Mohammad Amir - The curious case of a fast bowler
Out of nowhere as she manages so often to all our surprise and awe, Pakistan brought out another fast bowler. This one – the youngest in the long queue of left arm fast bowlers coming out of Pakistan was special. Like all young bowlers he was fiery and feisty but what he stood out for was his ability to pick wickets consistently giving away very little in the process. For all his precocious talent and his fluidic transformation of that into performance on the field, Mohammad Amir was quite rightly cricket’s blue-eyed boy.
He was one whom most felt would be amongst those leading the game’s bowling and its nuances into winning the unequal contest that they were a part of, to deal with a “step child” like treatment that the art of bowling and the creed of bowlers were being subjected to, as odds and more of them were getting stacked against bowling and bowlers. A fairytale of sorts was being scripted by him and for a boy- barely one- Amir was developing a strong tendency to consistently knock out big batsmen wielding bigger reputations and boasting of many a tremendous achievement until he decided to go down the wrong lane at cross roads that tested his morality and scruples.
That undoubtedly was a sad time for cricket, a difficult time to live off it and a terrible one to love it. The cricketing world was just about emerging from the turmoil of match fixing that it went through in the previous decade and it certainly didn’t need one of its most promising practitioners to get entangled in corruption. His ban must’ve shot him back to ground and to reality. That would have told him that nobody could ever be bigger than the game and that nobody who brought the game disrepute ought to be spared.
Luckily for him, he started early and was banned for 5 years when he was all of 19. That meant that age was on his side and he could get back to cricket with his best years still ahead of him. International sport rarely, if ever, offers a second chance and sailing on its waters is anything but predictable. Now that he’s got back to the top, Amir should consider himself very fortunate and continue to grab every opportunity that comes to him. He has in no modest measure demonstrated what playing for Pakistan now means to him, purely by his electric bowling and his attitude. Since he has reunited with the game, there has not been a single major game in memory where he has looked below par and lackadaisical. This is really heartening to see
The road ahead for the speedster
But, the journey of a fast bowler is not just a lot of speed and adrenalin. There would be times when the body wouldn’t stand up to the rigours being served to it and those when the mind gripped with insecurity or fear of failure wouldn’t let go of the demons taunting it, when the ball would stop doing its bit and when the air around just chose to impose sanctions. That’s when the core of a bowler would be tested. Amir is yet to go through any such major phase. Success on the field has rarely eluded him and he has barely ever been subjected to any of the above.
Amir is undoubtedly an attacking bowler. His lines and lengths have always been so. He has chased wickets and gone for the kill more often than not. But the aspect of working batsmen out by playing on their patience, drawing them out of comfort and inducing an error, cleverly going for run containment in the absence of conducive conditions are all important to building a complete repertoire. How he rises up to such challenges will be interesting to watch. He is quite capable of not being monotonous and how adept he will be at adapting to the situations of the game will in a way shape the course of his career.
He goes to England again – this time as a reborn faithful. The challenges will be steep and the competition fierce. The English batting is now borderline obese by the weight of its achievements over the past few years but no great seam bowler has ever become one having not enjoyed touring England. The conditions will be close to ideal for seam and swing and so will be the temptation to ignite some banter.
Amir has done enough for everybody that’s barely associated with the game to claim that they tongue lashing him is in all ways justified. While that is not the case, one cannot expect anything else given what he did.
The crowds might deliver him sermon after sermon, the media will be excruciatingly close on him while he will be expected to shrug it all off and make the English batsmen hop and hide. Will he do that? Is he good enough to stand through the series and deliver meaningful and fiery spells that made him who he is today?
It will be a test within a test – one running on the pitch between the two teams and another in the mind of a young man pitted against those that believe he should have never been let back in.
I hope he wins. Actually, I pray.