Head coach insists Amir’s omission for Zimbabwe, New Zealand series was a unanimous, performance-related decision
Amir said that “enough is enough” in December, citing “mental torture” in his decision to quit international cricket, but Misbah said on Monday that Amir’s claims had blown the situation “out of proportion”. Instead, he said that Amir had not been an automatic selection and suggested that he should have gone back to domestic cricket to prove his form.
Amir was not selected for Pakistan’s recent tour of New Zealand, after what the management deemed to be his lack of contribution as a senior bowler in last two years. In that period he picked up seven wickets at 32.00 in nine T20Is with an economy rate of 8.0. His performance in the T20I series in England last year – he went wicketless in 4.1 overs across two games – raised questions about his role, especially after he was punished in the second T20I, limped off the field with a hamstring injury and ended up missing the final match.
More middling performances in the National T20 Cup – he picking up six wickets at 38.83 in seven games – further convinced the selectors to move on and invest in younger players. Since the start of the 2020 edition of the PSL last February, Amir has taken 27 T20 wickets, with an average of 33.07 and an economy rate of 7.99.
He was effectively dropped by six selectors – as well as Misbah and captain Babar Azam – in October, but he singled out Misbah and Waqar Younis, Pakistan’s bowling coach, alleging in frustration that he was deliberately sidelined by the pair.
“There was talk about Waqar Younis related to Amir but there is no truth in it at all,” Misbah said. “There were six [association] coaches as selectors, me as chief selector and then there was a captain. So this is absolutely not possible, [the idea] that one person out of all could have influenced the decision.
“Nobody was supporting his selection on the basis of performance. I have no idea why he made up everything and tried to give this whole scenario a context that is out of proportion. For him, it was a simple method: go back and prove his form and get back in the team and everything else is irrelevant.”
His career trajectory and stock started to go down the day he decided to quit red-ball cricket for Pakistan before the tour of Australia in 2019. He was later excluded from the PCB’s list of central contracts. He might be still widely sought after in T20 leagues around the world, which his complete international retirement should allow more time for, but his performance in them aren’t doing much for him to attract the national selectors. His outburst against Misbah and bowling coach Waqar Younis appeared to be an emotional one which the head coach described as unjust.
Waqar was the head coach at time Amir returned into the Pakistan fold back in 2016 and there were strong reservations about him being in a Pakistan dressing room. Mohammad Hafeez had already gone public with his reluctance to play in a team that included Amir, who was suspended from international cricket for five years for his involvement in the spot-fixing scandal of 2010. Azhar Ali had also refused to attend a camp that involved Amir, but it was Waqar and the PCB’s chairman Shaharyar Khan who convinced the players to accept him back.
“Amir has his own point of view and I have always respected every senior or junior cricket,” Misbah said. “I was the captain when he came back [from his five-year ban] and I had welcomed him and supported him for Pakistan, keeping everything aside.
“I remember during England tour [in 2020] I gave my everything to convince him for the tour but he didn’t go on personal ground and initially decided not to go. But then later after coming out of his personal issues he messaged me about his availability and even then me and Waqar bhai recalled him, giving him ample respect as a senior pro. But then he got injured and he also had an evident dip in his form.”
Amir was wicketless on the England tour and had a lacklustre stint in the National T20 Cup before he was left out of the home series against Zimbabwe. “Against Zimbabwe last year we gave him a simple reason that we are going to play youngsters like [Mohammad] Hasnain, Haris Rauf, Musa Khan,” Misbah said. “He saw him in a T20 tournament, envisaging that he will mark a comeback to earn his place but then there were others in his team [Northern] who were doing better than him. He missed few games and was even struggling to get in the side.
“So there was a simple plan for him and we talked out with him very clearly in England. [We told him] you are our senior bowler, our strike bowler and since you play T20 cricket, we expect you to go all out. In four overs you have to go full throttle, take wickets for Pakistan up front and that’s your role. But then, if it’s not happening and despite your ability to bowl up to 87-88mph, you are bowling at 81mph then it will be increasingly difficult for the team.
“When there are bowlers like Shaheen [Afridi], Hasnain, Haris who are giving [everything] for the team, improving and doing better than him, then he had to compete with them to get in the side. He, despite being a senior bowler, can’t be preferred without proving his form. It was simply the performance and nothing else. At the when team was announced [for the New Zealand tour] he hasn’t had his form nor his bowling at his full peak. That was a straight case and there is nothing personal.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent