It is said a fast bowler reaches his peak around the age of 27-28. That’s when the body and mind has matured and there is enough gas in the tank to make things happen with a cricket ball.
But if you made your international debut as a 17-year-old and took the world by storm immediately, 10 years can seem a long time even if five of them were spent serving a ban from the game.
Maybe it was that workload which prompted Mohammad Amir to retire from Tests and concentrate on white-ball cricket. But even so, it was a bolt from the blue.
Reports from Pakistan suggest Amir is looking to relocate to the UK – his wife is a British passport holder – which is why he took the decision.
To me Mohammad Amir retiring from Test cricket is a bit surprising because you peak at 27-28 and Test cricket is where you are judged against the best, it’s the ultimate format. Pakistan will need him in two Tests in Australia and then three in England.— Wasim Akram (@wasimakramlive) July 26, 2019
Whatever the reasons behind the move – relocation, freedom to choose assignments, extend franchise cricket career – the reality is Pakistan are without their main all-condition red ball bowler and that too at the start of the new World Test Championship.
Pakistan are scheduled to play two Test in Australia at the end of the year and three in England in the middle of 2020. That’s five Tests which are part of the Test Championship. And Pakistan have little time to find a pace spearhead in that period.
Amir was effective in his last two major overseas Test assignments – 12 wickets from three Tests in South Africa this year and seven scalps from two Tests in England in 2018. Was he the best bowler on show? No. But a decent Amir is still highly valuable for a team like Pakistan struggling at number seven in the Test rankings.
Medium pacer Mohammad Abbas can straightaway be discounted on flatter wickets, while Hassan Ali has lost his spark. That leaves talented but inexperienced pacer like Shaheen Shah Afridi to lead the attack; imagine a teenager leading the charge against Joe Root and Steve Smith.
Pakistan have quality quicks like Mohammad Hasnain and Mir Hamza but getting them ready in time for the away assignments within one year might be too big a task, especially since it has been thrust upon them.
Sure, Amir has lost a fair bit of pace and needs to recharge his batteries in order to get the nip back in his bowling. But the Pakistan management must have expected the seasoned campaigner to oversee the transition process over the next year.
Pakistan, who are grappling uncertainty over Sarfraz Ahmed’s future as captain now have to make do without their top Test bowler. Amir has his reasons to do what he did. But he must remember that he was given an opportunity by his nation to re-enter the international arena after the spot-fixing scandal of 2010. A less abrupt end of Test ties and a clearer path forward regarding all formats would have been easier on everyone.
Anyhow, Pakistan have a spanner in their works and not a lot of time to figure out how to get it running again.
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