‘Good thing for the sport’: ICC chief executive backs Amir’s England return


LONDON: International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson expects Pakistan quick bowler Mohammad Amir to tour England next month, saying the former spot-fixer’s return is a “good thing” for the sport.

Amir, 24, featured in two one-day internationals against New Zealand in January and the Pakistan Cricket Board have approached their English counterparts for help in securing a visa for the talented left-armer.

He was given a six-month prison sentence, of which he served half in a UK young offenders’ institute, on charges of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat at gambling after bowling deliberate no-balls during the Lord’s Test in August 2010.

The same spot-fixing scandal also saw fellow paceman Mohammad Asif and then Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt given jail sentences by an English court and bans by the ICC.

Although now cleared to play again by the ICC, Amir’s criminal conviction could see him denied an entry visa to Britain for Pakistan’s tour of England, where they will play four Tests — the first at Lord’s — five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 between July and September.

“I always think you get handed out your punishment, you serve it and then who are we to say ‘never again?’,” Richardson told AFP in an interview at The Oval in south London on Wednesday following the launch of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy one-day tournament.

“He (Amir) has certainly shown a willingness to make sure he sets an example now by asking younger players to learn from his mistakes.

“Certainly, I think it’s a good thing that he’s back playing,” the 56-year-old added.

“I’d be surprised if he (Amir) doesn’t end up coming (to England).”

‘Traditional’ Cook

If Amir does make the tour, he could be bowling to England captain Alastair Cook.

This week saw the 31-year-old Cook become the youngest player to score 10,000 Test runs when he reached the landmark in a series-clinching win over Sri Lanka at the Riverside.

Cook’s method of patient accumulation is at odds with the modern-day trend for big-hitting exemplified by the likes of West Indies’ Chris Gayle, Australia’s David Warner and recently-retired former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum.

But Richardson said left-handed opener Cook’s approach was none the worse for that.

“I like the fact he’s not in the Gayle, Warner or McCullum mould,” explained Richardson.

“He’s a more traditional opening batsman, as we’ve known them to be.” The former South Africa wicket-keeper added: “It’s a good example to young cricketers that you don’t have to hit every second ball out of the park to be successful.”

But while Test cricket remains well-regarded in England and Australia, it is struggling to maintain interest elsewhere in the world, with some players opting to take part in lucrative domestic Twenty20 events instead.

The ICC cricket committee, who are meeting at Lord’s this week, are looking at introducing two divisions into Test cricket as a way of reviving interest.

More day/night Tests, following the success of the Australia-New Zealand clash at the Adelaide Oval in November, are also on the agenda.

However, any changes will have to be approved by the full ICC board.

Richardson cited a renewed understanding by Test nations to provide fixtures with “context” if the “primacy of international cricket is going to be sustained well into the future”.

He added: “If we want to make sure the best players are playing international cricket, we have to make sure that our members are in a position to reward and incentivise their players to play all formats.

“That boils down to a funding model that provides the members with the means to do just that.

“The board is looking at the funding model of the ICC, hopefully making teams less reliant on (lucrative) Indian tours and creating a model that not only allows their players to earn a lot of money playing in domestic T20 leagues, but also to play for their country and be well rewarded.”

As for day/night Tests, Richardson said: “I think they are very good for the game.

“It would make sense to play cricket at times when people can afford to go and watch.”

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