Six years ago, he took one step too many and too far to lurch into perdition. As Mohammad Amir makes his Test comeback in England after a spot-fixing ban, he has been advised to land the blows like old, but keep his head down like a boxer does after each round.
It was in the Lord’s Test of 2010 that Amir and teammate Mohammad Asif bowled no balls for cash. They were found guilty, along with Salman Butt, and all were subsequently banned.
Having served a ban and detention, Amir’s is set to make his comeback at the Mecca of cricket and looks in good form, but comments by home skipper Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen that fixers should be handed life bans is sure to bring extra pressure on the pacer.
Media headlines such as “Spot-fixer Amir takes three wickets on return”, following his 3-36 against Somerset in a warm-up game, suggests he is in for a hostile reception in the first Test starting on Thursday.
But Amir has been told how to respond.
“We discussed things before he left. I told him he should play like a boxer at Lord’s,” his mentor, Asif Bajwa, told HT over phone from Lahore. “I told him to behave like a boxer who goes back to his corner head down, not to look at those criticising him.”
Former Test player-turned-sports psychologist, Moin-ul-Atiq said: “Amir has realised the crime he committed. I worked with him in 2012. I advised him to stop looking at people who are making comments against him. ‘Just think hard how you can win their faith back with your acts’.”
When Amir returned to the nets after his ban, spectators welcomed him with shouts of Chor (thief).
“Amir is mentally strong. He knows one extraordinary performance at Lord’s will change everything in the cricketing world and back home for him,” said Bajwa.
He feels the British media and players are not putting pressure on Amir due to his role in spot-fixing.
“They know he is an immediate threat to their batsman. That is why they are targeting him,” says Bajwa, Amir’s school teacher and coach since he was 11.
Amir’s five-year ban ended last September.
Amir, 24, served a six-month sentence at the Feltham Young Offenders Institute in West London. The institution was full of juvenile criminals, but it was watching cricket matches on TV that was more torturous for Amir and he broke down many times.