Mohammad Amir – don’t mourn the loss of a future great

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We are deliberately using a picture where he isn't wearing cricket gear

“Please don’t let it be the kid,” said Nasser Hussain at the start of all of this. He spoke for most of us.

We wanted Mohammad Amir to be innocent, but it turns out that he wasn’t and believing that he might have become a future great makes no sense now that the facts are in.

He won’t be a future great and there is a very good reason for that.

A test of character

Cricket, and Test cricket in particular, is a test of character. In fact, over the course of a career, it’s a test of everything. The great players weren’t necessarily the only ones with extraordinary skill at their disposal. They were also the ones who gave themselves the best chance of proving how good they were.

Take Dale Steyn for example

He is currently considered the best bowler in the world. Is that simply because he’s the most skilful? No, it’s not.

Some bowlers have had better opening spells, but Steyn stays strong all day. Other bowlers have taken more wickets in an innings, but Steyn bowls well almost every innings. Some bowlers have had fewer setbacks, but Steyn has responded better to the ones he’s had.

He’s had bad days and injuries and he’s wealthy enough that he doesn’t need to play. Yet he does. He hasn’t got lazy; he hasn’t got fat; he hasn’t grown dispirited or disillusioned; and as far as any of us know, he hasn’t accepted money to bowl any no-balls.


Being persuaded to fix elements of cricket matches is a failing. It knackers your career even more comprehensively than other failings, like lack of skill, lack of fitness or wealth-induced complacency, which is what keeps so many promising cricketers from achieving their potential.

We are not going to mourn the loss of Mohammad Amir, because even if he was pressured into doing what he did, he doesn’t seem to have resisted strongly enough. He was found wanting.


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  1. An eighteen year old was found wanting when we looked for him to resist pressure from people who he no doubt felt he had no right to question?

    I know all of this sucks, but the fact that a poor decision at the age of eighteen is going to dictate his entire life is nothing but tragic. I hope he is allowed to play again.

    1. Not sure the pressure was all that intense, to be honest. There might be more information coming out about that later today though.

  2. Harsh, in my opinion. But I do realize you speak for a lot of cricket fans. It seems to me that since holding sportsmen to high standards of performance is a job requirement, we inadvertently slip into using the same yardstick to measure their moral standards. Does this mean Butt should go scot-free? Absolutely not. Does this mean we have to shun Amir from sport forever? Again, no. A lower middle class boy thrust into into limelight bows to pressure from people above him to make a lot of money and does something stupid – why is this surprising?

    This is quite similar to the Tiger Woods saga, about how America went on and on about feeling “let down”, without ever realizing that countless men cheat, and Woods is one of them. All you need is desire and a dick. And lots of cash.

    1. Why is this harsh? We’re not saying we haven’t got sympathy for him. We aren’t saying he should never play cricket again. We’re saying he’s sufficiently flawed that he can never become one of the great fast bowlers.

      If anything, this is a paean to all the players who were able to show us their skills for a prolonged period. We’re saying it wasn’t just that those cricketers were talented, it was also that they conquered all manner of other things as well.

      Maybe they didn’t encounter this exact situation (maybe they did), but there will have been many things that could have tripped them up along their way.

    2. Well, I read through the article and thought that was your hidden message – my mistake. But it still beats me how one moral failing can cause a man to not realize his potential. Are you saying that this whole episode would have so big a negative impact on him that, even if allowed to play again, he might never become the bowler that he could have otherwise become?

    3. The fans supported Tiger Woods to play golf. He cheated at family life. These things are different.

      The fans supported Mohammad Amir to play cricket. He cheated at playing cricket. These things are the same.

      One cheated at a thing that the fans ought not to have cared about. One cheated at the only thing the fans should care about. There is no comparison.

    4. Agree with DC here. It took a lot of character, sacrifice and perseverance for tiger woods to become the golfing great he was … And golf is no less a test of character than test cricket. What tiger did off the course cannot ever take away from his achievements on it .. Unfortunately for Amir, he may never get the opportunity to show us whether he does or does not have strength of character for a prolonged test career .. All because he succumbed to either greed for money or fear of losing his place in the side. Or worse … Let’s not forget the episode with the wicketkeeper zulkarnain haider.

    5. Be that as it may, I am willing to forgive Amir. Really, that’s all I am saying. I am pissed at Salman Butt. I am pissed at the shady man who gave him money. But I cannot quite bring myself to dislike an eighteen year old.

    6. Deep Cower, we are saying that Mohammad Amir’s full potential could only be realised through playing a great many cricket matches. He has already sacrificed some because of this and he will miss a great many more.

      Maybe he’ll take 10-0 one day, but even if he does, he could potentially have done more with his career. We’re not writing Amir off. We’re saying that certain heights are already closed off to him.

  3. I always liked the headline in one of the broadsheets when this story broke – Say It Ain’t So, Mo. Summed up what most people were thinking at the time, and those that thought it at the time probably feel a degree of sympathy for him now. But I guess it’s apt that his hearing is a Newton hearing (as pointed out by the Smudge yesterday), as he’s well and truly buggered.

  4. I’d had a similar conversation with a colleague at work, comparing Amir to Jimmy Anderson. Regardless of how they compare in terms of pace, swing, accuracy, guile etc., since Jimmy is 100% better at “not getting caught spot fixing” he will take a couple of hundred or so more test wickets.

    As it is, because of this one flaw in his game hwe has actually got less chance of taking a test wicket in the next couple of years than me, whose ONLY virtue as a bowler is a spotless record with regards corruption.

  5. What is the difference between cricket and crictainment? What is the difference between the first Ashes test and a Shane Warne testimonial match between and England XI and an Australian XI? What is the difference between the Greco-Roman wrestling gold medal bout and a WWE Royal Rumble?

    I assume that everyone knows the answers, even if it isn’t easy to put them into words directly. I know that sport isn’t war, and that the rules are contrived and somewhat arbitrary, and that it doesn’t actually matter, but nevertheless it can be absolutely compelling. This comes from the fact that it is real. What else could it be? If it was just the skills on offer, you would enjoy a demonstration match just as much. If it was just the uncertainty of outcome, you could enjoy a WWE bout just as much as long as you don’t know who the winner will be (even if they do). But these things are not as enjoyable. Why?

    The only thing that a sport has to offer is its realness. These people tried to destroy that for their own gain. I personally don’t care whether or not they get sent to prison – that’s all to do with obtaining money by deceit and stuff. But if they never set foot on a cricket pitch again it will be too soon.

  6. That’s too harsh a judgement for an eighteen year old … Especially one without much education who comes from a remote village and who lives in a country where corruption is a way of life ..

  7. I see where you are coming from and kind of agree. I am not in the same boat as the people saying that at eighteen he could be easily manipulated and didn’t know what he was doing. He should be held accountable for his actions. There is no way he didn’t know what he was doing wasn’t wrong and for that he should be punished.

    But at the same time there is nothing wrong with feeling sad about what could have been. Shoaib Akhtar wasted a large portion of his career and there is nothing wrong with thinking about ‘what could have been’ had he applied himself from that start. Same with players who have lost their careers to injury and such.

    It’s like making the perfect sandwich and you end up dropping it in mud before you’ve had a chance to take a bite. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t meant to be but if only you hadn’t buttered your fingers for some inexplicable reason, if only it wasn’t that one factor, oh what an afternoon you would have had.

    1. We see your point, but we’d distinguish between players whose careers were affected by misfortune (injuries and erratic selection) and those who simply made shit decisions.

      Decision-making is part of it for us. It’s a prerequisite for success in cricket. To us it seems like wondering what might have been had a particular cricketer not completely lacked hand-eye co-ordination.

  8. Clearly you aren’t one for second chances. The question is, if he does spend time in jail, and then the wilderness, and then comes back and says sorry can I play again, would you let him. On the one hand one of the rationales for punishment is reform, but on the other a man convicted of fraud ideally shouldn’t be left in charge of the company accounts again.

    Character is often acquired through your response to the things that life throws at you. 18 year olds make mistakes as do 24 and 28 year olds. This one was caught (he might not have been and this post might have been about how rad he is). The 18 year olds’ advantage is that he has more time to set things straight.

    If Amir does actually come back, manage to earn peoples trust, and go on to become a great bowler, then that would be worthy of respect in my opinion. Would I trust him? I don’t know. In any case there is nothing to be mournful about since you cannot mourn his getting caught.

    1. We’re totally in favour of second chances.

      This article isn’t about losing Mohammad Amir and him never playing cricket again. It’s about how he’s lost the chance to be a great cricketer because he’s going to miss shitloads of cricket and how he has to take a great deal of the responsibility for that.

    2. “On the one hand one of the rationales for punishment is reform, but on the other a man convicted of fraud ideally shouldn’t be left in charge of the company accounts again.”

      I think this is dead right, but I would qualify it by mentioning that no-one is suggesting having him shot. Amir’s range of second chance options is almost infinite. If he goes on to have a great and happy life, if he becomes a multi-millionaire businessman, if he becomes the first man to climb Everest in cricket whites – I’ll applaud and wish him well. But given that playing international cricket is a massive privilege, I don’t really see why we are obliged to provide him with this particular second chance when he abused the privilege so dramatically first time round.

      As you say, a man caught fiddling the books might, if he is reformed, be given a job back. But it won’t be in the Accounts Department for sure, and nobody would think that was odd.

  9. Amir’s age, talent and potential are irrelevant. He cheated. Plain and simple.
    He will be given a lighter sentence because he pleaded guilty but he should not be let off because of the above.

  10. Oh – and good on the News of the World. As Owen Gibson says in today’s Guardian, there is very little chance these convictions could possibly have been secured without their investigative reporting, and this corruption may have gone unpunished for years.

  11. He bowled a couple of no balls didn’t he?

    Hardly crime of the century.

    I would have thought a 5 year ban from cricket would suffice, he comes back at 23 and plays until he is 32 taking 300 wickets at an average of 27. Sounds like potential met.

    1. It’s that he took money to deliberately bowl them, not that he just happened to bowl no-balls. I’d have no problem with him being banned for life.

    2. But bowling a couple of no-balls unhinged the foundations of the universe, you see. Even worse, he bowled two balls for love of money rather than love of the game. Playing cricket for money is very much anathema to the current state of the game, after all.

  12. I think Amir’s age could possibly be mitigation, but I get very frustrated about people claiming his talent is. It makes it sadder for cricket perhaps, but he deserves no more consideration for being a good cricketer than if he were a donkey.

    For what it is worth, I thought the ICC bans were pretty proportional. Probably career ending, but with a slim hope of redemption.

    I hope the court is also sensible- a short token gaol sentence maybe for Butt and Asif. The damage they have done is to cricket, and cricket should deal with that harm. The damage they have done to greater society is, well, meh. A few bent gamblers have been duped. It would be wrong to see a violent crime-type term.

  13. Rather a romantic view of cricket you have here. Actually, naive.

    You really think the greats of cricket are/were all spotless? Obviously Warne isn’t a great bowler, then, nor McGrath (who once made a racist remark), and it certainly gets rid of Bradman, who had character flaws.

    Then lets start on the pommy cricketers – well, the list goes on and on. Just being English as a flaw, really. But it shouldn’t preclude you from being great.

    As fro missing a few years, well, Gilchrist is a great cricketer and he came to the international game quite late. As did others.

    People are great because they are human, and flawed, not because they are superhuman.

    1. We know the greats of the game were frequently massively flawed, but they still managed to sidestep enough landmines to achieve what they did. That’s our point really.

      Why does everyone ascribe these romantic ideals to us? This is a practical point. Amir isn’t going to achieve what he could have because he’s going to miss many years of cricket and he could have avoided that.

  14. The larger point here is that we don’t know what the consequences would have been for amir (or the other two) had they refused, and what kind of pressures they are fighting in the match fixing world. If Zulqarnain Haider is to be believed (and i for one, do believe him – it simply makes no sense for him to have made up any part of his story) and threats against family are involved, i would tend to see the players as victims too. And then there are a million other ways that your senior players, captain and the other forces that call the shots in pakistan cricket could ruin your career if you refused to comply.

    So from Amir’s point of view, simply doing the right thing may not have stemmed from the kind of character flaw which prevents players from being great cricketers. You need to see whether Amir perceived he had the opportunity to play his cricket in an environment where being honest did him less harm than being dishonest. If he did not, his shot at greatness being derailed may have nothing to do with character flaws, but could rightly be blamed on his circumstances.

    On a separate note, Im equally disappointed to not be able to see Asif play again – I thought he was one of the best around when this happened

    1. Threats to Amir’s family would paint this in a different light. There doesn’t seem much evidence of that so far, but obviously that would change our opinion.

    2. this is a billion dollar industry … A large part of this money circulates in countries where betting is illegal and the business is run by criminals .. you know the guys involved in murders, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering .. stuff like that.
      There are only 10 countries that play any serious cricket at all … even at 100 million dollars a team, it would be silly to think for a moment that most players don’t face a carrot and stick approach from members of the industry. And certainly naive to think that bookies and their goons don’t put extreme pressure to ensure that players do not name names.

  15. Pakistan has moved on, Junaid Khan has replaced Amir as the promising left armed pace bowler.. Cricket world will move on too.. It’s Pakistan we are talking about, by the time Amir’s ban ends they would have unearthed a dozen quality fast bowlers younger than Amir. Let’s just hope that this incident keeps those kids on the right path.

  16. It’s think it’s perfectly reasonable to be pissed off that this should have to be one of the tests facing an international cricketer. That’s the sad part.

  17. Butt 2.5 years
    Asif 1 year
    Amir 6 months
    Majeed 2.5 years


    I suppose that at the very least it will cause players to think twice before doing something similar in the UK in future. There’s pressure from bookies back at home, and an element of greed, and then there is spending the next couple of years in prison. And I guess that one of the jobs of the justice system is to ensure that the latter side of that balance is very obviously heavier than the other side.

    Even so – ouch!

    1. Butt’s lawyer tried to appeal for lenience by saying that his client was skint from fighting various court cases.

      When you’ve just been found guilty, that doesn’t really wash, does it? You’re basically saying: “I spent all my money on the lies that you’ve just exposed.”

    1. Cricinfo’s front page headlines are somehow appropriate in moving on:

      “Butt gets two-and-a-half years, Asif one year, Amir six months”

      “Dilshan falls short of a century”

    2. I have a bit of a problem with this. I don’t think it is the place of the law to be punishing Butt et. al. for disappointing the likes of us. The ICC should, certainly, and their sanction is adequate to fillet, possibly end their careers and make them pariahs amongst most cricket people. The court’s interest should purely be in the financial fraud. I have no desire to defend the players, I despise what they have done, but I think these terms are excessive.

    3. It is weird how the emphasis in the sentencing seems to be on the damage to cricket.

      However, cricket is a business, so maybe it’s being treated as such. There’s money riding on it. Supporters and advertisers pay money on the understanding that what they are seeing is real.

  18. They only have to serve half of their sentences in prison, but still 30(15) months for Butt… Proper Fucked.

  19. The question that really needs to be answered is how do you spell this bugger’s name?

    Amir? Aamer?

    Come on people. We need some sort of style consensus here.

    1. It’s ‘Amir’. He was Aamer when he first appeared, but that was a mistake and we can’t be arsed changing the name of our category.

    2. I actually don’t think there’s a true English spelling given he’s from an Urdu-speaking area, where they have a completely different alphabet.

    3. I thought they standardised the Roman alphabet representations of each of the sounds for consistency?

  20. Pfah, utterly ludicrous. Seriously, if you think that high moral/ethical standards and “the qualities needed to be a great fast bowler” stem from the same character trait… jeez. Maybe you find this hard to take, but it is entirely possible to be a lion-hearted fast bowler/batsman/sportsman/soldier/whatever and also be a crook and a shit at some level. Seriously this one of the most jarringly simplistic “arguments” I’ve come across. It’s like some imbecile hacked this page and crapped out some nonsense article.

    1. Yeah, it’s a piece of piss to be a great fast bowler when you’re banned from playing and you’re in a juvenile detention centre.

      No-one gets this article.

  21. Hmm.

    Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram (re Qayyum reports in Pakistan in the 2000s), Shane Warne (bookie calls)?

    Myopically see your point but don’t think it holds completely true. But you’re right, age should be a mitigating factor for aamer, talent/potential is irrelevant. Whether we like it or not, he fails on age since he’s 18+, and it took an entire year from him and knowing he had no way out to plead guilty. If he’d admitted immediately, he’d be playing today.

  22. In Europe and other parts of the world, boys get sense in very early age. While in Pakistan you cannot say till 25-30. Especially when someone is from a remote and backward village of Pakistan, he cannot survive until and unless he properly groomed or supervise. Muhammad Aamir is the case like that. He is totally innocent and should not be given punishment. I never agree he commits something….it is due to some pressure or inadvertently.

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