“If they consider, Amir’s numbers are not good enough, the reason to that is not Amir alone, but the fielding side too”….
Mohammad Amir to Gary Wilson – a lazy Wilson drives the moving ball away from his body but the ball just slightly kisses the bat and an outside edge goes into the hands of Haris Sohail at the second slip.
The catch was taken without any fuss this time.
It was a huge sigh of relief for Pakistan and Amir because earlier in the innings two catches were dropped at the slips off Amir’s bowling. As Wilson walked off the field, leaving Ireland at 157 for 6, Amir and Co broke into celebrations as the former finally entered the 100-wicket club. It was a huge moment for Amir, whose cricket career almost ended following his involvement in a spot-fixing scandal during a 2010 Test against England at Lord’s. He was given a jail sentence by an English court and a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC), but he had made his return to the world stage two years ago.
At 18, Amir had become the youngest bowler to reach 50 Test wickets. When he was still in his teens, comparisons to his country’s legendary Wasim Akram. The latter himself had admitted that Amir was way better bowler than he was at the same age. In Amir’s first 14 Tests, he already had 51 wickets – a record that put him on course of becoming one of the greatest of all-time.
Amir clinched his hundredth wicket despite his troublesome knee and that spoke volumes of his talent, that has suffered of late mostly because of mistakes of his teammates.
However, Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood thinks Amir is not doing enough for his tag of being the spearhead of Pakistan’s bowling attack. “If you see his record since he came back it’s not great, but he was coming back after five years out. He needs to take a bit more responsibility and get more wickets for us. If he’s the leader of this attack, he needs to show us a bit more. I’m sure he will do that and that’s what we want from him,” he said.
Even Amir recently has admitted that a lot has changed since his return in 2016. According to him, the pace of the game has got faster, while the pitches have gone flatter. Moreover, he has bowled more overs than any other Pakistani bowler since his return to international cricket, regardless of the format. Talking about his game, Amir still has the pace, disciplined bowling style and aggression but that is always not enough to deliver for a side. There are other factors too that play a role.
There are two huge factors in Amir’s career that have majorly hit his numbers. One goes without saying – his five-year ban from international cricket and the other one is sadly Pakistan’s sloppy fielding, especially at the slips. Amir’s numbers, even after his return, would be totally different, for the better, had Pakistani fielders caught all the outside or inside edges that were produced off Amir’s bowling. To put that into perspective, including the one-off Test against Ireland that Pakistan won a couple of days back, a total of 16 catches have been dropped by the slip fielders off Amir’s bowling since his return in 2016.
Amir has played 17 Tests since the comeback and 15 catches have been dropped off his bowling. #IrevPak pic.twitter.com/Cry0VUi707
— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) May 13, 2018
Then why criticise Amir alone?
In fact, Pakistan welcomed Amir back into the side, following his five-year-ban by testing his patience with a series of dropped catches. Pakistan toured England in 2016 that marked Amir’s return and the opening Test was played at the Lord’s. Batting first, Pakistan were restricted at 339. When England came out to bat, Amir created a chance in the seventh over of their innings itself. Amir bowled an outside off to Alastair Cook, who went forward to play but managed only an outside edge. However, Mohammad Hafeez, at first slip, dropped the catch. That moment marked the beginning of the saga of dropped slip catches off Amir’s bowling in Test cricket.
In the same innings, in the 26th over, Cook survived again, this time Sarfraz Ahmed was at fault, off Amir’s bowling. Safraz dived to his left, got to the ball, but the ball hit his wrists and as a rebound hit his face and went down. Cook was on 22 when he was dropped first and then on 55 when he received a second life before he went on to register England’s top-score that innings with 81 runs. In the same series, three more catches were dropped by the slip fielders off Amir’s bowling, leaving the pacer miffed but there was little he could do about it.
Speaking about the dropped catches, Amir earlier had said, “It affects the bowler when you run from 22 yards and your catch is dropped; you’re disappointed and frustrated. But it affects the team more than the individual. I’ve been very unlucky, but I try to be a team man.
“It’s difficult to keep count, but I think at least 12-13 catches have gone down off my bowling in Tests and about six-seven catches have been dropped in the shorter formats as well,” he had added. Two years later, the count has touched 16 in the longest format of the game and Amir certainly must be furious about it, considering how he is being used more than the other bowlers, which is both physically and mentally taxing.
Losing five whole years in cricket in an awful lot of amount but the guy still managed to remain the key bowler of Pakistan even after that break. It’s just that he has had terrible luck with the ball in the last two years with all the slips dropping his catches. Despite as many as 16 catches have been dropped off his bowling since 2016, the guy has managed to pick 49 wickets in 17 Tests, which needs to be appreciated. Now that, Amir has the support of the youngster Mohammad Abbas, Pakistan’s pace department looks really good. Abbas hasn’t gone wicket-less in the 11 innings he’s played in six Tests.
In the six matches that Abbas and Amir have played together, Abbas has picked up 27 wickets at 20.25 and Amir 16 wickets at 25.12. So, Pakistan has to make sure, they don’t get biased towards Abbas because of the numbers because if they consider, Amir’s numbers are not good enough, the reason to that is not Amir alone, but the fielding side too.