SOUTHAMPTON: Muhammad Amir can still become the best bowler in the world despite serving a five-year ban for spot-fixing, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said Monday.
Left-arm fast bowler Amir, 24, is expected to make his return to Test cricket next month against England at Lord’s, ‘the home of cricket’, where his exciting career came to a shuddering halt in 2010.
During that year’s Lord’s Test against England, Amir was caught bowling no-balls to order in a sting operation carried out by a tabloid newspaper.
Amir and new-ball partner Muhammad Asif bowled no-balls to order on the instructions of their captain Salman Butt.
All three received five-year bans from cricket and, together with sports agent Mazhar Majeed, jail terms.
Amir, who served three months in an English young offenders institute, has only played limited overs internationals for Pakistan, but his career could come full circle when the first of a four-Test series against England starts at Lord’s on July 14.
Misbah believes Amir, who was one of the hottest properties in world cricket at the time of his ban, has lost none of his skill.
“The way he has been bowling, he is there,” said Misbah at Hampshire’s Rose Bowl ground near Southampton, where Pakistan were training Monday.
“You look at his bowling speed, his swing, his control, they’re all there. he can still be the best bowler in the world,” he added ahead of Pakistan’s opening three-day tour match against Somerset at Taunton starting Sunday.
“Whatever form of the game he has played since his comeback, he has done well,” said key batsman Misbah of Amir, who in his 14 Tests before his ban took 51 wickets at an average of under 30 apiece.
“He knows he is under pressure but he is handling it well,” the captain insisted.
“This is a good chance for him to come here, the place where he had those problems, and show the world he is there to perform and deliver for the team. It is a chance to win back all his fans. It’s a great opportunity and he is working hard.”
As for Amir receiving a potentially hostile reception from English spectators, Misbah said: “Anything might happen but Amir’s main focus should be on his game.”
“It might happen ─ you can always hear voices. The best way is to concentrate on your skills and your duties and Amir has to focus on his game and what he has to do. He is doing well.”