Rawalpindi: Considered among the best young bowlers in the world when he was hit with a five-year fixing ban in 2010, Pakistan pacer Mohammad Amir embarks on the long road to redemption Monday in his return to domestic cricket.
The 22-year-old left-armer is set to play for Omar Associates in the Patron`s Trophy Grade-II national tournament -- one rung below first-class -- at the quiet Army Cricket Ground in the garrison city Rawalpindi near the capital.
Half a world away in Auckland, a trio of fellow southpaws closed out a hard fought victory for Pakistan against the mighty South Africans in an electrifying World Cup clash Saturday, highlighting how far former teenage prodigy Amir will have to go to reclaim a place in the international arena.
Aamer was one of three Pakistani players banned from the game for at least five years for arranging no-balls to order in a Test against England at Lord`s in 2010.
He was also jailed in Britain in 2011, along with former captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif.
Amir`s ban was due to expire on September 2, but the International Cricket Council used discretionary powers to allow him to return to domestic cricket early, citing his early admission of guilt and cooperation with anti-corruption authorities.
Upon hearing the news, he vowed to become a "better player and better human being".
"It was the most difficult phase of my life but I am sure it`s over now and I am keen to return to international grounds," he told AFP in a phone interview in January.
Picked out as a special talent by fast-bowling legend Wasim Akram in 2007, Aamer`s pace, control, and ability to swing the ball both ways saw him become the youngest bowler, at 18, to take 50 Test wickets including five-fors in his last two matches.
His return has been eagerly awaited by most fans in cricket mad Pakistan, though some notable critics, including former captain Ramiz Raja, have argued he should not be given a second chance in the sport.
His club`s three-day match against a side fielded by the Army will be contingent on the weather. Northern Pakistan is currently experiencing an unseasonal bout of torrential rainfall that is predicted to clear up by Monday.