DHAKA: Mohammad Amir’s last appearance on a cricket pitch outside his native Pakistan led to a six-month sentence in a British prison for corruption.
Five years on, the paceman was the headline act in the opening match as Bangladesh’s Twenty20 league staged its own comeback after a fixing scandal.
But as Amir and the Bangladesh Premier League look to turn over a new leaf, one of cricket’s most respected figures, Kumar Sangakkara, says the game could “die” if spectators are not convinced matches are clean.
Amir, playing for the Chittagong Vikings against the Rangpur Riders, took four for 30 on Sunday, delighted to be competing once more against stars such as Pakistan’s Test skipper Misbah ul-Haq whom he bowled with a perfect yorker at Dhaka’s national stadium.
Amir, now 23, was jailed in 2011 after admitting bowling no balls the previous summer against England at Lord’s in exchange for cash.
His captain Salman Butt and fellow bowler Mohammad Asif were jailed for similar offences.
Their hopes of returning for Pakistan look bleak, given they are in the autumn of their careers.
But Amir, who has been playing Pakistan domestic cricket since earlier this year, told AFP recently he saw the BPL as “the first step towards reviving my international career” as he eyes next year’s World T20 in India.
Although Amir has refused to talk to the media in Bangladesh, he said before his departure from Pakistan that he was “really thankful to the team for choosing me and I will try my best to give them my 100 percent.”
His comeback remains controversial, with Pakistan batsman Mohammad Hafeez refusing to sign for the Vikings with Amir in its ranks.
As Amir struggles to rebuild trust, the BPL faces a similar challenge after its 2013 edition was blighted by a scandal involving players and a team owner.
Former Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful, New Zealander Lou Vincent and Sri Lankan Kaushal Lokuarachchi were handed lengthy bans.
And Shihab Jishan Chowdhury was also convicted of trying to fix the outcome of a match involving his Dhaka Gladiators team.
An embarrassed Bangladesh Cricket Board cancelled last year’s edition but now believes its house is in order.
Chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury said the BCB always had “zero tolerance” of corruption but felt compelled to do more after 2013.
It now has its own anti-corruption unit and runs an extensive education programme for players which includes addresses by police.
“A lot of things happened because of a lack of education, players not being aware of the consequences, not only for themselves but for the nation as a whole,” Chowdury told AFP.