As the saying goes, big players perform in big matches. Well there is no bigger match than a clash between India and Pakistan in any sport. Sunday, 4 June will see the arch-rivals clash in the Champions Trophy at a jam-packed Edgbaston in front of 25,000 excited fans.
Edgbaston will not be a place for the faint-hearted, rather it will be a place to become a hero, a place to make a name for yourself and a place to become part of Indo-Pak cricketing folklore. Household and experienced names on the Indian side include Yuvraj Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and skipper Virat Kohli. Players who have been there and done it when it comes to cricketing achievements and honours. These are cricketers who are icons and known the world-over and idolised by billions. These are players who have made a name for themselves by performing when it matters, when it counts and in front of the big crowds.
On the Pakistan side, the lack of experience and lack of big-match participation is striking and must be a huge concern for the current head coach Mickey Arthur. Whilst the Pakistan squad has an impressive and highly-rated array of youthful talent, history tells us that more often than not it's the big names and the wise heads who turn out to be the match-winners in India versus Pakistan encounters. So who is that stand-out performer who has the temperament and the skill to raise his game and lift Pakistan to what would be considered a surprise win against India, one of the favourites?
Mohammad Amir’s nation needs him. If ever there was a time for Amir to show his skill, hunger and desire to lift his nation then it’s 4 June in Birmingham. Now 25 years old and already having been through what some sporting stars do not go through in a lifetime, Amir has returned to international cricket looking for redemption and is hungry to regain his superstar status.
Before the infamous tour of England in 2010, Amir was on his way to the top as a cricketer. A rising star and appreciated throughout the world for his skills, guile, temperament and ability as a wicket-taking bowler. He was, many felt, on his way to superstar status before his career came to an abrupt halt. What happened in 2010 is well-documented and many Pakistanis have not forgiven him for his involvement in an episode that brought huge shame and misery to Pakistan cricket. The Gujjar-Khan southpaw suffered the embarrassment of losing five years of his cricketing career and then faced ridicule and abuse from many fans of the game around the world. What transpired was seen by many as a tragedy and at the same time seen by many as an accident waiting to happen due to the Pakistan Cricket Board's haphazard handling of such incidents in the past.
Amir said he suffered during his ban, he also said that at times he wanted to walk away from cricket for good. However, what drove him back to cricket were his friends and family who stood by him and backed him to return to the top of the game he loved. His return to domestic cricket was impressive and exciting, but his return to international cricket has been a mixed affair with some impressive performances combined with some frustration and mediocrity. Perhaps expectations were too high from his fans and many were expecting him to carry on bowling the way he had been up to 2010. The harsh reality is that time waits for nobody and Amir's five years away from cricket hit him hard in the pocket and also hit him harder when it came to fitness, strength and maintaining his skill levels while stunting his development as a bowler.
Recently in the Caribbean there were glimpses of the 'old' Amir. Swinging the ball both ways, seaming the ball, yorkers and some clever slower balls, together with the hostility that was evident in the early part of his international career. That Amir of the past was showing that all was not lost and that he was regaining momentum and form ahead of the Champions Trophy.
The match against India presents Amir an opportunity to regain some lost friends, those who had given up on him and those who had said that they could never support or believe in a cricketer who, according to them, had sold the country. The Indian top-order is as strong as they come, they are a star-studded line-up capable of destroying any bowling attack in the modern game. However, there are a few bowlers in world cricket who will look at the Indian batting line-up as a challenge they will enjoy bowling to and a challenge they are ready to accept; Amir is one of those rare bowlers of the modern era.
The prospect of seeing Virat Kohli, who has been very supportive and complimentary of Amir, as well as Rohit Sharma and Co square up to him is a mouth-watering one. A fired-up Amir against the impressive Indian batsmen is one clash that could ultimately decide the match. Key individual battles will be pivotal on 4 June but Amir against the Indian batsmen is what India versus Pakistan cricket is all about. The bowler with everything to prove, the bowler looking to win back lost friends, against the batting line-up that has shown the world their brilliance over the years.
If ever Amir wanted the opportunity to win back hearts, to gain redemption, to once again become an icon, then leading his country to victory with a fine bowling performance against India, will go a long way in achieving that.
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Updated Date: May 29, 2017 08:39:27 IST