The atmosphere around Lord’s could be interesting for the next few days. Mohammad Amir is returning to the scene of the crime a mere six years after being charged with spot fixing and it has caused mixed feelings from everyone with an interest in the game. From Kevin Pietersen’s view that he should have been banned for life to Jonathan Agnew’s view that he was a naïve 17 year old who should be shown some compassion, the opinion is varied to say the least.
Funnily enough I was actually at Lord’s six years ago when, unbeknown to us, Amir bowled a no ball which was to then be the subject of a criminal investigation. It was immensely exciting to see this 17 year old steaming in at Lord’s and unsettling several of England’s more prominent batsmen at the time. It came as a bitter blow to Test cricket enthusiasts who had revelled in this promising and explosive youngster.
Six years on and once again England and Pakistan have taken to the field with Amir present. At a time when cricket, and more pertinently Test cricket, is fighting for its very survival, is it a good idea to allow him back to a game that he cheated?
There is nothing like watching a fast bowler steaming in and testing the great batsman. Watching Mitchell Johnson last summer really demonstrated how essential a fast bowler is to the game; the atmosphere quietens, the run up approach begins and finally the ball is delivered at ferocious speed. The theatre of it all is something unique to Test cricket and one that is sadly few and far between these days.
The MCC committee has recently debated bat sizes because we find ourselves in an era of the sport that is completely dominated by the blade. The example which compared Barry Richard’s bat to that used by David Warner speaks volumes and actually requires very little narrative. When thick edges go for four or six the bowler must feel incredibly disheartened. The game needs a more competitive contest between bat and ball.
At the moment there are very few genuine quicks around. Dale Steyn is approaching the end of his career but in Kagiso Rabada South Africa has someone who can take over his mantle. None of Australia’s super quick bowlers can stay fit for more than a month at a time, it seems, which means their careers have thus far shown promise but little in the way of solid stats. Apart from that, there are several who are approaching 90mph but few who deliver it on a consistent basis. Amir could be the next great paceman.
From Fred ‘the demon’ Spoforth, to Harold Larwood, to Fred Trueman, to the great West Indian attack, to Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson, to Shoaib Akhtar; the game has always had its fair share of exciting pace bowlers. Who’s next?
What Amir did was stupid and reckless but I would edge on Agnew’s side of things and put it down to naivety and being captained by people who should have known better. He has been punished for his crime and is now able to play the game in which he showed so much promise.
Whilst many will debate his appearance over the coming days, I for one am delighted to see someone with his potential back on the international stage. The game is crying out for genuine entertainers and there are enough batters who do it on a regular basis. Test cricket needs Amir to flourish and hopefully turn Pakistan into the formidable side that they are at home, when they travel. It is still too early to tell whether he can pick up where he left off six years ago, but for the sake of cricket I hope he takes his chance.
By Andy Hunter