Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mohammad Amir committed a crime, served a jail sentence and long ban - we must not keep punishing him

ome may feel that Mohammad Amir should have been banned for life and never allowed to play cricket again. It is an understandable emotional response to the spot-fixing scandal of 2010. What he did was wrong, he cheated and damaged the integrity of cricket.

At the time, many of us felt hurt and betrayed. His crime was dealt with by the International Cricket Council and our justice system.

The ICC suspended him from cricket for five years and one of our own English judges sent him to jail for six months. The judge had to take emotion out of his decision. Amir did not commit murder or manslaughter or grievous bodily harm.

He did not physically hurt anyone. He was guilty of corruption in a cricket match. There was consideration of his young age, 18, and the fact that his captain told him to do it.

All of us who have played cricket are taught from an early age to follow the captain’s instructions. It is an unwritten rule that you must obey your captain at all times. The penalty for defiance or refusing an order could be not being selected again or the sack. It would be very difficult for a young Pakistani boy, uneducated, at the start of his international career, to disobey his captain.

Alastair Cook said Amir would get some stick from the England supporters. Why should he? What he did was wrong and he has served a jail sentence. Now move on. If you believe in the rule of law and giving people a second chance then Amir should be allowed to play cricket and lead a normal life.

Cricket supporters should not go on punishing him for ever. Let us not have any ugly comments at Lord’s from England supporters and particularly, if by chance, he bowls a no ball.

Remember, that happens to every bowler and is not always part of spot-fixing. It just happens. We all need to get over it and give Amir a break by treating him decently.

Lord’s was the scene of his offence in 2010. Now it is a chance for his rehabilitation.

As far as the series goes, it will come down to how both teams bat. I must say, I do not agree with the clamour for Joe Root to go in at No 3 for England. He is at a stage in his career where he will make runs whatever position he bats. He has the technique, composure and range of shots to handle whatever the opposition bowl at him.

When Joe bats well, he makes it easier for his team-mates at the other end. In my opinion, he should bat where he feels comfortable and where he will make the most runs.

When Andrew Strauss retired, England could not find an opening partner for Cook. They picked Nick Compton but decided he was not good enough and, just because there was the gap, Joe was shoved into opening before he was ready.

People like me told the selectors it was too soon but they did not listen. England had a problem, thought they knew better and Joe struggled.

Now England cannot find a No 3, so we get this garbage that the best batsman in the team should bat at first drop, which means Joe has to fill the gap again.

England’s Australian coach, Trevor Bayliss, tells us the Australian way is to have the best batsman at No 3. What a load of rubbish. And do not bring up Don Bradman as an example. He was a genius, unique and so much better than the rest of us mortals.


Throughout English cricket history some of our greatest batsmen have been openers. WG Grace, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton and Herbert Sutcliffe were all openers. True greats. Other brilliant players have batted at No 4. Wally Hammond, Denis Compton and Kevin Pietersen. You will be hard pressed to better that lot.

Everyone has known for some time the England top order is shaky and vulnerable. So wherever Joe bats, he cannot cover up the deficiencies of some of the other batsmen. Once in the middle, each and every batsman has to sink or swim on their own ability.

Nobody can bat for them. If Joe bats well at No 3, he may make it a bit easier for the rest, but the best solution, in fact, the only good solution, is for England to find some better batsmen.

With James Anderson out, there is nothing much to choose between the two sets of bowlers. England’s seamers have a bit more experience of the Lord’s slope, the Duke red ball and English conditions, but that is it.

Pakistan’s leg-spinner, Yasir Shah, could be expensive if the England batsmen can pick him. But if the pitch turns, and they do not spot his variations, he could be a match-winner.

I expect Pakistan’s seamers to stretch England’s batting at times. But, for me, it will come down to how the batting line-ups perform. Pakistan look fragile and play too many shots early on, which is a recipe for failure. They will struggle to make enough runs to give their bowlers decent totals to bowl at.

England’s strength is two world-class batsmen in Cook and Root and the depth of their middle lower order of Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad. They have been England’s saviours for quite some time.




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