Mohammad Amir was a prodigy who sullied his career and name by crossing the line, literally and figuratively speaking, a few years back and was hanged by the cricketing community and punished by the law.
There was much debate and introspection as to what kind of punishment befits a crime of selling your skill in exchange of earning illegal money.
The debate in Amir’s case was much more furious and even acrimonious, as this exceptionally skilful fast bowler was just nineteen, an age where most are learning the rudiments of fast bowling and generally innocent of the stealth and treachery the world is capable of.
The general consensus was to ban him for life as “fixing” in cricket has already done immense damage to the image of the game and sacrificing the guilty is a small price to pay to save the reputation of the sport. In this black and white world which seeks swift and brutal punishment for the crime of cheating in sports, there were voices which felt that Amir, given his age, deserved a second chance.
The more humane proponents of crime and punishment feel that the final goal of justice is not to destroy a man for life but make him realise his mistake so that he mends his ways and returns a reformed person. They pleaded clemency for Amir, who finally was banned for five years by the British legal system for bowling no balls in a Test match at the behest of the punters.
This seemed the end of the young talent, whom one of the greatest exponents of left-arm fast bowling, Wasim Akram, had described as more talented than him at that age. The widespread betting syndicate, which has so far lured many players to infamy and doom and continues to do so even today, had destroyed a career that promised much.
I don’t think many of us had believed that we would not only see Amir back but watch him bowl with greater skill, venom, pace and accuracy than he had shown the world as a child prodigy.
After serving his sentence, the Pakistan cricket establishment faced much opposition from people and players alike in rehabilitating Amir into the national team. The players shunned him, treated him as a pariah while he was picked to play for Pakistan. Many stronger and elder men would have found it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to stand up to this public condemnation and humiliation.
Amir, obviously, is made of sterner stuff. Watching him bowl those four overs of incredible hostility, combining pace with skilful variations, was a thrilling, awe-inspiring experience. The biggest compliment came from Virat Kohli, by any yardstick among the finest batsmen of our times. Kohli, who played one of his best innings ever in a T20 game, complimented Amir by saying this was the most testing spell of fast bowling he has faced.
Erasing the mistakes of the past, that too the kind of which Amir has been held guilty of, will never be easy. But there is little doubt that the return of Amir will only enrich a sport that is becoming increasingly a game dominated by the batsmen.