After jail and ban, cricketer Amir returns to scene of crime

BY foxsports • July 12, 2016

Mohammad Amir returns to the scene of his crime on Thursday, given a second chance at international cricket after he was sent to jail and banned for fixing parts of a test match for money.

Six years ago at Lord's, the young Pakistan fast bowler was one of three players involved in a spot-fixing scam against England, a scandal magnified by the fact that the corruption played out at Lords, the revered home of cricket.

Along with the outrage that players accepted bribes to fix parts of a test - by bowling no-balls at pre-determined times - there was a tinge of sadness that Amir was involved. Then, he was an 18-year-old prodigy, maybe his country's best bowling prospect for a generation. Some said he might also have been an impressionable teenager drawn in to a murky world by two senior teammates.

The International Cricket Council's ''zero tolerance'' approach to match-fixing was sternly tested by the case, cricket's biggest scandal since that of Hansie Cronje a decade earlier. The world body eventually decided on effective five-year bans for the teenage Amir, fellow fast bowler Mohammad Asif, and then-Pakistan captain Salman Butt. All three also spent time in prison after a British criminal case in 2011.

But on Thursday, Amir will return to test cricket and, at the age of 24, can still have a long international career. He's been given another chance. This is a new test series between England and Pakistan, and Amir says he's a different person as he prepares to return to the top of the game.

He's been backed by his teammates, too. That wasn't always the case, with Amir's initial return to the Pakistan team prompting some to walk out in protest at his presence.

''No one is reluctant,'' Amir's fellow Pakistan fast bowler, Wahab Riaz, said in the buildup to this Lord's test. ''We all take him as our young brother. He is a part of our family. Everybody is supporting him. We are all behind him.''

But some aren't as forgiving.

Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen, who played in the 2010 test, wrote in a column for Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper that Amir and his fellow fixers should never have been allowed to play cricket again.

''Any sportsman or woman caught match-fixing, spot-fixing or taking drugs should be banned for life,'' Pietersen wrote. ''They have broken the rules, should pay the price, and not be given a second chance.

''People always deserve a second chance in life but sport is different. We are paid to play a sport we love, and are damn lucky to lead the life of a professional cricketer.''

Fixing games was ''mugging the spectators,'' Pietersen argued.

What Amir, Asif, and Butt also did was undermine the hard work of other players.

Stuart Broad, who will lead England's bowling attack in the first test, made a career-best 169 with the bat in the spot-fixing match, Jonathan Trott made 184, and offspinner Graeme Swann took 5-62 in the second innings. All earned a place on the Lord's honors boards, but those performances are rarely remembered, now.

''That was the sad thing for me ... that those achievements were tainted,'' Broad said.

Whatever the regrets, and the distractions around Amir's return, England had to get over them now, Broad said.

''Let's start looking at him as a cricketer and a bowler and how we can negate that,'' Broad said.

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