'I don't let pressure affect me' - Amir
Pakistan's remarkable young fast bowler, Mohammad Amir, sliced through England's second innings in the third Test at The Oval to set up an unexpected win for a Pakistan team that was clearly struggling for confidence going into the match. He showed composure with the bat too, pulling Graeme Swann to the midwicket fence to relieve the growing tension after England had taken three quick wickets to make a small target look much bigger than it was.
Amir has now taken 13 wickets at an average just over 20 apiece in three Tests against England. Add the two Tests against Australia and he has 24 wickets at 21.27. Pressure, it appears, means little to this 18-year-old.
"I don't really let pressure affect me at all," Amir told PakPassion.net after his Man-of-the-Match performance at The Oval. "I believe that pressure is something that an individual creates for himself and it's something that you can avoid. I guess it's just down to the individual and the characteristics of an individual. I just go out there, relax, smile, enjoy myself, play my natural game, do what comes naturally to me and play my cricket according to the conditions and match situation.
"The more you worry about things when you are out there in the middle, the more problems you are going to encounter".
The win over an England side that has been in great form this year has naturally given Pakistan a huge boost of confidence, and some much-needed momentum, heading into the fourth and final Test. "It's great to be going into the final match at Lord's with some momentum," Amir said. "It was such an important victory for us and keeps us in the series. We'll be going all out for victory at Lord's."
Amir's new-ball partnership with Mohammad Asif is rapidly developing into one of the best in the world, if not the best, and Amir was quick to praise his fellow opening bowler. "He's a fantastic guy to bowl in tandem with. He's such a threatening bowler, a wicket-taker, someone who has the ability to take a wicket with every delivery. He never gives the opposition batsmen any respite and is such a brilliant team player who will bowl according to any situation, or in such a way that the team requires him to bowl.
"He's so accurate and rarely gives the batsmen any easy opportunities to score off him. His nagging accuracy and skill really helps me and I think we complement each other very well."
Having rattled both Australia's and England's batsmen during the MCC's Spirit of Cricket Series, Amir said Australia are marginally ahead of England in the batting department.
"The Australian batting line-up is a really powerful one and I would say marginally stronger than England's batting line-up when we are comparing them on all types of pitches and conditions. That is not meant in a disrespectful way towards the England team, but it's just that the Australian line-up is such a renowned, powerful and experienced line-up. The England batting line-up though is really powerful in home conditions and is used to playing on seaming and swinging conditions.
Both of our opponents this summer are very difficult to beat in their home conditions and it's been a complete and thorough test for us."
Amir's figures of 5 for 52 in England's second innings are the best of his short career so far and he credited former Pakistan fast bowlers Waqar Younis, the current team coach, and Aaqib Javed, the current bowling coach, with helping him improve.
"Both Waqar and Aaqib have really helped me improve as a bowler. They guide me quite literally session by session. They will sit down and talk to me at the end of each session when I have been bowling and explain to me what I did well and what I didn't do well in the completed session of cricket. In addition they will talk to me about the upcoming session and what is required of me. They are of great help to me and I believe that I can only improve as a bowler with guys like Waqar and Aaqib around me."
Amir, who has been drawing favourable comparisons to another Pakistan left-armer, Wasim Akram, doesn't seem to be affected by the acclaim he has been attracting, saying all he plans to do is stick to the basics and not get carried away.
"I don't want to over experiment and prefer to stick to the basics. I feel that if I try too many different things and experiment too much, then that affects the quality of my cricket. My philosophy is to keep it simple and stick to the basics instead of trying to be too clever."
One thing he does have to work on is getting closer to the stumps when he bowls.
"Waqar has told me that I need to get closer to the stumps when I am bowling. We have been working on this issue in the nets and in practice situations. In practice I do get close to the stumps, but I have to be honest, in match situations sometimes I overlook this. I'm sure with further experience this is something I can address."
He is also careful to keep a level head and not let an opponent's reputation unsettle or intimidate him. "I feel it's important not to get overawed even as a youngster and let the opposition attempt to intimidate you. I have come up against some of the world's biggest names in cricket and I don't feel intimidated by them."
Given that the issue of teams playing too much cricket is a hot topic these days, there have been calls from former Pakistan players to manage Amir's workload, even suggesting he should sit out a few games from time to time. Amir, however, wants to play as much cricket as he can.
"The more cricket I play, the more I learn; the more experience I gain and ultimately that improves my game. If I feel I am bowling well, feeling fit and in good rhythm then I don't want to miss any matches, as that will affect my rhythm in the next match that I will play in."