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En route to entering their hearts, Mohammad Amir still makes them hop

Fatullah: Mohammad Amir, having atoned for once deliberately betraying his team and fans for a quick buck, is again making the batsmen hop and at the same time winning their hearts in a sport, which, like many others, can be generous when it comes to second chances.

The onset of the new year brought glad tidings for Amir, who returned to the Pakistan cricket squad for the limited-overs away series against New Zealand, completing a cycle of redemption following his spectacular fall from grace in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal.

Amir served jail term and a five-year ban suspension from cricket for indulging in spot-fixing during the 2010 tour of England. And even as Pakistan gear up to renew their rivalry with India in the Asia Cup today, the spotlight continues to be on the man who emerged as the hottest pace sensation in 2009. Whether the left-arm pacer is there or not, be it Virat Kohli or Aaqib Javed, there is a always a question on Amir nowadays.

When the Pakistan team stepped out for their training session at the Khan Saheb Osman Ali Stadium, all eyes were trained on Amir. With the team's grey coloured training gear on, he looked to have put in a few pounds extra in his wiry frame of 2010. What interested most was how well he gelled with the team since the last month. It was clear from the two hours of training that Amir's integration into Pakistan's cricket system looks complete with no visible discomfort between him and other players.

It was more so evident when the team played 'foot-volley', one of the common warm-up routines of many cricket teams. Amir was vocal during the match, didn't mind questioning the 'referee's' decision, had mock arguments with teammates on line calls. There was bonhomie between him and others, which indicated that the 23-year-old has made some headway into the hearts of his mates. The likes of Shoaib Malik enjoyed a hearty laugh with Amir.

When it came to bowling, he looked impressive. The pace and swing were all there and he looked sharp during the half an hour that he bowled at the nets. There were a few swinging deliveries that the batsmen missed but the ball of the session was the one with which he dismissed Sharjeel Khan.

It was a fullish delivery kept on the off-stump as the left-hander shaped himself for a cover drive. The ball swung late and it beat the bat to knock the off-stump flat. Amir had his hands raised and looked pleased as a punch. None of the batsmen looked comfortable against Amir, who has recently taken a hat-trick for Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League.

Once his bowling was over, he spent another 20 minutes taking catches before returning to the confines of the dressing room. While his comeback to competitive cricket happened in BPL last November, the real test will begin when he faces the 'Men In Blue' at Mirpur.

An impressive return, say like a 2 for 25 or a 3 for 28 in four overs, may not take away the pain he had inflicted on those who genuinely believed in his talent, but it may go a long way in allowing him to at least start singing the redemption song in top-flight cricket.

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