The spot-fixing scandal

'I will be back' - Mohammad Amir

Osman Samiuddin in Doha

February 6, 2011

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Mohammad Amir was the one Pakistan player to attend the presentation ceremony, England v Pakistan, 4th Test, Lord's, August 29, 2010
Mohammad Amir: "For a cricketer whose life is cricket, this is like destroying their life" © AFP
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As Mohammad Amir left the Qatar Financial Centre in Doha Saturday evening, having just been banned for five years, he was surrounded by a small, but scarily enthusiastic group of Pakistan fans. They had waited most of the day outside and when he appeared, they flooded around him, chanting his name, slamming the ICC, telling him to be strong and when they had nothing else, shouting 'Pakistan Zindabad'. But they were so intense that Amir eventually had to go back inside, like he was Justin Bieber and the fans, 13-year-old girls.

They did the same with the two other two players, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt, who were part of this hearing and who have been given harsher punishments, but the love just didn't feel the same. Inside the building, as Amir's articulate lawyer Shahid Karim picked through the verdict, Amir stood away, alone. An early-morning kind of daze seemed to have taken him over.

All through the hearings it has been this way. Amir's youth, Amir's innocence, Amir's talent, Amir's outswing, Amir's hair, Amir's T-shirt, Amir's background: he's the only one of the three who has spoken to the press through the actual hearing. At once he's become the focus of the Lord's Three as well as an entirely separate entity removed from it.

Later in the evening, on closer inspection, it became apparent Amir had been crying. "Today was the worst day of my life," he said. "Cricket has given me everything and it has been everything and if I don't play it I have nothing. I left education to play cricket and I have nothing other than cricket."

Naturally not much was said on the case itself. Throughout he veered between tenuous hope and despair, with nothing in between. "For a cricketer whose life is cricket, this is like destroying their life," he said. Immediately he added, "One shouldn't lose hope because in life if Allah closes one door, he opens hundred others."

He couldn't say what he had learnt from it all. One question he'd be down, the next not up, but not so down. "It just seems that everything is finished and that my career never happened. Who knows what is written for me now?" And then, "These things happen in life and I haven't lost my courage yet. Who knows that lies ahead for me?" Only this time, he spoke of the future as if there might be one.

Like Butt, he disagreed with the verdicts and sanctions. The players maintained their innocence through the last day. He did repeat what seems to have emerged as the most intriguing point of the whole affair: that the tribunal was keen on giving lower sentences, to at least two players if not all three. That seemed strangely at odds - perhaps even a little disconnected - with what the rest of the cricket world was thinking and from all the speculation about sanctions beforehand, not once did this particular permutation appear.

"Two no-balls should not be five years punishment, they have said this themselves," Amir said. "I will also say it is too much and I wasn't expecting it. I can't think clearly right now."

An appeal will be filed with the Court of Arbitration Sports now though it will not be as straightforward perhaps as Amir's reading of it. "We will file an appeal there and hope to get something. The law there is different to ICC law."

He ends the only way he, or anyone in the situation really, could, with a proclamation that he will be back and an acknowledgment of the support around him.

"The pain goes away a little with this kind of feeling around you. Whenever one starts a business, there are losses and successes. This is the way, when I started my career I had successes. Now this is a bad patch, but you don't wind up the business. I will work doubly hard. There are lots of grounds in Pakistan and I won't stop practicing and keeping fit. I will work doubly hard and I will be back."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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