“Hence, time is running out for Amir. After the disappointing show in the first ODI against Australia, he’s now been dropped for two games in a row”
In recent times, when we talk about Mohammad Amir, it’s often the spell that he produced in Champions Trophy final in 2017. Or even the spell he bowled in the Asia Cup against India in early 2016 when he had recently made a comeback after a five-year ban.
However, we hardly speak about his overall performance or his performance over a period of time like we do for a Pat Cummins or a Jasprit Bumrah. That’s because of a slump that’s become very evident. His spell in that Champions Trophy final where he removed the famed Indian top three seems ages ago.
Cutting right to the chase, Amir’s numbers since the end of the 2017 Champions Trophy have been shoddy, to say the least. In 14 ODIs since, the 26-year-old fast bowler has picked up a mere five wickets. His average and strike-rate are such that would make you wonder if they are a batsman’s numbers. In fact, a batsman would dream to have such numbers. Such is the condition of Amir. An average of 92.60 and a strike-rate of 121.2, which means every wicket of his has come once in three games. Or let’s put it this way, every time he bowls, assuming he bowls his full quota of 10 overs, he will take more than two games to pick up a wicket.
Over the last six to eight months, Pakistan have constantly dropped him but have also gone back to him. It seems like Mohammad Amir’s reputation has always been preferred over form. There’s never been a doubt about his ability or talent.
Ever since Amir made his debut as a 17-year-old back in 2009, he was touted as a ‘special bowler’. He had the ability to pick up the big wickets from the opposition camp. He was a proper star in the making. He had the pace, the swing, the control and everything a fast bowler could ask for. But he got banned and things went downhill. His return was fast-tracked and ever since he’s returned from that ban, his reputation has got preference over form.
Pakistan’s head coach Mickey Arthur and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed have time and again expressed concerns over Amir’s slump. Ahead of the third ODI against Australia, Arthur said, “Amir’s form is a worry and nobody is more worried than Amir.”
However, the slump has been a huge worry for Pakistan. What it has done is, it has put the other bowlers under a lot of pressure. The likes of Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi or Usman Khan have had to cover up for Amir’s no show.
In the same period, he’s done well in T20 cricket. In 11 T20Is, he’s taken 21 wickets at an average of 12.23. He’s done decently in Tests too where he’s taken 26 wickets in eight Test matches at an average of 26.72. Hence, it’s just the 50-over format that Amir has lacked. Pakistan have tried everything. They’ve tried to give him a break, they’ve sent him back to domestic cricket where he did well, they’ve tried to bowl him alongside different bowlers but nothing has worked. The 26-year-old left-arm pacer’s poor form also saw him get demoted to a first-change bowler in South Africa.
While there’s absolutely no doubt that Amir has a big match temperament and steps up on the big stage, his current slump which has prolonged for almost two years is a huge worry. Pakistan have promising pacers coming through the ranks. Hasan Ali and Shaheen Afridi are almost certainties for the World Cup. Usman Shinwari has done really well in the last couple of years while Junaid Khan is always around and is a reliable bowler.
Hence, time is running out for Amir. After the disappointing show in the first ODI against Australia, he’s now been dropped for two games in a row. “Amir has got a big match temperament and we will see how we use him going forward,” Arthur said. But the big question is will he get another opportunity before the World Cup? Will his reputation continue to be preferred over current form once again? Will his big-match temperament come into the picture?