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Pakistan Will Support ‘Younger Brother’ Amir

by AFP
Arif Ali—AFP

Arif Ali—AFP

Wahab Riaz says entire team backs disgraced Mohammad Amir now after initially being hesitant to lend him their full support.

Pakistani cricketer Wahab Riaz has insisted that Mohammad Amir has the support of all his teammates as he prepares to make his return to Test cricket at Lord’s on Thursday.

Fellow left-arm quick Amir’s career came to a dramatic halt during a Test against England at Lord’s in 2010, when he and new-ball partner Mohammad Asif were caught bowling no-balls to order on the instructions of captain Salman Butt as part of a tabloid newspaper sting operation. All three received five-year bans from cricket and together with sports agent Mazhar Majeed, jail terms.

Amir, who served three months in an English young offenders institute, has only featured in the international game’s shorter formats since his return to Pakistan duty in January. But the 24-year-old’s career will come full circle if, as expected, he makes his Test return in the first of a four-match series at Lord’s on Thursday.

Riaz, who made his Test debut at The Oval six years ago and also played in the controversial match at Lord’s, said Amir could handle being in the spotlight this week. “I think he will deal with all those things,” said Riaz at Lord’s on Tuesday. “He is ready to answer with his performance—and that is what counts.”

Not all of Amir’s Pakistan colleagues welcomed him back with open arms to start with, but Riaz was adamant on Tuesday the talented 24-year-old now had the support of the whole touring squad. “No-one is reluctant,” said Riaz. “We all take him as our young brother—he is a part of our family. We are all behind him.”

He added: “What has happened has gone now. I want him to take five wickets in this Test match to get his name back and to get his image back, which has been spoilt. If you make a mistake it doesn’t mean that you are out of [excluded from] this world.”

But former Pakistan batsman Ramiz Raja, who was commentating at Lord’s in 2010, was less certain about whether Amir deserved a second chance. “I tend to disagree a little bit because I’ve always felt that Pakistan has a bad history of fixing and all that kind of stuff,” said Raja, a member of the MCC world cricket committee meeting at Lord’s on Tuesday. “It’s an emotional subject for me, but on the other hand he is a great talent. I’m sure his mates will help him. Initially there was a little bit of concern regarding his comeback among the Pakistan players also because they felt cheated in a way. Then they calmed down and now they are trying to get along with him.”

He added: “I stick by my initial reaction but if he’s making a comeback, all the best to him.”

However, committee chairman Mike Brearley said Amir deserved an opportunity to make a return to Test cricket. “I think he was like King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’,” explained former England captain Brearley in a reference to the Shakespeare play. “He was sinning, he did wrong, he was very foolish indeed. But he was misled by senior players and I think there has to be a gradation in guilt. It seems to me that what he got was about right. He served his time, he has been in prison, he has been disgraced and he has been stopped from playing for five years. He has also shown remorse and taken part in education programs in Pakistan.”

Asked if Amir would get a tough reception from the Lord’s crowd on Thursday, Brearley replied: “None of us are without mistakes and he was a young fellow and misled. I hope he’s given a generous response.”

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