London: Nobody has illuminated the 2010 cricket summer more than Pakistan’s 18-year-old left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Aamer.
This teenage tyro has taken England by storm, but now, there is a storm gathering over match fixing, which is engulfing his team and him.
Aamer is being accused of deliberately bowling no balls during the Lord’s Test in return for earning cash beyond his wildest imagination.
But as well as the controversy, Aamer has faced poverty, career-threatening injury and even death in his short life so far.
Three years ago, it seemed the boy from the Rawalpindi city of Gujar Khan would never have the chance to play for his country.
“I got ill with the dengue virus in Malaysia before the 2008 Under-19 World Cup when I was 15. I was in a very bad condition, it was a death situation, the doctors thought I was going to die – it was very bad. I was in hospital for one week and was on 24 drips a day, The Independent quoted him, as saying.
“The doctors were surprised when I came round. When they sent me home, they said that for one month I couldn’t do anything and just to rest. That time was very bad for me and for my future. I was really scared,” he added.
Astonishingly, he was playing just a month later, despite not having played or trained since being bedridden. He even won the man-of-the-match award as he played a domestic one-day game for the Rawalpindi Rams in Karachi.
Shortly after this, Aamer suffered another setback, this time in the form of a persistent back injury that threatened to end his career before it had begun.
“At that point I was really upset because I thought my future was finished,” Aamer said.
“My teacher said to me, ‘Don’t worry, you have an option to do studies’. But I had a contract with the National Bank at the time and they asked me, ‘Are you fit to play first-class cricket?’, and I said I was even though I wasn’t,” he added.
“Thankfully I have come through it and am now playing at the highest level,” he said.
Aamer burst on to the international scene during Pakistan’s triumphant run in the World Twenty20 in 2008, claiming the wicket of the player of the tournament, Tillakaratne Dilshan, in the final. And he has proved equally adept in the longer form of the game, taking almost 30 wickets in six Tests against Australia and England this summer.
“I am really pleased the way the tour has gone but I think in England every bowler enjoys it because of the conditions,” Aamer said before the match-fixing scandal broke.
Former Pakistan player Mudassar Nazar spotted Aamer playing in a local game at 14 and took him to the National Academy in Lahore. But it was his hero Wasim Akram who recommended him to the Pakistan selectors.
“I met Wasim for the first time in a camp in Lahore in 2007, and Mudassar said, ‘Can you check this guy out and give him some comments?’ When he saw me he said, ‘He is outstanding and is ready to play for Pakistan.’ This was like a dream for me when he said it because he is my idol,” says Aamer.
What the future holds for this fiercely bright prospect has been thrown into doubt. But right now the clouds are gathering over him again.