“I’d be lying if I sat here and said there wasn’t any concern about Amir."
Over the years, the Pakistan cricket side has had a formidable assembly of bowling line up, including the likes of fast bowler Mohammad Amir.
But the rapid decline of Amir in One Day International (ODI) cricket is now becoming a worrying sign for the national team.
The left-arm pacer was at his very best until the end of the 2017 Champions Trophy. Since then he has not been firing on all cylinders for the Green Brigade.
This is incontrovertibly true, based on performances in 2018. This is a stark contrast with the earlier stages of his career.
Recalling with immense fondness, he once possessed a talent which many believed would take him past the great Wasim Akram.
What has happened to Amir?
Amir was destructive against The Men in Blue in the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy.
During the high octane match, he took 3-16, including two wickets in three balls and the prize wicket of Indian skipper Virat Kohli.
This was a sensational spell of fast bowling in six overs from Amir.
#OnThisDay in 2017, Mohammad Amir’s sensational opening spell snuffed out India’s hopes in the Champions Trophy final https://t.co/V6lL07pCZ0 pic.twitter.com/oxf8PqXQj7
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) June 18, 2018
In late 2017, Kohli praised Mohammad Amir and rated him as one of the finest bowlers in the world. The man from Delhi said:
“I think Mohammad Amir from Pakistan is among the top three bowlers in the world. And he is one of the toughest bowlers I’ve faced in my career.
“He’s one such player against whom you have to play your A game all the time otherwise he will strike. He is that type of a bowler.”
However, Amir has failed to continue this fine form in ODI cricket, drawing much criticism from critics and fans.
In an interview with famous broadcaster Harsha Bhogle, former Indian left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan said:
“You would expect someone like Amir, to kind of go to the next level. What was missing is that swing.
“For a bowler, it’s important to have that release sorted. That is where the swing comes from.”
A panel of experts on ESPN Cricinfo did an ODI comparison of Amir since his comeback from the spot-fixing scandal until the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Despite the panel being optimistic of Amir, the stats tell a different story.
Since last year’s Champions Trophy, Mohammad Amir averages a few decimals below 80 in ODIs ? But, the #ESPNmatchday squad believe he can find his mojo once again pic.twitter.com/IAKG2ryHgq
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) September 19, 2018
And from 19 June 2017 to 27 September 2018, statistics add further a bleak picture to his average performance in this format of the game.
During this period, Amir has taken only 3 wickets in 10 matches, with an astonishing bowling average of 100.66. This is very mediocre in comparison to his career average of 31.20.
His best bowling figures in an innings is a mere 1-18 against New Zealand.
His sudden dip in form has had a detrimental effect on Pakistan’s ODI results against good teams.
Barring a few exceptional performances, to be fair, Amir has not looked the part ever since he returned to the national side.
Similar to Pakistan cricket, Amir is not bowling consistently.
Besides not taking wickets, he has lost the art of bringing the ball back into the right-handed batsman. The latter is very important for a left-arm pace bowler to be successful.
The pressure was mounting on Amir ahead of the 2018 Asia Cup, especially as he was being preferred over fellow pacer, Junaid Khan.
Prior to Pakistan’s Group A encounter with India in the 2018 Asia Cup, captain Sarfaraz shared his thoughts about Amir:
“I am concerned but I don’t think wickets itself are a reflection of performance. I have spoken to him (Amir) and told him that he is our strike bowler and has to pick wickets too.”
Following Pakistan’s defeat to India in the Asia Cup, coach Mickey Arthur also expressed his concerns at a press conference regarding Amir’s average performance:
“I’d be lying if I sat here and said there wasn’t any concern about Amir.”
But wicketless displays in three matches was enough for the team management to reconsider their options. In the two matches against India, Amir could not trouble their batsmen.
Will Mohammad Amir end his wicketless run soon? https://t.co/N25xYWh3mw #INDvPAK #AsiaCup2018 #AsiaCup pic.twitter.com/87NOVPe502
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) September 23, 2018
Amir was eventually dropped from their final Super 4 game of the Asia Cup against Bangladesh.
While Pakistan lost the game by 35 runs and crashed out of the tournament, his replacement Junaid bowled beautifully, claiming 4-19.
It is difficult to explain why Amir is struggling in ODI cricket, considering he has done well in Test and T20 cricket.
One theory could be that he is concentrating on being economical as opposed to attacking the wickets.
He is also bowling too short with the new ball. With Pakistan’s Asia Cup campaign coming to an end, it is good that the selectors have dropped Amir in favour of Wahab Riaz for the Test Series against Australia in the UAE.
He should go back to the basics and feel the hunger for success again. This is because fans of Pakistan cricket have gradually lost patience with him. Adding his dark past to the equation, Amir is no longer the spearhead of the Pakistan attack.
Fans have been reacting to his lacklustre performances, with one tweeting:
“Mohammad Amir has been fully exposed. Hopefully, no coming back from here and somebody else is given a chance. No spot should be guaranteed.”
Amir still does have loyal fans who will continue to support him through this difficult period.
Meanwhile, coaches at the National Academy in Lahore should take Amir in confidence and work a plan to get him back at the very earliest. Only then can he contribute and bring back the glory days for Pakistan cricket.
Every sportsperson goes through a purple patch during their career. But the true test for Amir is to see how he can come out of his shell and bring back his A game.
DESIblitz hopes to see Mohammad Amir get back to form before it gets too late for him. After all how long can he survive on past reputation?