On 18 June 2017, Mohammad Amir produced one of the greatest spells of fast bowling. In the Champions Trophy Final, he dismantled one of the best top orders single-handedly in his five overs burst, helping Pakistan to register a comprehensive win over arch rivals India.
Fast forward to today with the World Cup forthcoming, Mohammad Amir finds himself in a peculiar scenario, from being the leader of the pace attack to warming the bench. There is a myriad of criticism on his place in the squad and he is playing more because of his past reputation than present performances. His bowling has lost much of its potency and bite.
Ever since Amir came back after the ban, he has been a ghost of his former self. Yes, there have been some sparks of brilliance here and there but nothing as compared to what he achieved a decade ago. Some of the pundits blame his lack of bowling in the domestic circuit as the cause of his degradation. Some point out technical issues with his wrist position and bowling too far away from the stumps which is barring him to bring the ball in.
Since his return in 2016 after the ban, he has picked up 35 wickets in 35 ODI’s, not an ideal statistics for a bowler who is supposed to be the best talent in the country. Since the Champions Trophy Final in 2017, his numbers are even worse, taking only 5 scalps in 14 matches.
The Test format also paints a sorry picture for Amir. His current Test tally is 119 wickets in 33 test with an average of 30.6. In UAE, he has featured in 4 Test matches picking up only seven wickets at 56.42. Since his return from the ban he has picked up only one five wicket haul.
Who can forget his devastating spells in his early days? The first Test of the 2009-10 series in Australia at Melbourne, where he took 5/79 in the second innings. His five wickets were Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Marcus North, a masterclass with the new and old ball.
After a dismal performance in the Asia Cup in September, Amir was dropped for the home tours against Australia and New Zealand. He was asked to go back to play domestic and work on his pace and swing. He made a comeback for the South Africa tour. He showed promise with the red ball by picking up 12 wickets in three Tests but his pace was a concern throughout the tour. The bowler who used to touch 145 kph mark in his teenage days was bowling around 130 kph.
Mickey Arthur in an interview said: “It’s not just up to me which players play, that is the job of the selectors led by Inzi [chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq],” he told. “But that could be a fair assessment of how we proceed with Amir. The tearaway quick Mohammad Amir who used to run in and rattle stumps and bowls at 145 is no more.
“But he gives us control, and is skilful when the ball swings. So there might be a role change for Mohammad Amir going forward. We will certainly rotate our quicks through the UAE a lot. We won’t kill them in our conditions; we’d look to rotate them through their time. We’ve got strength and depth in our bowling department, which gives us options.”
Although Amir has lost the swing and zip in his ball, he still has been economical. In recent years, England has offered flat pitches with scores of 300 breached easily. He can come in handy with the old ball and his variations to restrict the batsmen in death overs.
Having missed previous two World Cups due to his ban, Amir will be hoping to make it big in his first one. Prior to the tournament, Pakistan face off against England in a five match series, providing a perfect opportunity for Amir to find his rhythm. Historically, Mohammad Amir has done well in England and will be hoping to redeem himself.