PCB has rushed Amir's inclusion - Ramiz Raja
Former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja believes the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has "rushed the issue" by including Mohammad Amir in the ODI and T20 squads for the upcoming tour of New Zealand. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Raja said he would have liked to see more "homework done" before integrating Amir into the national set-up after his ban for spot-fixing ended.
"It's a desperate situation because they want to win and Amir is seen as the guy who can get them those wins," Ramiz said. "He has got loads of talent and ability; that has never been in doubt. But yes, the process has been rushed just to accommodate him and I think Pakistan needed to give more time to the entire squad to soak it in.
"I think there is the objective view and the emotional view and three-four of the players have been rather emotional about the subject. It is not Amir, it is the theme, the larger picture that seems to upset them and it needed to heal properly; it is still pretty raw to some of them. I wanted more homework done from the board to make everyone realise the importance of an Amir comeback."
Amir's inclusion in the Pakistan squad has been the subject of a intense debate in recent weeks. Senior allrounder Mohammad Hafeez and ODI captain Azhar Ali protested Amir's return by not attending a conditioning camp in Lahore on December 24, due to Amir's inclusion among the probables for the camp. Azhar had to be convinced against resigning from the captaincy by PCB chief Shahryar Khan, who has been steadfast in backing Amir's recall.
While sympathizing with Azhar for his stance, Ramiz argued that statements such as the ones made by T20 captain Shahid Afridi, who said he was "happy" to have Amir back in the mix, should be avoided as it could create divisions within the dressing room.
"PCB has taken a stance on Amir, he has been included, so there shouldn't be voices now anti or for Amir," Ramiz said. "He's eligible to play for Pakistan, let him perform and get into rhythm. By coming out openly in favour of Amir, you are dividing the dressing room also because there are still voices that do not want him in. I would suggest let's not plead Amir's case if you are player, just go out there, play with him, try to get along with him and leave it there.
"It is a tough one for Azhar Ali, who obviously was not comfortable with Amir being in the dressing room. Now that he has decided to play for Pakistan, I think he has done the right thing. He has registered his annoyance; he has made his point felt. The entire cricket fraternity knows where he is with regard to issues of spot fixing but having said that he shouldn't sacrifice his own career. Managing Amir will take a little bit of time, it is not an impossible situation but the first six to eight months will be a real test for Pakistan.
"They need to come to grips with a guy who has got them into these negative headlines. You play for honour, pride and enjoyment. If these three things go missing, then obviously you shouldn't be playing the game. That's the big hurdle that some of these Pakistani guys really need to cross over."
While backing Amir's recall, chief selector Haroon Rashid had argued that despite having spent five years in the wilderness, Amir was "still better" than most of the players he is competing with for a place. Ramiz, though, was not yet convinced that Amir was an automatic selection in the playing eleven, and was worried that the ghosts of his infamous no-ball at Lord's five years ago could return to haunt him.
"Since he last played international cricket the game has moved on," Ramiz said. "Five years ago it wasn't such a big deal to bowl dots in an ODI or T20 situation. There will obviously be the pressure of not bowling a no-ball. So his focus will not be on the target straight away, he will be far too worried about overstepping the line. Let's not forget, Pakistan go and play in New Zealand, who play T20 and 50-overs cricket in their own brand."
While the issue has divided the cricket community in Pakistan, Amir appears to enjoy strong support among the country's fans and on social media. Ramiz said while he understood the support for Amir, he felt it was hard for the public to relate to the "emotional aspect of the hurt" a player feels when a colleague is found to have indulged in cheating.
"I can understand the public's interest in Amir, he was young and naive and he fell into this trap of spot fixing," he said. "But you really need to experience the pangs of such a betrayal and I think this is where the players are coming from because it is an emotional subject for them.
"They can try to take a very objective stance as well but you couldn't have asked for a blanket sort of response. There will always be certain individuals who will feel more strongly about the situation, there will be certain who will say 'fine, he has served his time, he wants to make good his life so let it be'. The public obviously doesn't relate to the emotional aspect of the hurt. It's only the ones who have experienced this nasty situation who can really relate how difficult things can be."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75