WELLINGTON: The New Zealand-Pakistan series features the return of convicted Pakistani spot-fixer Mohammad Amir’s return to international cricket after a five-year ban from the game.
However, the New Zealanders, fresh from a 2-0 T20 series win over Sri Lanka, maintained that the induction of Amir into the Pakistan team was not an issue.
“That is not something that worries us,” all-rounder Grant Elliott said. “All we are concerned about is how good someone is on the cricket field.
“What I do know about Mohammad Amir is I played him in 2009 in the Test series and he was a very quick bowler then. It will be interesting to see how he comes back from what has happened.
“As a cricketer, you need to focus on what is in front of you whether you are bowling or batting; without that mentality it is very difficult to perform under pressure.”
Elliott, whose epic six off South Africa’s Dale Steyn took New Zealand to their first ever World Cup final, has been mulling over retirement since September last year.
The 36-year-old Elliott will assess what would be the right time to call it a day at the end of World T20 in India.
Yesterday, New Zealand bowling coach Dimitri Mascarenhas also praised Amir’s ability as a bowler and said that it’s the only factor about the left-armer that concerns his team.
“We know that Amir’s a very good bowler and he’s another guy we’re going to have to deal with. It’s pretty much as simple as that for us,” Mascarenhas was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
Mascarenhas believed that since Amir has completed his punishment, he deserves to be back into the cricketing fold.
“He’s done his time and been cleared to play,” said the former England all-rounder. “So we’ll just get on with it and play against him.”
Amir was granted a visa to travel to New Zealand on Jan 7.
The 23-year-old was considered one of the most exciting fast bowlers in the world before the 2010 spot-fixing scandal that resulted in bans and jail sentences for him, former Test captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif.
The trio were cleared to return to the sport by the International Cricket Council in September last year after serving suspensions.
You’ll see the best of Amir, says Waqar
Pakistan head coach Waqar Younis believes that the left-armer would be able to handle international return after a gap of five years.
“I think there’s more to come – he’s not at what you would probably have seen five years ago, but he’s definitely thereabout,” Waqar told cricket.com.au.
“I guess once he’s started playing at the international level, and he’s played a few games and gets into it, you’ll see the best of him.”
Waqar, 44, admitted that it might not be a smooth transition for young Amir but showed his full faith on the abilities the fast bowler possesses.
“He was under pressure when he first arrived but he’s fine, he’s coping really well.
“The boys are helping him out to be part of the team, and I’m sure he’s going to deliver the goods,” the head coach said of Amir.
More than Amir, it was the Kiwi’s top form against Sri Lanka that was worrying Waqar, but the head coach believed that it will be a different contest for the hosts against his side.
“The stats tell the story – they’re playing some top cricket, and what they’ve done to Sri Lanka, that’s something unreal,” said Waqar.
“But I guess it’s a different ball game against us.”
New Zealand will host Pakistan in the opener of the T20 series at Eden Park on Friday, followed by matches in Hamilton and Wellington.