Pakistan news January 23, 2015

Amir set for return to cricket

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'Amir received most sympathy'

Mohammad Amir, the banned fast bowler, could start playing competitive cricket as early as next month, with the ICC set to approve his reintegration following the introduction of a revised anti-corruption code. The ICC had interviewed Amir on Friday about his banned years, to determine if they could find any difference in the player.

The PCB had written a letter to the ICC in November, requesting that the governing body review the conditions of Amir's spot-fixing ban and grant immediate relief to the player so that he could return to domestic cricket before the end of his five-year ban in September 2015. As per the new anti-corruption code, banned players could be allowed to return to domestic cricket before the end of their penalty if they meet certain criteria.

With the Pakistan domestic season about to finish before starting again in October, Amir's only chance of competitive cricket would be a possible return in the Super Eight T20 Cup in Pakistan after the World Cup. That has encouraged the belief that his representatives might seek to win him a contract in English county cricket when the season begins in April: considering his circumstances, an English county which took the plunge would rarely get the chance of such value.

Such plans could well be scuppered, however, by UK visa rules concerning restrictions in the case of criminality. Amir was sentenced to six months imprisonment and Immigration rules state: "A conviction which resulted in a sentence of less than twelve months' imprisonment... provides for a mandatory refusal of entry clearance where a person has been convicted of an offence and sentenced to less than 12 months' imprisonment, unless a period of 5 years has passed since the end of the sentence."

What would not be entirely clear unless the issue was tested is whether Amir's part in the spot-fixing con would be classed as a mandatory refusal or whether grounds for flexibility would exist.

Amir's reintegration, whenever and wherever it takes place, will be based on a conclusion of positive behaviour since the spot-fixing scandal arose in the 2010 Lord's Test. In the last four years, Amir has completed an Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) education program with PCB, showed a high degree of remorse, and disclosed relevant information to the PCB as well as the anti-corruption units.

Though the domestic season in Pakistan will end next month, a few Grade 1 teams had already shown a keen interest to sign the player for next season. National Bank of Pakistan, who had revoked Amir's contract after his ban, later offered to retain the bowler upon his return.

The PCB, meanwhile, is also intent on bringing Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif back to competitive cricket, though their international futures look bleak. The board has asked Butt and Asif to fulfill the conditions of their ban before they can pursue the players' case with the ICC. It is understood that the PCB will monitor both players closely and wait another five months before writing to the ICC's ACSU to consider their case.

Unlike Amir, who pleaded guilty during the criminal investigation in London, Butt and Asif continued to insist they were innocent, even when evidence was presented against them, and confessed only after they had lost all options of appealing against their bans.

The remaining five years of Butt's ten-year ban and the remaining two of Asif's seven-year ban were to be suspended sentences on the condition that they commit no further breaches of the anti-corruption code and participate in a PCB-run anti-corruption education programme. The PCB had already dispatched a comprehensive plan to Butt and Asif, and both players are likely to start their rehabilitation in the coming month.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

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