Former West Indies fast bowling great Michael Holding said it was time the cricket fraternity reconciled with tainted pace prodigy Mohammad Amir, reminding critics that the Pakistan international ‘had not taken anybody's life.’
The 61-year-old Holding, who is now a well-respected voice in cricket, said he never got the impression that the young left-armer from Pakistan, who was 18-years-old at the time, had ‘planned’ the 2010 spot-fixing scandal and certainly was not the central character in the plot.
Amir, banned from all cricket along with fellow bowler Mohammed Asif and captain Salman Butt over the scandal, was originally due to return in September this year.
But the International Cricket Council (ICC) allowed him to return to domestic matches early in recognition of his contrition over one of the most notorious incidents in the history of the game.
The West Indian legend, who was commentating in the game at Lord's where Amir had delivered the pre-arranged no-ball, said the Pakistan bowler had served his term and deserved another chance.
“I have seen people who do things who have cost others their lives, like reckless driving, drink-driving, reckless accidents with machinery, yet they are given another opportunity in life to come back and make good. Whatever sentence they are given, whatever term they are given, after that they are given another chance to re-start their life and make good,” Holding told Pakpassion in an interview.
Holding said he understood why fans in Pakistan were not too keen on the bowler's return but did not see why Amir should remain ostracised for life.
“I can totally understand people not wanting him back especially those people in Pakistan who will be saying that he has embarrassed the country and yes you don’t want someone who has embarrassed your country to get off lightly.”
“But why can't Amir's life be repaired and he be given another chance? He’s not taken a man’s life.”
Amir showed no signs of rustiness as he made his comeback after the five-year spot-fixing ban in March this year, bagging three wickets in his first spell in competitive cricket since 2010.
The 22-year-old bowled with pace and aggression to snare three scalps in an opening stint of six overs for the Omar Associates side at the former Test ground in Rawalpindi in a grade-two Patron's Trophy tournament, one level down from first-class.
But Holding, who formed a deadly quartet of fast bowlers along with Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner during the West Indies' era of dominance through the 70s and 80s, said returning to the international stage would certainly not be any easy task for Amir.
“The truth is we don’t know what the future holds for him. Having said that though a lot will depend on how people will accept him when he comes back; his team, his fans and people around the world.
“It depends on how they treat him and whether they accept him. It’s going to be difficult for him if people are cynical and make comments about him and jeer him, as that will undoubtedly affect him mentally.”
According to Holding, nicknamed the 'Whispering Death' for his almost silent approach to the bowling crease, Amir should not have any trouble with the technical side of bowling if and when he makes a comeback to the Pakistan side.
“I think he had it all, he had a lot going for him as a bowler. All he has to do now is to stay fit and do not be tempted again to do anything that is wrong. He looks physically stronger now and I’m sure he'll be back to his best soon.”