Last week was a mix bag of emotions for Sri Lankan cricket fanatics all over the world.
The hopes and dreams of Sri Lanka progressing towards the semi-fanals of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 was taken away by two stubborn batsmen who braved the storm despite being at the brink of defeat.
Having shown resistance, resilience and some quality cricket in their historic win against India earlier, their loss to Pakistan was a shocker. Pakistan was ably supported by some pathetic fielding by the Sri Lankans.
But, credit should also go to both batsmen who were calm despite the loss of wickets. The batsmen were the Pakistani captain Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammed Amir.
Sarfraz Ahmed played the main role guiding the team to a thrilling win despite being dropped twice off the bowling of Lasith Malinga. Pakistan won by three wickets thanks to record 75-run eighth wicket stand.
While Ahmed scored steadily from one side, there was another cricketer who helped the skipper to hold it together till the end.
Mohammed Amir showed to the world that he could hold his nerve even when all seemed lost for the team. Pakistan was tottering at 162 for the loss of seven wickets, needing a mammoth 75-run to get a place in the semi-finals.
Amir’s innings last week is of great importance, not only to Pakistan, but for him as well, considering the past issues that he had faced owing to corruption charges.
His road to last week is probably not a great one, but an inspiring one nevertheless.
It was in 2010, and in England, that 18-year-old Pakistani pacer Mohammed Amir faced troubles that no budding cricketer should face.
Amir, along with Mohammed Asif and former Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt were banned over spot fixing charges. It was curtains for Amir and all seemed lost for the youngster.
During Pakistan’s tour to England in 2010, it was reported that Amir and Asif had agreed to bowl no-balls at specific points during a match, through which gamblers would make wagers using inside information.
There was also video evidences which made matters worse for the young cricketer.
Amir got the sympathy of many international cricketers including Miachael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and former South Africa bowler Henry Williams.
Several cricketers identified Amir as an asset to the team because of his bowling ability and impeccable line and length.
After a series of investigations, on February 2011, the ICC tribunal handed Amir a five-year ban, while Asif and Butt were given a seven year and 10-year ban respectively.
They were banned from participating in any cricketing related activities which are governed by the ICC or any of its members.
The ban meant that Amir had limited opportunities to indulge in the game he loved. Yet, he did not give up. He appealed further against his ban, and things started moving slowly in a positive direction.
Amir also made sure he kept his fitness level high to make sure he was fit enough in the event he was recalled into the team.
On March 13, 2015, Amir made his domestic comeback. He played for Omar Associates in the grade II patron’s trophy where he captured a wicket in his comeback over.
Amir was declared completely free to play any form of cricket by August that year.
Months later, in January 2016, he made his return to international cricket in a T20 match against New Zealand.
He also participated to the first T20 edition of Asia Cup in 2016 and also for the ICC World T20 that year.
He later made his international comeback against England.
His return was not pleasant as he had expected as English fans taunted him chanting “No Ball!”
Still, he had many people backing him. One of the noblest gestures was when Indian batsman Virat Kohli gifted Amir with a bat during a practice session.
The game has evolved over the years, and money has come to play a crucial role today.
But still, cricket remains a gentleman’s game at heart.