed idol. He has talked about calling ‘Wasim bhai’ on many occasions for advice. ‘Wasim bhai’ was also the one who spotted him in a camp and groomed him whenever he got the chance.

So how difficult was it to pick the phone up and tell ‘Wasim bhai’ how badly he had been trapped?

Waqar Younis was the team coach at the time. Waqar had been working with Amir for many months; surely Waqar would have taught him a thing or two about bowling and how to conduct himself, considering Waqar had also burst into the scene as an 18-year-old. I’m also quite sure that Waqar would have developed some sort of relationship with this rising Pakistani star – so why was it so hard to sit down with Waqar and explain to him how you had been set up?

Aqib Javed was also with the team. Aqib must have observed Amir during his time with the U-19 team and the NCA as well. Aqib is known to have a good relationship with all the players, in particular with the younger ones. Aqib has been one of the most respected members of the team’s coaching staff in recent years. Why couldn’t Amir trust him?

Moreover, before Salman Butt, Amir had played under the captaincy of Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, and Shahid Afridi during his 14 month cricket career.

Were Pakistan’s senior most cricketers not trustworthy enough for Amir?

And where the hell is Ali, the “unidentified bookie“?

There is enough evidence in the text messages exchanged between Amir and Ali for the authorities to implicate Ali in a spot-fixing case as well.

Here is a man who was trying to corrupt a young cricketer and he is nowhere to be found. Whose failure is that? His numbers and texts were found on Amir’s phone – why didn’t anyone try and get hold of him?

Amir says Ali was Salman Butt’s friend whom he had met in Dubai. How hard could it be to trace him? Why did no one try and question Ali in court?

Amir has openly accused Ali of being an accomplice with Salman Butt and Mazhar Majeed in the set-up. If Amir was fighting this case in court, would Ali not be a key witness?

I am no psychiatrist, but if you take a look at the interview again and notice the first time Atherton mentions Ali, Amir changes his posture, raises the pitch of his voice and then speaks about him. Could the change in Amir’s body language mean that he is angry? Or that he is lying?

Did he really not see the set-up coming?

We all know that he is an 18-19 year old boy. But he is no dimwit.

Amir himself said that he was curious to find out what Ali wanted from him, which is why he initially entertained his text messages and asked him what he wanted, before telling Ali that he would not do it.

Amir knew that he had done nothing wrong with respect to what Ali had asked him, so why did he get scared of the ICC getting a hold of those text messages?

The ICC didn’t get hold of them, but that is what Mazhar Majeed told him, to set him up, according to Amir.

I find it hard to believe, that an inquisitive person like Amir, who has enough sense to probe Ali to find out what he wants, and has enough sense to tell Salman Butt twice that he would not get involved in fixing, doesn’t have the sense to tell Mazhar that it doesn’t matter if the ICC has gotten hold of the text messages, they can’t do anything to him because he hasn’t done anything wrong.

He could have very easily walked away from Mazhar’s car in the parking lot, after saying that he would not do it.

But he didn’t.

According to Amir, he panicked and he really thought he was in trouble. But how can one be in trouble without taking any money from a bookie or fixer?

Watch the interview and decide for yourself –  do you believe Mohammad Amir or not?

Michael Atherton has done a wonderful job by getting us this interview. Despite the fact that I have my doubts about the credibility of Amir’s story, I do feel sorry for him; I believe he suffered due to a generally corrupt dressing room environment.

He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Atherton ends the interview with a very pertinent question: will cricket ever want Mohammad Amir back?

It’s a difficult question. A part of me wants to see him in those green colours so badly, but another part of me is frustrated that I am still being lied to.

But does it really matter that Amir has lied in this interview? Should we just be satisfied with the fact that he has apologised, served his punishment in jail, is serving his ICC ban, has learnt his lesson and will never fix again?

umair.qazi

Umair Qazi

An investment advisor in Dubai who blogs at www.wellpitched.com/ and tweets @WellPitched

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.