Dubai: It was perhaps the one silent prayer that Pakistan cricket fans had on their lips — to see Mohammad Amir back in the squad as they embark on their campaign at the ICC World Cup in England. The prayers were finally answered as the prodigal son of Pakistan cricket was named in the final 15-member squad on Monday, along with the grieving father Asif Ali, who lost his 18-month-old daughter to cancer at the weekend and senior paceman Wahab Riaz.
It will be the first 50-over World Cup for Amir, who at barely 27 years, has been through an emotional rollercoaster during his career. Hailed as a prodigious talent when he made his international debut as a 17-year-old, Amir’s career soon plunged into depths of despair when he was arrested on charges of spot-fixing and was an outcast in the cricketing fraternity after being slapped with a five-year ban. The comeback, hence, was remarkable as Amir turned out to be vital cog in the wheel when Pakistan won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 in England — their first major ICC crown since the 2009 World T20.
We thought that during the England series we lacked experience in our bowling and that is why we have included Riaz in the squad.
‘‘Allhamdulilah, humbled and proud to be part of the Pakistan WC squad InshAllah going to give 100% and we all will try and make our nation proud, thank u all for ur support and endless duas we all need them more now. #pakistanZindabad,’’ tweeted Amir — who was left out of the initial shortlist due to a woeful lack of form for months. A piece of statistic tells its own story about how short of confidence Amir has been — he had picked up only four wickets in 14 matches after a sensational outing since the last Champions Trophy.
The slump in form of left-arm speedster, whose talent once made him a heir apparent to the legendary Wasim Akram, was one of the biggest mysteries with Amir being dropped of the squad after a dismal run in the Asia Cup in the UAE last year. Micky Arthur, the Pakistan coach, had even pleaded with Akram during the last Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the media to work on his wrist position to bring back his prodigious swing.
“We can’t discount Amir from the World Cup,” Wasim said late last month as the bowler had to miss the recent ODI series against England due to a bout of chickenpox. “Amir would have been my first choice for the World Cup considering English conditions where he performs well,” he said.
The failure of the current crop of Pakistan bowlers, who failed to defend 350-plus totals regularly against England in the one-day series, was also a trigger which forced the selectors’ to bring back Amir and Wahab. Answering to a Gulf News query, Raza Kitchlew, Senior Manager, Media Relations in PCB said: “Amir will join the squad in England on Tuesday and take part in the two remaining warm-up matches. Asif, who has gone back to Lahore to attend his daughter’s funeral, will also join soon after.”
Asif, whose daughter Noor Fatima had been undergoing cancer treatment in the US before her death on Sunday, was lauded by chief selector Inzaman-ul-Haq at the team announcement. “We are with Asif in this tough time,” he said about the lower order batsman.
“We thought that during the England series we lacked experience in our bowling and that is why we have included Riaz in the squad,” he said. The 33-year-old Riaz, a veteran of two World Cups in 2011 and 2015, played the last of 79 ODIs against India in the Champions Trophy in England two years ago.