Amir promises to win back fans' trust
The Pakistani pacer opens up on his days away from the game, the environment in the team, and lessons that he learnt, all at the age of 23
If you look at cricket as a fabled folklore, there are tales in the names of legends, that are remembered, talked about, and sometimes written. It takes arduous practice, years of commitment, and inherent talent to top all that, in order to etch out a place amongst the scores of men who take the field every single day.
Sachin Tendulkar played for 24 years and made all those runs, Wasim Akram invented an art never seen before in cricket, and Jacques Kallis simultaneously perfected what the aforementioned gentlemen did. Now that’s a span of 29 years, from 1985-2014, that it took for them to do what they did.
Mohammad Amir, though not anywhere close in stature to the above-mentioned men, has done so, albeit nonchalantly, in just seven years since he made his Test debut in 2009.
If ever a story is written, should he go on to carve out a niche for himself, it would be divided into two parts – one that would deal with the frailties of his teenage, and the other would talk supposedly about a grown up man, who’s seen too much for a 23-year old.
On years in exile
Now the first part of his story being comfortably over, Amir looks all set to re-write things and set the records right, especially with his fans. In an interview with ESPNCricinfo, the comeback man talked about what kept him going through all these years and his debt towards all those who trusted him.
Being a religious Muslim, he thanked Allah for the second chance that he has been given, and at the same time, also acknowledged the fact that his family members, friends, and legal councilors kept him going during those torrid five years when he has almost decided to give up on competitive cricket.
“To be honest, I almost quit, as there were moments that discouraged me from playing cricket again. I had serious thoughts that I shouldn't be playing cricket and that I should just part myself from it, but my family and some close friends kept me awake and motivated me,” said the Pakistani prodigy.
The cricketer had even started contemplating resuming his studies, as he thought that having been away from the game for five years would have rusted his skills as a fast bowler, but he has his family to thank now for constant motivation, as he seeks a new start in his cricketing career.
He also thanked the PCB as well as the ICC, for understanding his case as a teenager, and providing him with a proper rehabilitation program that helped negate all the negative thoughts.
While the PCB has received words of appreciation from its pupil, it has also received flak from many a men for its alleged hurry when it came to the re-induction of the tainted cricketer, a pursuit that saw the board standing vehemently behind Amir, despite strong resistance from both within the team, and the Pakistani cricket fraternity.
The man in question, however, is not of the opinion that the process has been hurried, as he has records to show wherein he played club cricket first, followed by Grade 2 cricket, domestic cricket, first-class cricket, and then the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), and feels that he has ample number of matches under his kitty to play international cricket now.
The sport of cricket, and cricketers at large, thrive on the support bestowed on them by the fans, and it was this grave area that Amir had erred in the most, as the trust of a Pakistani fan, or a general cricket lover, was lost.
Realising the loss, Amir feels indebted to the fans and believes that he would give his 100% back to them, and hopefully the trust would return. He believes that it would be a slow process and that he would have to be at the top of his game to do well at the international level, and then let his performances talk for him.
“I am determined to do this for the fans who stood by me, and I have to do it for them because now it's all about their pride and I will be the guardian of their trust. I want them to trust me because they had something because of me, and I want to give them back with my whole heart and soul.”
A pensive cricketer now, he looks back at the five years in exile and looks at himself coming out of it as an experienced man despite his relatively young age. He introspected upon the luxuries and the frailties that come along with teenage, when one gets confused between what is right and what is wrong, at the perceived peak on one’s life.
The bowler admitted that he learned a lot about the bad times in life, as he did about focus and dealing with anger and frustration, during those five years.
On Hafeez and Azhar
Opposition from the outside world can be very hard to deal, but when there are voices from inside the team that you play for, it becomes venomous for a cricketer and the team as well. The resistance from Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali – the ODI captain – wasn‘t allowed to take such a turn by the PCB, however.
The newest entrant to the team, although, has decided to take it in good strides as he believes that everyone is entitled to an opinion and that every issue must be addressed, discussed and sorted.
“Everyone has their opinion and I respect that. It's their right to express whatever they felt and I am not hurt at all. You can't push and force people to do what they don't want to do. If things need to change it has to be gradual.
“Whatever they said, it was their opinion and I believe if there are issues, it should be addressed, discussed. But credit should be given to the board as they intervened to unite us all together.
“It's their opinion and what I can say about it is, it's their right to accept me or not,” Amir said.
Money – the genesis of crime
Talking about the quantum of punishment, Amir reiterated his belief in the principles of Islam and said that there had to be a punishment for a crime, which was why he hadn’t appealed against the charges. With money being the genesis behind the fiasco, better sense has dawned on the youngster as he believes that money is important, but not everything.
“Money is important but it is not everything. After all, in the last five years, I didn't die starving.
“We as professionals earn money and obviously I will play cricket for Pakistan and I will earn money because nobody is working for free, but, what is more important is the trust of people.
“Money will come but it's the lost time that will not come back, and it's not money that wins you trust,” Amir explained.
He also talked about his development as a fast bowler and expressed happiness over his speeds in excess of 90mph, which he feels would be aggravated on friendly New Zealand conditions. On the transition in cricket since he last played in 2010, Amir had keen observations as he admitted that both Tests and ODIs have changed a lot in these five years.