Azhar Ali backs Mohammad Amir to overcome his demons and triumph in England
Pakistan ODI skipper Azhar Ali has offered his full backing to fast bowler Mohammad Amir who is all set to return to England with the Pakistan national side, five years down the line from the infamous spot-fixing scandal that saw the then 18-year-old handed a five-year ban.
Amir was found guilty of deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test the last time Pakistan toured England in 2010 but was handed a lenient sentence compared to his skipper Salman Butt and fellow fast bowler Mohammad Asif. While Butt faced a 10-year ban (with five years suspended), Asif was given a seven-year ban (with two years suspended).
Though all three cricketers have since returned to action on the cricket field since; Amir is the only one with a realistic chance of making the comeback count with age firmly on his side and backed by his undoubted talent. He has been doing just that ever since the ICC allowed the left-armer to make a return to competitive cricket in January 2015, nearly eight months before his suspension was scheduled to end.
Amir has been impressive with his performances for the national team, the most memorable being his fiery 3 for 18 against arch-rivals India in the Asia Cup encounter in February 2016. He further enhanced his reputation with his outings in the Pakistan Super League and Bangladesh Super League and Azhar, who had initially created a storm in Pakistan cricket circles by threatening to resign as ODI skipper over Amir’s selection, has backed the 24-year-old to perform well in England.
"[What happened in] 2010 is in the past and now we need to look forward," Azhar said, as reported by ESPN Cricinfo when asked about Amir's possible presence in England. "It has been a while now since he has been with us. It could have been tough, had he come in straight on such a tour, but now, after playing with us for a long time, things have settled.”
“Even he isn't under pressure because he has already made his comeback a few months ago and the toughest phase is over for him. I know England was the place where the incident [in 2010] happened but hopefully, he can handle the pressure like he did on his comeback. But still if anything happens, we, as a team, will handle it."
With his selection in the Test team a mere formality, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has also been keen to do away with any legal roadblocks that may prevent Amir from entering the UK.
"We understand Mohammad Amir has been selected to play in the forthcoming series in England. Any decision on his entry into the UK is ultimately one for the UK Government. We have spoken to the Pakistan Cricket Board and will provide any support the Government needs in making its decision. Support could also mean information and background," a statement from the ECB said last week.