By Obaid ur Rehman.
There was a 17-year old young Pakistani boy having long hair who stepped into the world of cricket and reached to the heights in no time. The young lad knocked at the doors of international cricket in World T20 2009 where he made extremely impressive debut and had bowled out excellently, including one of the great opening overs in the event’s final against Sri Lanka, sending back tournament’s top scorer for a duck. He was none other than, Muhammad Amir, a boy, who had readily impressed the greats of cricket through his great pace bowling.
Later then, Muhammad Amir had shown great swing and pace in Australia’s and England’s tour after when cricket experts started calling him as world class bowler. Wasim Akram, world’s greatest fast bowler of all times, moved by Amir’s wrist position and declared him a hot pace bowling prospect as his successor as well while the boy was still in his teens.
In the meanwhile, a spot-fixing scandal took place while Amir was in London playing Test at Lord’s that shook the world and Amir along with then Captain Salman But and pacer Muhammad Asif, left the cricket world for atleast five years. After serving the 5-year ban, Amir made his much awaited and hyped return to international arena once again. This time the world saw a different Amir who had a tint of red dye hair along with the goatee beard, having a decent personality and friendly attitude with being cooperative with board and players.
Initially it felt like Muhammad Amir had never been away from cricket, keeping his performances in view in BPL, particularly in Asia Cup when he rattled the Indian openers. It genuinely felt like Amir is back with a bang. But when he returned to the scene of crime in England for Test series, things were different, infact completely different. Although Amir won a huge symbolic victory by finishing off the Lord’s win, but it was not enough and not the same Amir as well which he used to be once.
Muhammad Amir’s bowling was lacking pace, above all the swing was also missing for which he got fame and popularity for swinging the ball in both the directions. Bowling line was also unbalanced as Pakistan’s bowling innings started with Muhammad Amir coming in to bowl, but he always got smashed for a boundary in the same over most of the times. In short, those who had high expectations with Amir got disappointed and started raising questions on Amir’s near future and quality of bowling.
The series was also a proper comeback series for Muhammad Amir under the circumstances, so it was also very important for Muhammad Amir to atleast survive and get fit into Captain Misbah’s ethos. In the middle of high-pressure tour where Muhammad Amir was seeking to regain himself, he atleast transformed himself into a decent and dependable bowler.
He dragged his length back a bit and started bowling more defensively to cut runs short off his deliveries. Ten dropped catches from the fielders in whole test series also didn’t help him that made his number even worse. But yet, he atleast made it sure that he deserves to be there in playing eleven for the national side and played an active and leading role as well in limited version cricket in rest of the tour.
After then, when Pakistan and West Indies met for Test Series on UAE soil, it became further clear that 24-year old Muhammad Amir will have to struggle a lot to survive in international circuit to be recognized as a world class bowler. He was constantly struggling in maintaining his pace, line and length along with the lack of swing. It is to be noted that Amir made his name on the bouncy tracks of Australia and England where he received perfect assistance from the conditions as well.
With the fact that Amir has more probability of getting successful on bouncy tracks, it gets clearer that Amir needs to work much harder to get his rhythm back which he had once because he could not become successful just by being the bowler he once was. What Amir needs to do is to find out a set of new tricks to adjust his bowling techniques on dry and flat tracks as well. He has to set his line, length and pace well along with the swing to get back into what he was and what he actually deserves to be.
Pakistan is currently in New Zealand for two test match series which will then be followed by an Australian tour where Pakistan will play 3 Test & 5 ODIs. Touring such countries where there are bouncy tracks and difficult conditions, Pakistan has always faced a lot of difficulties. But the way Pakistan has been playing test cricket in last couple of years under the leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq and performed in England last summer, we can say that the current Pakistani squad is very strong and possesses the ability to make history particularly in Australia.
As far as Muhammad Amir is concerned, it would be a great chance for him to make full use of bowling conditions and get his pace and swing back. In a recent statement, Amir quoted that he is working hard and believes that soon he will be bowling like he used to bowl six years ago.
The way Amir had cooperated with ICC and PCB during 5-year ban and behaved since his comeback to international circuit, he surely has won his people and earned their respect. Now it is time for him to get his real form back in upcoming New Zealand and Australian tours so that he can truly be seen and termed as the successor of the legend Wasim Akram.
The writer is Islamabad based Journalist / Research Analyst and writes on Politics, Current Affairs, Social Issues and Sports.