Amir says he's lucky to play international cricket again
ISLAMABAD (AP) Fast bowler Mohammad Amir thinks he's lucky to re-don the Pakistan green cap.
The left-arm fast bowler was just 18 years old when he bowled deliberate no-balls in a test match at Lord's and was duly slapped with a five-year ban from all forms of cricket by the ICC.
During his suspension for spot-fixing Amir even spent some time in a prison in England before being released for good behavior.
The other two culprits in the same offence - Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif - are still waiting for their returns to international cricket despite their five-year bans being lifted last year.
But a much matured Amir swiftly passed through the rehabilitation program and is set to return to Lord's next month.
Amir has played one-day internationals and Twenty20s since his ban was lifted on Sept. 3 last year, but his return to test cricket will be at the same Lord's ground where the doors of international cricket were shut on him in 2010.
''To be honest I never thought about my comeback and I feel seriously lucky to play test cricket again,'' Amir told Associated Press as he prepared to leave for England on Saturday.
''You call it a coincidence or whatever, but to me it is a blessing that I am starting right from where I stopped in 2010.
''I might have made my comeback months ago but test cricket is what I was looking forward to and this is my real comeback.''
Amir had made his mark in his brief 13 months of test cricket when he grabbed 51 wickets in 14 test matches against teams like Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia and England before he was suspended.
Such was his accuracy, even the legendary Wasim Akram once said he couldn't have bowled much better than Amir when he was an 18-year-old.
Amir also realizes he had missed crucial time, otherwise he could have achieved more laurels.
''I had missed five best years of my life and had I continued playing cricket, everyone knows where I would have been standing today (in international cricket),'' he said.
''I have not forgotten 2010 ... and I want to supersede my past with a better future. I still hold those moments (from 2010) in my memory but I want to get my name on the honor board at Lord's once again.''
Recently Alastair Cook reportedly said he did not have a problem with playing against Amir in the forthcoming test series, but the England skipper wanted the ICC to be much stricter and slap life-bans on fixing offenders.
Amir also endorsed Cook's point of view.
''If anyone still hasn't learnt a lesson from our cases then he will be foolish,'' Amir said.
''Corruption in cricket should not be allowed and anyone caught (in future) should be banned for life.''
Amir said it's the players who need to be honest while representing their countries in international matches.
''Neither the home board, nor the ICC nor the parents can help this out if a player doesn't want to be honest,'' he said. ''I think players have to be honest themselves to eradicate corruption from cricket.''
Amir is also wary of the crowd's response to his comeback in test matches in England, but wants to focus more on his bowling.
''I always believe that as professional you have to be ready for any kind of situation. Crowds in general get nasty sometimes but you are a professional only if you can handle any kind of situation wisely,'' he said.
Last month, Pakistan cricket team members had a rigorous two-week long physical training camp at an Army academy in Abbottabad and Amir thinks it had made a significant difference in players' fitness.
''I had never underwent such an intense fitness training session and I really enjoyed that,'' he said.
''I can clearly see a big difference in my fitness level and I am ready for the tour of England.''