Cricket: Pakistan coach on Mohammad Amir: 'You'll see the best of him soon'

By David Leggat

Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir is back in international cricket after a five-year ban. Photo / AP
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir is back in international cricket after a five-year ban. Photo / AP

Expect returning seamer Mohammad Amir to quickly rediscover his best form in New Zealand after his five-year layoff from international cricket.

When he was jailed and banned over his role in the spot-fixing scandal in England five years ago, there was a view he might be lost to the game for good.

Instead, he's back and Pakistan coach, former speed bowling great Waqar Younis, is confident Amir will make an impact in New Zealand.

The 23-year-old, who was the youngest player, at 18, to get 50 test wickets, is not far off his top pace. He's done well in domestic cricket - 16 wickets in four games at 14.8 - and starred for Chittagong in the Bangladesh T20 league, taking 14 at 12.6.

He restarts his career with 51 test wickets in 14 matches at 29; 25 ODI wickets in 15 games at 24 apiece; and, most relevantly for the start of the New Zealand tour at Eden Park on Friday night, 23 in 18 T20s at 19.8.

"He's not what you probably saw five years ago, but he's definitely there and abouts," Waqar said of Amir's pace. "What we've seen in the recent domestic season and playing at the Bangladesh league, he bowled some really quick spells.

"He may not be exactly there but, once he's played a few games at international level, you'll see the best of him."

Waqar believes Amir has a smart head on his shoulders and has held up well to the pressure surrounding his contentious return to the national side. The decision wasn't greeted with universal support, including from some teammates, but Waqar is firm.

"Whatever's happened has happened. We've got to allow him to come back, and think positively as a team. He's paid his price for what he's done and we are ready to take him [back]."

The floppy hair of 2009, when he first toured New Zealand as a 17-year-old, has gone. At a rainy Eden Park today, with a sharper haircut, he seemed relaxed with his teammates as cameras honed in. He's well used to that now.

As for the giant over-stepping which led to his ban in 2010 (he was found guilty of spot-fixing), Waqar quipped "I hope so" when asked if he'd changed his run-up since then.

Captain Shahid Afridi joined in the light moment, adding with a grin: "He's improving."

Pakistan with Amir in form are a far more threatening prospect than without him. The world T20 tournament in India in March - after which the seemingly ageless Afridi confirmed today he will be retiring - will now seem a more viable prospect for the historically gifted but erratic Pakistani team.

- NZ Herald

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