Sports

Pakistan divided on tainted Amir’s return

KARACHI: Former players and fans Saturday voiced contrasting opinions about the prospect of talented Mohammad Amir rejoining Pakistan’s national squad after finishing a five-year ban over spot fixing.

The 23-year-old Amir has shown remarkable wicket-taking form in domestic matches since his ban was relaxed in April this year, taking 84 wickets in 12 four-day and 11 Twenty20 matches.

Amir, then Test captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were charged with accepting money in exchange for arranging deliberate no-balls during a Test match at Lord’s in England in 2010.

The three players and their agent Mazhar Majeed were jailed by a British court in 2011. Amir, Butt and Asif were also banned from cricket for five years.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has included Amir in a training camp from which a squad will be selected for next month’s tour of New Zealand where they are scheduled to play three one-day internationals and as many Twenty20 internationals.

Amir is a favourite to get the selectors’ nod, pending his visa for New Zealand.

But former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif said Amir should not be selected for the national team.

“Amir is a living example of someone who betrayed Pakistan in an international match,” Latif, who risked his career in the fight against match-fixing, told AFP.

Latif blew the whistle on some of his fellow players in 1995, his testimony forming the basis of a match fixing inquiry three years later.

Latif said Amir should only play domestic matches and leagues.

“Let him live his life but don’t allow him to play for the country again. He can play domestic cricket and play in different leagues but don’t allow him to wear the same national colour which stalwarts like Hanif Mohammad, Imran Khan, Majid Khan, Wasim Bari, Fazal Mahmood and Javed Miandad wore with pride,” said Latif.

Two current Pakistan players — former Twenty captain Mohammad Hafeez and current one-day skipper Azhar Ali also objected to the presence of Amir in the camp and it was only after PCB convinced them, that they joined the camp on Saturday.

But another former captain, Mohammad Yousuf, backed Amir’s inclusion.

“Amir is a wonderful bowler and since he has completed his sentence he has every right to play for Pakistan again,” said Yousuf in a television interview.

“Amir is performing very well since his ban was lifted and his inclusion will strengthen Pakistan team, so I back his inclusion,” said Yousuf.

Fans on the street mostly backed Amir.

“He was a kid when the scandal happened,” said Asfaq Khan, an engineering student, referring to the fact that Amir was 18 years old in 2010. “Amir is a special bowler and deserves a place in the team.”

Butt and Asif will also feature in a national one-day tournament next month and can press their chances for selection once they complete their rehabilitation.

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