Pakistan united behind Mohammad Amir after spot-fixing, says Wahab Riaz
Mohammad Amir is “ready for everything” as he prepares for his return to Test cricket on Thursday at Lord’s, the scene of the 2010 spot-fixing scandal which led to him being handed a five-year ban and serving time in a young offenders’ institute.
The 24-year-old’s presence in the Pakistan side that takes on England in the first of four Test matches adds extra spice to the marquee series of the summer, coming six years after he bowled no-balls to order in a scandal revealed through a sting operation by the now defunct NEWS OF THE WORLD.
Amir’s comeback at the start of the year – he has played only one-day and Twenty20 internationals since his suspension expired – was not universally welcomed by his team-mates at the time but his fellow fast bowler Wahab Riaz says the squad is now united around a left-armer who, he claims, is equipped to cope with the additional scrutiny.
“Everybody is SUPPORTIVE of Mohammad Amir; no one is reluctant,” said Wahab, after Pakistan trained at Lord’s on Tuesday morning. “We all take him as our young brother and he is a part of our family. Everybody is supporting him and we are all behind him.
“He is ready for everything,” Wahab added. “If you make a mistake it doesn’t mean that you are out of this world and people will keep blaming you for that. Once he has done his punishment, then it is a new life for him and he is ready to have a go again.
“What has happened has gone now, so I think the best thing is that he can perform well and I want him to take five wickets in this Test match to get his name back and to get his image back which has been spoiled. I wish him all the best to win this Test for Pakistan.”
Asked about Amir’s return, the England vice-captain, Joe Root, said: “The decision has been made to let him play so it would be silly to go any further with it. It is a great opportunity to face him and I am looking forward to that challenge.”
Amir’s return has divided opinion in the cricket world. The former England players Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann, who took part in the 2010 series, have both said a life ban was needed but the former Test captain Mike Brearley said: “I think that like King Lear he was more sinned against than sinning, although he was sinning. He did wrong and was very foolish. He was misled by senior players.”
The ex-Pakistan opener Ramiz Raja added: “I tend to disagree because I have always felt Pakistan had a bad history of fixing and we haven’t learned. It’s an emotional subject. There was concern about his comeback among the Pakistan players, they felt cheated. They have calmed down and are trying to get along.”
Neither Salman Butt nor Mohammad Asif, the other two players who served five-year bans and spent time in prison for their roles in the infamous Test match, is part of the current Pakistan side, which Wahab believes has won back the trust of the cricket-watching world under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq.
He said: “Misbah is the kind of a captain who has got all of us on the track. He has united each and every player. He has made the players believe in what kind of skills they have. He has worked hard with everyone. That is why Pakistan is being named as one of the best Test teams in the world.”
Wahab, who shone for Pakistan in the 2-0 victory over England in the United Arab Emirates last year, was one of the players on the periphery of the story six years ago, first when photographed as part of the sting lending a jacket to the agent Mazhar Majeed before the latter exchanged money with the undercover reporter and then later in the one-day series when he and Jonathan Trott clashed in the nets as tension between the two sides rose.
The 31-year-old was subsequently named in court during the spot-fixing trial of Butt, Asif and Amir. In a secret recording heard by the jury, Majeed alleged Wahab was one of the players he “controlled” but asked on Tuesday whether had been nervous when the original story broke, Wahab replied: “We have a firm belief in Allah, in our religion, Islam. When you have done nothing wrong no one can pinpoint you out. I was not worried. Seeing a picture never tells you the story.”
On the heated row with the now retired Trott, Wahab added: “He was a bit rude and when it comes to being rude you can never beat the Pakistanis on it. We are the most rude when it comes to it. We are nice but, if somebody is rude, we won’t spare it. It’s gone now. Live in the present, the past has gone.”
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