T20 World Cup: Overlook the prodigal Mohammad Amir, 32, at your peril

Pakistan’s pace quartet of him, Afridi, Rauf and Naseem Shah look most potent on paper

Mohammad Amir will add to the strength of the team's bowling attack (Photo: ICC)
Mohammad Amir will add to the strength of the team's bowling attack (Photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Which team boasts of the most potent pace attack in the upcoming T20 World Cup in the US and the West Indies? Not too many will disagree that it’s Pakistan, at least on paper. The team boasts of a foursome, including comeback man Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah.

The sudden return of Amir, the prodigal son of Pakistan cricket at 32, coming out of a retirement he opted four years back will add an X-factor to the bowling attack of green shirts ahead of their marquee showdown against India on 9 June.

Amir still needs to pass the muster with new coach Gary Kirsten, but the match-up between Amir and Virat Kohli may tempt the South African coach to field the left arm quick who was once tipped to be better than the legendary Wasim Akram.   

 “I want to complete the unfinished work and, for me, the short-term goal is to win the World Cup,” Amir told AFP in a recent interview. More than an unfinished work, it would be like completing a cycle for the crafty fast bowler who was the youngest member of the Pakistan team which won their only World T20 crown till date in 2009 in England.

Then only 17, Amir had picked up six wickets in seven matches in the tournament, including the prized wicket of Sri Lanka opener Tillakaratne Dilshan - the player of the tournament - in Pakistan’s eight-wicket final win.

“The 2009 Twenty20 World Cup winning memories are special and excite me to this day,” said Amir, whose precocious career crashed to a halt very next year on charges of spot-fixing. Amir, along with the then captain Salman Butt and gifted seamer Mohammad Asif were banned from cricket for five years for the offence during a Test match in England after being caught in a newspaper sting.

Amir was later jailed in the UK for six months, facing minimum term for not being an adult while Butt and Asif faced 30 and 12 months, respectively.

Returning to play for Pakistan in 2016, after his ban, Amir announced a shock retirement in December 2020 after poor form kept him from being selected. “I am lucky that I am still playing. When I came, I was the youngest in the team so here, I am having another chance to win the World Cup and that is the target for me and my team.”

Ever since being a part of the national team, Amir has not really set the house on fire yet as he took three wickets in a drawn T20 series versus New Zealand while he went wicketless (4-0-34-0) in the only match possible in an ongoing rain-affected series against England.

Meanwhile, Haris Rauf – who alongwith Naseem would rate as really express among the four – was over the moon to have recovered from a dislocated shoulder just in time for the T20 World Cup. ‘’I was injured the last few months but if you believe in yourself, then the layoff can be a blessing in disguise,’’ said Rauf, who picked up the two crucial wickets of Jos Buttler and Will Jacks in the Edgbaston T20. S

Naseem Shah who missed out last year’s 50-overs World Cup due to injury, dwelt on the challenges on coping with injury. ‘’It’s hard,’’ he said in a press conference. ‘’It's a struggle during your rehab, and it's difficult when you come back to maintain that pace and accuracy.“But if you believe in yourself, it makes things easier. When I wasn't in the team and rehabbing, I had a lot of time to think about my game and work on myself. Thankfully I'm back now and the [T20] World Cup is coming up.’’ 

Pakistan’s group matches: versus USA (6 June); vs India (9 June); vs Canada (11 June); vs Ireland (16 June). 

Best finish: 2009 champions.

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