Tuesday 20 March 2012

Mohammad Amir: Not Quite Time to Forgive, or Forget…

Watching the fascinating interview between former England captain Michael Atherton and disgraced former Pakistan fast bowling protégé Mohammad Amir last night stirred a number of emotions. Renewed disbelief that such events actually unfolded was just one, accompanied by anger that here sat one perpetrator of corruption within the most gentlemanly of games and of course sadness that one of the greatest fast bowling talents of a generation has been all but wasted.

Mohammad Amir
For those that missed it, watch it, or cast your eye over one of the many transcripts readily available online. An enlightening interview at the least, Atherton accompanies Amir through his early career, unparalleled success as a Pakistani teenage sensation and ultimately to that fateful day when those two pre-arranged no-balls were bowled at Lord’s.

Amir produced a polished, if at times imploring performance throughout. My rather more cynical side says that Atherton’s questions could well have been vetted and pre-observed by Amir, such was the clarity of response and forcefulness of expression. A shred of liberal consideration that I somehow managed to retain countered that Amir’s prison sentence allowed for reflection enough to have his story well regimented in preparation for further inquisitions.

A prevailing sense of empathy dominated the interview, a luxury Amir would unlikely have been afforded had the inquisitor been a skilled QC in place of understanding, sympathetic former cricketer Michael Atherton.

To my mind, forgiveness is being dished out in exceedingly heavy doses from too many quarters. Yes it has left me saddened, not only at the corruption of the sport I love but at the demise of a potential superstar, yet for me the focus is all wrong. Age, nationality and ability should be redundant in such circumstances, with many claiming that the young, naïve Amir was misled. Maybe he was, but maybe Mervyn Westfield was, too, and you’ll see no such clamour for the lifting of Westfield’s ban.

One interview in which Amir, to his credit, tried to give reasoning behind his actions and explain how and why he was manipulated by more malevolent figures does not warrant forgiveness, nor does a short custodial sentence and a temporary ban from cricket. Indeed, many would argue that a lifetime ban and nothing less would have been a more suitable punishment.

One could perhaps be excused for buying much of what this young man from such humble origins told us. After all, Amir isn’t the first sportsman to have fallen after a swift and meteoric rise, and the sense that he was subject to manipulation persisted throughout. Despite much of this being true, Amir’s words were not without their flaws. Atherton enquired as to whether he had received any money for agreeing to take part in spot-fixing, a suggestion that Amir categorically denied. Further digging unearthed the revelation that Amir had provided a mysterious contact known only as ‘Ali’ with his bank account details, a rather strange gesture if the transfer of money was not on the agenda, one would think.

Likewise, Amir’s attempt to portray himself as a scared, naïve and altogether unwitting youngster amidst a world of adults fell somewhat short. Amir was happy to admit that he knew that his involvement was entirely wrong and cheating the game. The very definition of naïve suggests that this should not have been the case. Rather than express his fears to the team management, Amir opted to proceed, knowing exactly what he was becoming involved in, but not stopping for one second to consider the implications or indeed the possibility of being apprehended. It doesn’t instil a great deal of forgiveness, does it?

Compassion and forgiveness play a significant role in human society. The complex and diverse nature of the human being, so often confronted with bounteous choice, and possessing an unrivalled intelligence to act upon that choice, inevitably brings about mistakes in all walks of life. Most of those mistakes are forgiven, or the perpetrator given an opportunity to atone.

Amir is undoubtedly remorseful for his involvement in this spot-fixing saga. And why wouldn’t he be? A rare talent placed this young man with the cricketing world at his feet, the fledgling hero of a nation. Corruption spat at those same feet, and the cricketing world swiftly decided that they were no longer a place under which it wished to reside.

As mistakes go, this ranked at the catastrophic end of the scale. The inner workings of human nature will one day see the majority decide that Amir is ready to be forgiven. Some have already done so. For me, if he is indeed on the road to rehabilitation, Amir must now see out his cricketing ban that runs until 2015, and only then by virtue of his actions and not pleading, remorseful words may this ghastly affair receive some closure, and forgiveness be imparted. 


  1. "Likewise, Amir's attempt to portray himself as a scared, naïve and altogether unwitting youngster amidst a world of adults fell somewhat short. Amir was happy to admit that he knew that his involvement was entirely wrong and cheating the game. The very definition of naïve suggests that this should not have been the case." Wow, what a line! It captures, perfectly the essence of of an incredibly well written, fantastic write-up.
    I 100% agree with those experts who say that any cricketer caught fixing should be banned for life irrespective of age, circumstance, country etc because such a person could never regain the trust of even his once most ardent of followers. Every no ball, wide, dropped catch, runs scored, runs conceded etc would be viewed with incredible amount of suspicion. And I do not think it is fair for a cricket fan to be expected to go through this.
    Your post inspired me to write one of my own for my blog which dwells into the psychological aspect of this issue from a fan point of view. So, thanks for this!

  2. Aditi, thanks for the comment. My own views are very much in line with yours, in that any convicted cheats should be banned permanently from the sport in any capacity. In this instance, sentence has been passed and as such I'm willing to accept that, despite it being against my own preference. Amir can be forgiven, eventually, but the rate at which forgiveness is flooding in from so many does leave me a little cold. One interview changes nothing.

    I look forward to your own piece on the matter.



  3. Hi Andy, I guess it's pretty obvious that Amir clearly foresees a second chance because when the ban is lifted, he'll still be only around 23-24 years of age. Drumming up sympathy and keeping the cricket world's interest in him alive till that moment is the best way of making his inclusion back into the side inevitable. But as you said, the willingness of the cricketing community to ease this process for him is quite disturbing.

    My thoughts from a fan point of view on match-fixing can be read on http://adszach.blogspot.com/2012/03/no-ill-not-stand-by-you-if-match-fixing.html


  4. Aditi, many thanks I'll take a look later today.