'Such a pity' — How Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir paid heavy price for cricket fixing scandal

In this file photo, Pakistan's Mohammad Amir, right, celebrates after taking the wicket of India's captain Virat Kohli during the ICC Champions Trophy final cricket match between India and Pakistan at The Oval in London on June 18, 2017. (AFP)
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Updated 27 August 2020

'Such a pity' — How Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir paid heavy price for cricket fixing scandal

  • Spot-fixing scandal 10 years ago cost the player the chance to become one of Pakistan’s greatest players
  • Amir was granted a return to international cricket in 2016 but he had lost vital time to develop

KARACHI: When Mohammad Amir bowls against England in the first Twenty20 international on Friday, he may cast his mind back 10 years to the spot-fixing scandal that cost him the chance to become one of Pakistan’s greatest players.
Exactly a decade earlier, on August 28, 2010, Amir’s exciting young career came to an abrupt halt when he was caught bowling no-balls to order at Lord’s, set up by a British newspaper sting.
The 18-year-old, his new-ball partner Mohammad Asif and Pakistan captain Salman Butt were banned from cricket for five years and handed jail sentences.
Amir, by far the youngest of the three, received widespread sympathy and he was granted a return to international cricket in 2016. But he had lost vital time to develop, leaving many to wonder what his career might have become.
“It was such a pity losing those years,” former Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur told AFP.
“He was on the cusp of being the next best thing and to lose those five years cost him severely... but saying that he is still a very special bowler.
“Amir is one of the best I have worked with,” added Arthur, who is now with Sri Lanka and has also coached South Africa and Australia.
Pakistan cricket statistician Mazhar Arshad has estimated that without his ban, Amir would have taken 250 wickets in both Tests and ODIs.
Only four players — Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Danish Kaneria — have taken 250 Test wickets for Pakistan. Amir, now retired from Tests, has 119 in the long format and 81 in ODIs.
“Amir missed 43 Tests, 137 ODIs and 57 T20 internationals in those five years,” said Arshad.
“Projection-wise he would have reached 250 in both Tests and ODIs and, who knows maybe, won Pakistan the World Cup in 2011 (when Pakistan lost to India in the semifinals).”
Playing international cricket is already a phenomenal achievement for Amir, who grew up in a humble village called Changa Bangyaal two hours’ drive south of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
There he learned the game playing ‘tape-ball’ cricket, bowling a tennis ball wrapped in electric tape with a pile of bricks used as wickets.
But soon his talent was spotted at the Asif Bajwa academy in Rawalpindi and Amir was picked out by Wasim, Pakistan’s legendary left-arm pacer.
Amir made huge strides, claiming 55 wickets in the 2008 first-class season, paving his way to selection for Pakistan’s victorious Twenty20 World Cup campaign in England in 2009.
Former Pakistan skipper Ramiz Raja said Amir’s talent was clear for all to see.
“When I first saw him I found him crafty and skilful,” said Raja.
“He was a quick learner and very skilful and had he not lost those five years he would have been a star in all formats.”
A five-wicket burst at the MCG in 2009 and a seven-wicket haul in a neutral-venue game at Leeds in 2010 — both against Australia — heralded Amir’s arrival on the Test scene.
Amir’s pace, swing and wicket-taking ability were drawing comparisons with Wasim, and his status was rising with 19 wickets in four Tests against England — until it all came crashing down at Lord’s.
“A cricketer’s life is very short, especially a fast bowler’s career and a five-year gap did a lot of damage to my body,” Amir admitted in a YouTube interview last month.
“My body just sort of shut down. When I returned in 2016, I played regularly and that took a toll on my body and that’s why I retired from Test cricket.”
Amir attracted criticism with the decision to step away from Tests last year, aged just 28. Bowling coach Waqar Younis accused him of “ditching the team.”
But Amir, who helped Pakistan win the 2017 Champions Trophy final against India with a burst of 3-16, said one more world title would help him end his compromised career on a high.
“Whatever format I play in, I wear the Pakistan star on my chest. If I get 500 wickets in ODIs and T20Is and win one more title then I would think I have done justice to my career.”


Pakistan arrests 'most wanted' militant linked to Iran-backed Zainabiyoun Brigade

Updated 37 min 7 sec ago

Pakistan arrests 'most wanted' militant linked to Iran-backed Zainabiyoun Brigade

  • Counterterrorism police chief says Abbas Jafri received military training in neighboring Iran
  • Last December, police arrested two members of the same militant outfit from Karachi’s Korangi area

KARACHI: Pakistan has arrested a ‘most wanted’ militant it says is linked to the Zainabiyoun Brigade, with investigators saying on Thursday he had received military training in neighboring Iran.
The Zainabiyoun Brigade was placed on the US Treasury’s financial blacklist in January 2019 and is believed to have sent young members of the Pakistani Shiite community to fight in Syria. 
“The arrested terrorist, Abbas Jafri, is a close aide of another most-wanted terrorist, Yawar Abbas, and, much like other members of the Zainabiyoun Brigade, got his military training in neighboring Iran,” Omar Shahid, deputy inspector general (DIG) of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), said.
According to an official handout, Jafri, who was arrested in Karachi, was trained in 2014 and, among other skills, taught to perform intelligence operations and provide medical services.
“The arrested terrorist specialized in automatic weapons and received training from a neighboring country,” the handout added.
Jafri, from whom weapons were confiscated, was also described as the right-hand man of Yawar Abbas and named in the “Red Book”, an official document on that lists  names and profiles of hardened militants.
According to the police, Jafri was involved in carrying out reconnaissance activities for militants.
The arrested man has been shifted to an undisclosed location for further investigation, police said.
Earlier in December, CTD said it had arrested two members of the Zainabiyoun Brigade from the Korangi area of Karachi in connection with a string of killings over the last six years. 
Tehran has not responded to the CTD’s claims.
On November 27, an AP report said that a group of Pakistanis was among 19 pro-Iran militia fighters killed in eastern Syria.
In March, a senior official told Arab News that up to 50 Pakistani fighters were killed by the Turkish army and Syrian forces in a major rebel stronghold in the northwest of the country.