The 18-year-old opening bowler has emerged as a great hope not just of Pakistan cricket but the future of fast bowling, a prodigy not seen in Pakistan since the emergence of his mentor, Wasim Akram, 25 years ago. Until yesterday’s expose, Amir had looked set for a career as one of the sport’s role models, with the potential for superstar status and huge earnings via product endorsement and contracts in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Amir’s talent is beyond question: a highly skilled left-arm quick with an ability to make the ball swing in the air. During the Lord’s Test that finished today , Amir became the youngest bowler to take 50 Test wickets. A schoolboy graduate of a Rawalpindi cricket academy, Amir made an impact on the international stage at the 2009 World Twenty20 in England, where his opening burst set up Pakistan’s victory in the final. Earmarked for greatness in all three forms of the game, Amir’s involvement in the scandal will sadden those in thrall to his talents.
Given the captaincy after Shahid Afridi’s bizarre single-match tenure against Australia at Lord’s in July (which was followed by Afridi’s retirement from Test cricket), Butt, 25, became the fifth man to lead Pakistan in Tests since January 2009. A confident opening batsman from Lahore, he impressed with his authority and magnanimity in defeat. One of Pakistan’s steadier batsmen over the past year, Butt also featured in the inaugural season of the IPL before having his contract terminated and being named – along with Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar – in a lawsuit against the IPL for loss of earnings. Butt was also the likely choice to assume Pakistan’s one-day captaincy from Afridi.
A world-class opening bowler with a colourful back-catalogue of off-field trials, Asif has already been banned from cricket twice for steroid abuse. Still only 27, during his five years in international cricket Asif has tested positive for nandrolone, been detained in Dubai suspected of having recreational drugs (reportedly opium), tested positive for a banned substance during the 2008 IPL, been attacked with a bat in the dressing room by his teammate Shoaib Akhtar, and become involved in a legal dispute over a loan of 13m Pakistani rupees (£98,000) from the actor Veena Malik. In contrast to his off-field life, Asif is the most surgical of bowlers, a Glenn McGrath-like master of accurate medium-fast seam bowling. He is currently no 3 in the world and has the distinction of having dismissed Kevin Pietersen three times for a duck with the first ball he has bowled to him in an innings.
Pakistan’s wicketkeeper, vice-captain and a player who has been implicated in the anti-corruption investigation Pakistan’s 2009-10 tour of Australia. An aggressive late-order batsman who scored seven international hundreds in six months in 2006, Akmal’s form has dwindled. He was dropped for the second Test at Edgbaston, only to regain his spot when his replacement fractured a finger. Akmal was at the centre of ructions following the disastrous winter tour of Australia, when he dropped Mike Hussey three times during Hussey’s match-winning century in Sydney.
Akmal has denied any wrongdoing. The International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit is investigating. – Guardian