ISLAMABAD // After earning himself a career-threatening, five-year ban and a prison sentence for match-fixing, Mohammad Amir, the Pakistan paceman, has at least one supporter who believes he can return to international cricket.
Amir, 19, along with Salman Butt, the team captain, and Mohammad Asif were sentenced to jail in London this month on corruption charges for spot-fixing by bowling predetermined no-balls in a Test against England last year.
Despite the massive setback to a once promising cricket career, Asif's mentor, Asif Bajwa, is behind his student. Bajwa, a former domestic cricket wicket-keeper, was the man who honed the skills of promising youngsters at his academy from 2003-2007, around the time he brought in Amir from a village outside Rawalpindi.
"I want to see him playing for Pakistan again, and I am confident he will make a comeback," Bajwa said.
The International Cricket Council had already said that it would not reduce the suspension of five years, but the big question is whether a convicted cricketer would ever be considered by the Pakistan Cricket Board. There is no doubt that Amir was rated as the next Wasim Akram - the legendary Pakistan left-arm fast bowler - before those two dreaded deliveries he chose to bowl at Lords in London last year.
Amir was reportedly paid just £1,500 (Dh8,730) for his efforts, discounting greed as his motive and leading many to speculate the youngster was pressured by Butt to become involved. The sentiment of supporters on the streets of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad - Pakistan's three largest cities - suggest that fans believed that they got a deserved punishment.
"It's a shame," said Hamza Sultan, an Islamabad high school pupil.
"I don't care whether we lose Amir, Asif or Butt, the bottom line is that our cricket should be cleaned from this menace of fixing."
Pakistan cricket is no stranger to scandal. Cricketers have been detected taking banned steroids and fined for throwing bats at each other in dressing rooms.
Whether Bajwa's protege makes a comeback after five years, only time will tell.