Yes Ramiz Raja, Amir does deserve a second chance

Ramiz Raja is Pakistan’s most famous voice at the commentary box during a cricket match. His in-depth analysis of matches clearly depicts his love for the game.

As an international cricketer, he played between 1984 and 1997 – a career that spanned for 13 years. He played 57 Test matches and 198 ODIs, and also captained the team for a brief moment. Moreover, he was a part of the World Cup winning side in 1992. Since his retirement in 1997, he has played an integral part in making policies on countless occasions, in official and unofficial capacity. But above all, I believe that Ramiz’s biggest trait has been his integrity and goodwill.

During the notorious 90s, when almost every major cricketer from Pakistan was tainted and/or accused of wrongdoing and match-fixing scandals, Ramiz’s integrity remained unquestionable. I have nothing but praise for Ramiz as a person and a cricketer who is partially responsible for the success and thriving times in the history of Pakistan cricket.

But for the first time, I was forced to question his impartiality towards his own former team. His recent article on the return of Mohammad Amir, titled ‘Pakistan should not welcome Amir back’ is an exhibit of his biased opinion.

Ramiz takes a position that Pakistan should not permit the 22-year-old pacer to reintegrate with the Pakistan team and that he should not be allowed a chance to redeem himself for all the wrongdoings of his past. Ramiz writes,

“The international cricket fraternity is a small, tightly knit unit, and not a community where serious offenders are accepted and absorbed.”

He concludes his article by saying,

“Don’t get me wrong – I am all for rehabilitation and for finding ways to set a young man back on course in his life. But it just can’t be in the very game that he sullied and brought disrepute to.”

I see his argument as, at best, willy-nilly.

I ask Ramiz, why should Pakistan not welcome him back?

On the one hand, Ramiz wants the rehabilitation of a young man, while on the other he wants to deprive him, and the team, of the skills and talent he possesses. He says that Amir cannot be allowed to play in the game he once sullied.

Did the respected commentator refuse to play alongside players who brought disrepute to the game during the 90s? He kept on playing under the captaincy of Saleem Malik, who was banned for lifetime due to match-fixing charges. Ramiz was well aware of the scandal and what was happening around him, so did he choose the high ground and raise a voice against match-fixing then?

How come the same cricket fraternity accepted Samuel BadreeShane Warne, Mark WaughHerschelle Gibbs, and a few others, none of who were Pakistani, but were charged with match-fixing?

Dear Ramiz, did you know that most of the jails in Netherlands are being closed down due to lack of prisoners.

Do you know why that is so?

Because the Dutch jails, as well as their society, provide rehabilitation services to the prisoners by letting them return to their normal lives. They believe that if they are not isolated, their surroundings and the people around them help them recover. If they did not do so, based on your ‘black and white’ argument, they would not be renting out their jails to Belgium.

Five years is a long time for rehabilitation and recovery, and I believe Amir must have learnt a lot during these long years. He missed playing in three World Cup tournaments and numerous important matches. He was once an emerging star, about whom the sultan of swing, Wasim Akram, had said,

“Amir is much cleverer than I was at 18.”

Ramiz believes that Amir is being exonerated only due to his poverty and lack of education. This is partly correct. However, you cannot forget that he had immediately admitted his misconduct in the court of law, unlike Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt.

Ramiz then goes on to generalise on Amir’s “lust” by citing his private discussion with the pacer regarding how he had rejected a county contract due to a disagreement over “a few thousand pounds”.

My dear Ramiz, in case your judgement is clouded, this is not “lust” for money. In modern terms of sports business, this is called “professionalism”. Indian cricketers are even paid for TV interviews, let alone playing cricket for franchisees. Moreover, how can you cite private discussion to public domains in order to validate your argument and say that,

“He was not, after all, so gullible and naive about money matters.”

Of course, nobody should be that naive. So why should Amir?

Furthermore, Ramiz imagines Amir to be a “virus” who can spoil the “good work” being done by Misbahul Haq and the team. In a more civilised environment, Ramiz may have faced a lawsuit for using such narrative against a young man, but in Pakistan, this is just pep talk.

In the meanwhile, Amir is set to return to international cricket soon. And I thank God that Ramiz was not among the decision makers. For if it were up to him, he would ban all the Pakistani cricketers with even the slightest of accusations to return to the gentleman’s game.

A famous expression states:

“Some days you’re the bug, some days you’re the windshield.”

Amir was once a bug, but he deserves to get a second chance to redeem himself and act like a windshield.

From a world of fame, money and stardom to obnoxious disrepute, four walls of a jail, and bans, I am sure Amir has learnt his lesson, a tough one at that. His ban itself must have taught him more than his jail time. For a country that thrives on second chances, we should not be so quick to close doors on people because of their tainted image. We, for one, should know better.

With plenty of cricket around the corner, we need all the talent we can get. You, Mr Ramiz, are no one to judge a person. As long as Amir has decided to mend his ways, and has an abundance of talent that can possibly win us the trophy, I think it is a good decision to let him play again.

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