Mohammad Amir 2.0 - Beginning of his rise to superstardom
A look at why Mohammad Amir is making his comeback to international cricket at the perfect time.
Even considering the saying that small targets are notoriously not easy, 84 is by no means a target that a side should fail to achieve unless they are playing on a minefield and the side batting first did incredibly well to get that on board in the first place.
Unfortunately for Pakistan, the 83 they accrued against India in their Asia Cup opener was on a pitch that was far from a minefield and the score was a result of lack of application rather than brilliant bowling on a pitch that offered some assistance for the bowlers.
But after 22 balls, India were shaking in their boots. Both their openers had been dismissed for a duck and they were suddenly staring down the barrel. All thanks to a 23-year-old fast bowler, who had already been a major talking point since his international comeback, despite not playing too many matches.
Mohammad Amir may continue to divide opinion but anyone who saw him bowl against India in that Asia Cup match will know that the child prodigy is not only back but returns as a more venomous, accurate and skillful bowler than the one who was banned.
Many in the team might have had difficulties accepting him back into the fold and almost impossible to stand up to him after what he did, but that spell against their arch-rivals should serve as proof that after serving his time, Amir is back and purely based on his attributes alone, they should respect him.
In that spell, Amir showed not only that he was made of sterner stuff but also that hostility and desire to win hasn’t waned even if he hasn’t played regular cricket in five years. His performance against India was just his sixth game back in international cricket and makes one wonder what exactly he lost in the five years he didn’t play international cricket?
His speed was almost 150 kmph, not too far off from his pace back in 2010, his hostility hasn’t waned and he has only added more variations and looks more skilled at his art than he was when he was 18.
So did he even lose anything in all those years he was banned after from time? His performance seems to indicate that time might be the only thing he has lost. And in fact, his ban might actually work in his favour.
Amir's ban - A blessing in disguise?
Nobody in their right minds could suggest Mohammad Amir missing five years of what looked like a promising could be a blessing in disguise. But, let's look at the facts here.
Ever since he was given that ban, teams going on away tours have struggled considerably. Pitches have gotten flatter and have led to the retirement of one of the most fearsome fast bowlers of the millennium in Mitchell Johnson. In the meantime, although batsmen have scored bucketloads of runs since they have all been on roads, their technique isn't as good as it should be.
Even bowlers like James Anderson, who is by no means express pace, has troubled the batsmen on conditions that have even the slightest iota of juice for the faster bowlers. Dale Steyn, who is by some distance the best bowler of his generation, has been marred by injuries and doesn’t look like the bowler he once was.
Mitchell Starc has been brilliant in the shorter formats but, as of yet, hasn’t shown he can replicate that consistently in Tests. India haven't had a fiery fast bowler in a long time and New Zealand have two bowlers in Tim Southee and Trent Boult, who rely more on swing and the pitch rather than sheer pace.
All of which means international is currently crying out loud for a fast bowler to strike fear in the minds of the opponents. And a rejuvenated Amir, who is still only 23 and hasn’t been scarred by bowling on flat pitches for a few years, could just be the bowler who could rule the roost in international.
After all, legendary Pakistan pacer Wasim Akram himself admitted that Amir at 18 was more talented than he was at that age and with plenty of rest and recuperation in his side already, Amir looks primed to take international cricket by storm.
Praise from high quarters
When some of the finest fast bowlers cricket has ever seen continue to shower Amir with praise, it surely isn't without reason. After all, they know better than most what it takes to succeed as a fast bowler and if he has their seal of approval then he certainly doesn't need anything more.
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis, who knows a thing or two fast bowling has been impressed by Amir's comeback. After the game against India, where he rattled India's top-order, Waqar said: "When someone is bowling well, he is always an inspiration for the younger fast bowlers. The way he swung the ball, the pace, the length, it was outstanding.”
Waqar's partner-in-crime, Wasim Akram, who is Pakistan's leading wicket-taker of all time continues to be a huge admirer and even remarked that his spell against India reminded him of bowling from an era, which was dominated by world-class bowlers like Akram, Waqar, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.
While the bowlers and his coaches can speak volumes about his skills, the biggest compliment came from the mouth of none other than one of the finest batsman of the modern game, in Virat Kohli, who was in the middle of one of his finest T20 innings of his career so far.
India's Test skipper, who won the Man of the Match for his 49 admitted that he congratulated Amir while he was bowling.
"Hats off to the way the Pakistan bowlers bowled - especially Mohammad Amir. It was a pleasure playing that spell; that tested me out completely. To come out of that, it gives me a lot of confidence as a batsman," he said.
Those words will be music to Amir’s ears as he returns to international cricket. Should he keep up his current form, no one should be surprised if we find a new bowler ruling world cricket in the not too distant future.
After all, with two domestic hat-tricks already in the BPL and PSL since his comeback to cricket, only sky is the limit for this prodigiously gifted 23-year-old fast bowler.