Asif Bajwa, the childhood coach of Mohammad Amir, spent in huge anxiety the night Pakistan lost to India in the league match of Champions Trophy 2017. But Bajwa was elated after Pakistan clinched their maiden Champions Trophy by defeating India in the final on June 18. CricketSoccer recently had a chat with the proud coach over the phone.
Here are the excerpts of that interview:
CricketSoccer: From being banned from international cricket and to make a comeback at the top of the cricketing world and helping Pakistan to lift the Champions Trophy, how would you describe speed star Mohammad Amir’s journey so far?
Asif Bajwa: It’s been a roller coaster ride till now. When Amir made his international debut 8 years back, he was considered a hugely talented fast bowler. He proved his worth on the field as soon as he came into the scene. The period when he was banned from international cricket was indeed a dark phase. But I still believe that Amir was innocent and he was made the scapegoat. But at the same time I am so happy to see that Amir has made a dream comeback. All I can say is that he is being awarded of all his hard work.
CS: Did you two have any conversation after Pakistan lost the match against India in the group stage of the recently concluded Champions Trophy?
Bajwa: Yes we had. After losing to India in the group league match at Birmingham, Amir was extremely frustrated. He called me and asked for suggestions. I explained to him that he was not being able to maintain the perfect length. Actually, his deliveries were dropping short of a length. I advised him to just put it on the little back of good length and maintain the line by putting it through the corridor. That clicked in the final. I am happy that my student Amir listened to that advice and single-handedly destroyed Indian batting line-up in the final by capturing three key wickets of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan. Pakistan won by 180 runs and most importantly, Amir contributed in the winning cause.
CS: What was his reaction after winning the Champions Trophy? He must have shared his experience with you…
Bajwa: Yes of course. Amir, in spite of being busy with celebration after winning the tournament, called me up and thanked me for the valuable suggestions. You must notice that he bowled in the corridor of uncertainty in the final match.
CS: Would you like to share your experience of seeing Amir for the very first time?
Bajwa: I saw Amir for the first time when he was 10-year-old. He came to my cricket coaching camp in Rawalpindi. As far as I can remember, he was a physically feeble boy when I first saw him. I was reluctant to admit him in the camp at first. I told his elder brother that I am admitting Amir, but it will be difficult for him to establish himself as a bowler. I still remember that after a couple of days only, Amir was throwing deliveries at impeccable line and length continuously at the nets. That was the day I changed my mind. I called his elder brother and said Amir has a bright prospect and he should continue with the game. The fast bowler went through a rigorous training schedule in the next seven years to become a menacing pacer.
CS: How did he fight the mental battle after being banned from international cricket?
Bajwa: It was a very tough time. He was barred from entering any cricket field in Pakistan. He cried before me as he generally became frustrated for not being able to practice or play a match. I consoled him by saying, be patient. Allah will bless you and you can overcome all the troubles. We used to roam around the streets of Rawalpindi, looking for a place where he could have some practice. We used to go to different parks and in some corner of those parks, he used to bowl. He became very tough mentally in that phase. He used to maintain his body, doing all the hard works in the gym. Both we believed that a comeback is very much possible. Now you can see the result.
CS: What are his future plans?
Bajwa: He is still in England to play county cricket. Amir is unwilling to put a stop to all his hard works. He dreams big. And I’m sure he will achieve more laurels.