Mohammad Hafeez steps in to protect Mohammad Amir from crowd sledging
Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir played his first ODI on Monday since June 2010. Returning from a five-year spot-fixing ban, the 23-year-old came up with one of his best ever bowling spells. His 3/28 on the day accounted for Tom Latham, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi, and was his third best bowling display ever after figures of 4/28 and 3/24 picked up in consecutive matches in 2009.
His bowling partners could not match up to his figures, however, as the Kiwis put up 280 on board, and won the game by 70 runs. Trent Boult’s 4/40 bettered Amir’s performance, but the match would have left a scar on Amir’s mind for a completely different reason.
As Amir ran in to bowl his first ODI delivery in almost six years at the pacy Basin Reserve in Wellington, a section of the crowd began to taunt him. The pressure must have worked, because the delivery turned out to be a wide. Having been guilty of bowling no-balls and wides intentionally five years ago, the comeback could not have had a more inauspicious start.
As Amir walked to the boundary ropes to his fielding position after the over, an individual from the same section in the crowd started to wave currency notes at him. The disturbed youngster did not know how to react, and this was when his teammates came to his rescue.
During the third T20I, Amir was taunted by the stadium announcer at Westpac Stadium, Wellington. Mark McLeod, a long-time announcer at the stadium, was reprimanded by New Zealand Cricket for playing the sound of a cash register during one of Amir's spells in the third and final T20I match.
Hafeez rescues teammate, protects ‘image of Pakistan cricket’
Senior pro and former captain Mohammad Hafeez, one of the most vocal protesters against the tainted fast bowler’s recall into the Pakistan team, was one of the first players to act. Seeing that Amir was in need of a rescue, Hafeez and some other seniors reported the incident to the Pakistan team’s security in-charge and the ground staff was requested to intervene.
The stadium security staff went to the stand and issued a strict warning to the individual.
The act is significant especially because Hafeez had taken a very strong stand against Amir. Along with Azhar Ali, he had boycotted the Pakistan national team training camp when Amir had been recalled. He had also turned down a lucrative Bangladesh Premier League contract for a while because he did not want to share a dressing room with the tainted bowler.
He had always insisted that his seemingly harsh standpoint was to protect the ‘image of Pakistan cricket’. On Monday at the Basin Reserve, seeing his teammate in a Pakistan jersey being sledged at, it is probably the same ‘image of Pakistan cricket’ which made Hafeez act.
It however remains a contentious issue whether Amir’s wickets were celebrated with equal fervour by Hafeez and Azhar Ali as the rest of the team: