Today’s Mohammad Amir is a shadow of his own past

Published: May 18, 2018
SHARES
Email

Since his return, Amir has played more Test matches and garnered even less wickets. PHOTO: AFP

Long silky hair blowing past his face, run up so smooth that there is not a single hint of hindrance and the ability to pitch the ball in the exact same spot, but make it move different ways at will. Who can ever forget the sight of an adolescent Mohammad Amir producing spells that reminded us of the legendary Wasim Akram?

With Pakistan’s victory over Ireland, Amir just completed a 100 Test wickets – a feat he would have accomplished long ago but life had other plans for him.

13 May 2018; Mohammad Amir of Pakistan celebrates after bowling out William Porterfield of Ireland, right, during day three of the International Cricket Test match between Ireland and Pakistan at Malahide, in Co. Dublin. Photo: Getty

Although the Test wickets are only a 100, the journey behind them is more captivating than one could imagine.

“Magnificent bowling, goodness me that is as good as you can get”, said a jubilant Geoffrey Boycott on air as Amir bowled an absolute peach to remove Mitchell Johnson.

The only time you would hear an Australian commentator sing praises like that for a fast bowler is when either the bowler is Australian or he is unarguably one of the finest talents the world has ever seen.

Amir wasn’t only picking wickets for Pakistan; he was on his way to becoming a world sensation.

What happened next is no secret. Therefore, I don’t want to recall the dreaded incident in great detail. No-ball, allegations, bans and tears – these are all the buzz words that are enough to bring back the memories of Amir getting himself in the line of fire and getting banned from international cricket for five years, after admitting his involvement in spot-fixing.

Pakistani cricketer Mohammad Aamer arrives from Doha, at the Allama Iqbal International airport in Lahore early February 8, 2011. Photo: AFP

On July 13, 2016, Amir marked his return to Test cricket in the same place where he left us all in tears. His return was in a rush; the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) seemed to have woven a special path to get Amir back in the side. The rules were set differently for this young man, simply because he was that good. The desperation to have him back was at its peak.

Ever since Amir’s return, he has been a shadow of his former self. The name “Amir” has returned in Pakistan’s lineup but the 18-year-old kid that could rip through the best batting line-ups in the world, has not.

Barring a few glimpses of brilliance, Amir has struggled to make a mark that one would expect from the absolute best. His latest outing in the Test match against Ireland reflects where he currently stands. An injury prone Amir collected five wickets on a pitch tailor-made for fast bowling whereas his counterpart Mohammad Abbas collected nine. Amir was good enough but maybe not the best anymore.

Mohammad Amir celebrates after taking the wicket of Gary Wilson of Ireland during the fourth day of the international test cricket match between Ireland and Pakistan on May 14, 2018 in Malahide, Ireland. Photo: Getty

More often than not, the Amir today is a bowler that contains runs and waits for a wicket in return. As opposed to Amir of the past that couldn’t care less about leaking runs because he was in the middle of bowling spells that made the best in the business look ordinary.

Some say that five years away from cricket is enough to make one lose the art that he had mastered his entire life. Others are more technical and blame Amir for bowling too wide off the stumps, hence not able to get the in-swingers going. Some even believe that bowlers hunt in packs hence, without his partner-in-crime Mohammad Asif, Amir has struggled to pick early wickets because of lack of pressure created from the other end.

I am not entirely sure what caused Amir to lose some of his magic, therefore you may go with any school of thought that floats your boat. What I can say with more certainty is that Amir has been playing consistently in the side more so because of his reputation from the past rather than his current performances.

The same Amir that picked up a five-wicket haul at Melbourne against Australia in the first Test of 2009-2010 tour was wicket-less at Melbourne after his return in the tour of 2016 in the second Test match. A single example is by no means a barometer to explain the difference in Amir’s performance; it was merely a demonstration of the change in times for Amir. A further look at stats could reveal a fuller picture.

Amir bagged three five-wicket hauls in Test matches prior to his ban, all three of which were against England and Australia, while he has only managed one since his return against a struggling West Indian lineup. In terms of overall Test wickets, Amir had 51 wickets in 14 Test matches before the ban. Since his return, he has played more Test matches and garnered even less wickets. He currently stands at 49 wickets from 17 Test matches since his return.

Alastair Cook of England is bowled out by Mohammad Amir of Pakistan during day four of the 2nd npower Test Match between England and Pakistan at Edgbaston on August 9, 2010 in Birmingham, England. Photo: Getty

Mohammad Amir of Pakistan celebrates the dismissal of Kraigg Brathwaite of West Indies during the 1st day of the 2nd Test match between West Indies and Pakistan at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados, April 30, 2017. Photo: AFP

Although Amir hasn’t completely forgotten how to pick a wicket after returning to cricket, the stats do reveal that he hasn’t exactly been lethal either. I must mention, however, absolute sitters dropped off his bowling specifically made it seem like God wanted Amir to work twice as hard after his return.

The spell in the final of Champions Trophy showed what Amir could do once he is on song. When it mattered the most, he brought the mighty Indian top order to its knees but the question remains: where is this Amir lost for the rest of the year?

Mohammad Amir of Pakistan celebrates after taking the wicket of India’s Shikhar Dhawan during the ICC Champions Trophy Final match between India and Pakistan at The Kia Oval on June 18, 2017 in London, England. Photo: Getty

Hamza Junaid

Hamza Junaid

The author is an avid cricket follower and plays for a team called Gladiators based in New York. He tweets as @hamza_junaid1 (twitter.com/hamza_junaid1)

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

  • Muhammad Usman

    Amir isn’t doing that bad. you guys need to relax. without Amir, i could hardly imagine the victory in ICC Champions trophy final against india. and test matches vs wickets ratio since his return back, does not show that much of a difference from stats before his ban. so i think this article is a bit over exaggerated.Recommend

  • Rehan Haider

    Geoffrey Boycott is an English commentator and not Australian as you mention in your article.Recommend

  • twister286

    Life didn’t have other plans for him, he had other plans for himself. Spot fixing wasn’t done by life, it was done by Amir himself.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ammar Riaz

    Magnificent bowling, goodness me that is as good as you can get”, said a jubilant Geoffrey Boycott on air as Amir bowled an absolute peach to remove Mitchell Johnson.

    Please go back and check. It wasn’t Geoffrey Boycott. It was another English commentator, David Gower.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ammar Riaz

    Moreover, Geoffrey Boycott is not an Australian commentator. He’s English.Recommend

  • Waqas

    It seems like you had the conclusion first and then you just collected some facts to prove your point. He has had 16 catches dropped in his last 17 tests. In the one against Ireland, he had two catches dropped. Drop catches not only affect the statistics (which you are pointing) but they also affect the performance. Moreover, he has been put under a LOT of workload. I think you are being a bit unfair.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    “I must mention, however, absolute sitters dropped off his bowling
    specifically made it seem like God wanted Amir to work twice as hard
    after his return”– I did take into account that he has been unlucky.

    However, catches have been dropped before too prior to his ban. Those stats would change too. Nonetheless thanks for tuning in and giving your thoughts Waqas!Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Thanks for pointing that out. I tried searching to verify the commentator but I couldn’t find it. I relied on an educated guess on whose voice it is, sorry about the mistake. Good Catch.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Sorry about the mistake.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    hahah you are right, he has himself to blame but maybe he was unlucky to be influenced by the captain at such a young age.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Thank You Rehan, it is a mistake on my part.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    @Usman he isn’t bad for sure but maybe not the best anymore. I did mention his Champions Trophy performance because that is what we want from him the rest of the year as well.Recommend

  • Wajahat Khan

    Give the poor lad some time to get back in the game.
    Amir is a big match player and has always proved that.
    Expecting crazy results out of UAE from Amir would be hard at him.
    Write something on these self proclaimed heroes Azhar Ali, Hafeez and Malik who have been exposed at every test or odi outside UAE.Recommend

  • Sufiyan

    I went back and checked. Turns out it wasn’t Geoffrey Boycott either. It was Paul Allot.Recommend

  • Razee Khan

    geoferry boycott was english not australian!!

    How can express let someone make such an appaling errorRecommend

  • Aamir Cheema

    He made a decision of doing match fixing and unfortunately this is how he will be remembered in history… A match fixer.Recommend

  • Sufiyan

    It’s hard to tell with Amir. He has had several catches dropped by team mates of his who claimed to be more “patriotic” than him. Anyway, his performance has been OK but lately it has dropped a bit. I am not sure why he can’t swing the ball consistently.

    Let’s see how he does against England. In English conditions and with the Dukes ball in hand, he should be lethal.Recommend

  • Mazhar

    It is not only physical, mostly it is mental strength that counts. I think the boy has shown grit and resolve and we must support him. He made a huge mistake but I think management is more to blame for this. After all, a hardly literate teen ager from a humble background would falter without guidance and advice. He can still win matches for us; keep faith and have patienceRecommend

  • Sufiyan

    Correction. Spot Fixing.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    He has shown a lot of courage no doubt. He handled his return pretty well despite all the criticism including his own teammates so full marks to him for that… the performance however is okay. Not as good as we would expect from him. Hopefully he will get back in form.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Agreed its been an “OK” performance specifically in test matches. Dropped catches have certainly not helped his case either.

    He wasnt that lethal last time they came to England i believe in 2016… this time around lets hope his teammates hold on to the catches and he might turn things aroundRecommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Hard to take that tag off you once its been put but I think he has handled his return pretty well mentally.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Thanks for the kind words. Felt encouraged. Yes, it was a mistake on my part.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Wajahat this big match player thing is what kept Wahab in the team for so long without results. I hope Amir is not the next big match player id rather want him to perform more consistently. I understand UAE pitches are dead but his lack of swing outside UAE has been of more concern lately.

    Agreed on Hafeez, he has been terrible outside UAE. Azhar Ali needs to step up as well.Recommend

  • MJ

    Fast bowlers hunt in pairs. We need a consistent fast bowler on the other end to make Amir successful. He shone when he had Asif bowling from the other end. Plus we need to rotate our lazy slip fielders. The catches that they regularly drop off of Amir have become a laughing stock of cricketing community. Even Sarfarz drops catches off of him.Recommend