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Mohammad Amir: Pakistan's raging phoenix

Updated June 29, 2017

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The ball that left Mohammad Amir's hand on July 15, 2016 had poetic justice etched all over it. It was released with the aggression he was once formidably famous for, only this time it was woven deeper into the threads of the seam like a cry for redemption.

The ball ingeniously betrayed Alastair Cook's bat, kissing it softly on the edge before clipping the bails off. It wanted to be noticed, to be feared, to be revered - again. Lords watched in wonder as Amir claimed his first Test wicket in six years at the same ground his career almost died a fateful death.

In the span of those six years, every fan hoped and prayed that whenever Amir returns, he must not have changed. We wanted the same 18-year-old with his contagious energy.

We wanted him to jump, yell, and smile with the same unrestrained passion. We wanted his long black hair that swung in rhythm as he ran. We wanted the same pace, the same swing.

We wanted the same old Amir back, but our wish was not granted. What we got instead was an older, wiser, better Amir.

His first international series after his return was underwhelming. Pakistan were in New Zealand and Amir was in the squad, much to the displeasure of some teammates. He kept a straight head and focused on the ball, even when two of his catches were put down in the first T20.

The pace was there, we could all see it, but something else was not. That is not to say that he didn't show promise; it was evident in his contained aggression and on-field morale that he wanted to go big. The crowd occasionally booed but he didn't care for them. He was there to get a wicket.

Amir finished the T20 series with one wicket and a myriad of expectations. He yearned for esteem, respect, redemption, and he knew he would have to wait.

In the following ODIs against New Zealand, Amir bagged five wickets in two games, with an average economy of 3.87. What followed next, however, was a beautiful culmination of six years worth of patience and faith.

Asia Cup 2016: the first ball of the first over of Pakistan's first game. The opponents were India and the setting was Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, Dhaka. Pakistan had 84 runs to defend and Rohit Sharma was on strike.

An exuberant Amir ran in with the new ball, bowling a loaded yorker that Sharma almost edged coming down on his front foot.

There were screams. Keeper, first slip, second slip, bowler all appealed in assertive harmony for an LBW. The umpire didn't budge.

A baffled Afridi exchanged looks with his boys; Amir could not believe his fate. Sharma survived, but Amir knew it was only a matter of time.

How short a time? Six seconds.

The very next ball swung straight onto Sharma's pad, escaping inside edge and flying towards middle stump. Amir appealed with double the force and Sharma was on his way.

There are moments like these with Amir, when he just knows. He appeals like he knows your darkest secrets and where they're hidden.

He doesn't forget scores unsettled.

Amir finished with 3-18.

Asia Cup 2016 was his resurgence onto the international stage, and the world held its breath as Amir prepared for England.

Fast forward to Champions Trophy 2017. Much was similar to the Asia Cup spectacle. The opponents were India and the setting was Kennington Oval, London. Pakistan had 338 runs to defend and Rohit Sharma was on strike.

The third ball of the first over came crashing onto the pad like last year's replay. The umpire raised a finger and in that instant, India knew Amir had arrived. Both hands in the air, he roared with every muscle in his body.

One over later, he bowled a blinder to Kohli who nicked it without due consideration to slip. As fate would have it, the ball was put down by Azhar Ali. Had we given the most dangerous batsman in the world a second life? Amir knew better than to let this setback get in his way; he had written a similar script before.

The next ball deceived Kohli into attempting a flick towards on-side, but he edged it straight to the fielder at point who carried it comfortably.

I like to believe that before his ban, Amir bowled like any insanely talented young pacer would. His ambition was limited to securing more wickets, setting more records, winning more matches. Since his comeback, he has shown signs of greater aggression.

Back then, he bowled to win; today he bowls to win something back.


The Pakistan cricket team is fondly known as Shaheen (falcons), though Mohammad Amir, I believe, must not be counted as one. He is Pakistan's phoenix, for he resurges from his ashes and continues flight.

For every catch dropped, for every appeal denied, for every wound sustained and for every disgrace suffered - Mohammad Amir rises again. He lives through and keeps flying, undaunted.

Lastly, to everyone who opposed his right to a second chance - has his return not been worth it?