If someone asks you to do wrong things, he is not a friend: Amir

  • Jasvinder Sidhu, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 15, 2014 02:19 IST

At 18, he was on his way to becoming the pace king of Pakistan. But the ground beneath Mohammad Amir's feet caved in after he was found guilty in the spot-fixing scandal with teammates Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif on the 2010 England tour.

He escaped jail in the no-ball-for-cash scam as he was underage, but spent three months in a correctional facility with juvenile criminals. Those were bleak days.

For Amir, watching matches on common TV was a bigger torture than living with dangerous minds. He often cried.

Now, with his five-year ban due to end in September, 2015, Amir is preparing for his second innings.

In an interview to HT, Amir admitted he was guilty in the eyes of his people but they would see a reformed man when he returns. Excerpts:

Q: Do you remember your time in jail?

A: The Feltham Institute was like a reform centre. The first few days, I stayed in a corner, crying. There was a gym and a library. Inmates have to take up different courses. I did a first-aid course. The place was full of criminals but I had done wrong. The one thing I learnt there was that if someone close to you asks you to do wrong things, he is not your friend. Stay away from him. Otherwise, your life will be ruined.

Q: How is your relationship with Mohd Asif and Salman Butt?

A: Both are history for me. I haven't met them since the court case got over, nor have I spoken to them. I don't know where they are and what they are doing.

Q: How do you plan your return?

A: I can't imagine living without cricket. My ban is going to end in 12 months, but I have been preparing for a long time. My plan for the return is on paper. I have started basic training and am working on my fitness. At the moment, the only thing on my mind is my return. I have begun to dream that I am bowling in-swingers again.

Q: Will things be the same when you return to the Pakistan team?

A: I don't think so. Actually, my real fight will begin from here. I have to fight on two fronts. First, I have to prove I am the same bowler and cricketer I was before the ban. Then, I have to earn the trust of the people again. This is my first goal. My fans are angry with me. Many times, they have abused me in public. But that was because they loved me. 'Main unka ye karj utarna hai' (This is a debt I have to pay back). I am guilty in their eyes. I know that because of me many Pakistanis stopped watching cricket.

Q: Did you miss cricket a lot?

A: Just imagine, you struggle to realise a dream and when you get there, you are asked to stay away. I learnt a lot from bad times. Whenever I watch a match on TV, I feel like I am dead. I always ask myself, 'what am I doing here, I should be out there.' Many times, I feel my heart would burst.

Q: Who stayed close to you during these times?

A: My family has been a big strength, and my coach Asif Islam Bajwa. Many of my so-called good friends abandoned me, but a few helped a lot. These are tough times but I have to face them. This is my fight, and I have to fight it alone. I have a long life ahead of me. I will certainly regain what I destroyed.

Q: Anything positive happened in this phase?

A: Narjis is the best thing to happen in this crisis. I was in England fighting the spot-fixing case when I met her at a family function and fell in love with her. She is a law graduate. She was the biggest comfort for me when my life was a total mess. After three years of our relationship, we got married recently.

Q: Do you follow current pace bowlers?

A: I recently saw Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowl. If he gets favourable conditions, he swings the ball both ways. But the bowler I love to follow is Dale Steyn. He bowls well in all conditions. He is the best bowler in the world.

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