Chris Waters: Mohammad Amir has forfeited right to play game ever again

Pakistan's Mohammad Amir being advised by his captain Salman Butt back in August 2010 (Picture: David Jones/PA Wire).
Pakistan's Mohammad Amir being advised by his captain Salman Butt back in August 2010 (Picture: David Jones/PA Wire).
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AS England and Pakistan contest their Twenty20 series in the build up to the World Cup, the spotlight is back on a man who hopes to feature in that tournament in India next March.

Whether Mohammad Amir, the disgraced Pakistan fast bowler, succeeds in his objective remains to be seen.

Waqar Younis, the Pakistan head coach, has said that he would like Amir to play at least two seasons domestically before being integrated back into the national side after the player was jailed for his part in a spot-fixing scandal during the 2010 Test series in England and banned for five years.

But Amir, who returned to domestic action earlier this year, could yet be fast-tracked and has described his ongoing stint with Chittagong Vikings in the Bangladesh Premier League as “the first step towards reviving my international career” as he sets his sights on the World T20, which is followed by a tour of England next summer.

To these eyes, the issue does not concern the timescale of Amir’s return to the Pakistan team, but whether he should be allowed to return at any time.

By welcoming back someone who committed the gravest act that a sportsman can commit – that of deliberately cheating to influence the course/outcome of a game – cricket has already perpetrated a serious error.

When Amir and co-defendants Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif conspired to bowl no-balls during the Lord’s Test for financial gain, they shattered trust and forfeited the right to play professional sport again.

Not that you would know it from Amir’s now seedy presence on the road to redemption.

The majority, however, appear to disagree.

Many within cricket feel that Amir deserves a second chance, citing the fact that he was only 18 at the time and coerced by the more experienced Butt and Asif.

Geoffrey Boycott, for example, believes there should be a way back for all three men.

“Give them a proper chance, get fit, play well and if they are still good enough then give them a chance in the Pakistan team,” he told a Pakistan website.

“Nobody should hold anything against Mohammad Amir. In fact, this applies to any of them,” he added.

Although sympathy for Butt and Asif is in short supply, it certainly exists for the youthful Amir, whom many feel was simply gullible.

However, it is we who are naive if we think that he was naive.

Ramiz Raja, the former Pakistan captain-turned-commentator, has written of how he was approached to find out why Amir had turned down a good offer from an English county just days before he was caught spot-fixing.

“During my conversation with him regarding the offer, I realised that because the offer was a few thousand pounds short of what he expected, he was willing to let go of an opportunity to play and establish himself at a renowned and historic county,” related Ramiz.

“I came to the conclusion that he was not, after all, so gullible and naive about money matters.”

The International Cricket Council purports to have a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.

Last year, ICC approved changes to their anti-corruption code which allowed banned players to return to domestic cricket before the end of their penalty if they met certain criteria, which allowed Amir himself to return ahead of schedule.

However, the ICC pay lip-service to the subject, and without a genuine zero-tolerance approach, how can cricket ever hope to be completely clean and dissuade potential fixers?

Ironically, the most salient voices are emanating from Pakistan. All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez revealed this week that he had turned down a £60,000 offer from Chittagong Vikings because “I can’t share the dressing room with someone who hurt my country’s integrity”.

Inzamam-ul-Haq believes Amir should be kept away from the Pakistan side and that “playing for the national team is the highest honour”, while other current and former Pakistan players feel equally strongly.

It is commonly held that everyone in life deserves a second chance, a principle with which no right-thinking person would disagree.

No one has anything against Amir himself.

But it was Ramiz Raja who put it best.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he wrote, “I am all for rehabilitation and for finding ways to set a young man back on course in his life.

“But it just can’t be in the very game that he sullied and brought disrepute to.”