Ramiz Raja questions Pakistan support for sullied Aamer

Dubai: Former Pakistan captain turned commentator Ramiz Raja on Wednesday criticised the lobbying for the return of paceman Mohammad Aamer, banned for spot-fixing, saying his return would expose the team to the "virus".

Aamer, along with Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, was banned in a spot-fixing scandal on Pakistan's tour of England in 2010. The International Cricket Council (ICC), at the request of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), earlier this month revised its anti-corruption code, paving the way for all the banned players to feature in first-class cricket a few months before their bans expire.

The PCB said it would launch an appeal for Aamer later this month and a final decision on when he can return to domestic cricket is expected at the next ICC meeting in January. Ramiz questioned why Aamer's return was fast-tracked. "Why is the world so keen to see Amer back?

The managers of the game, who for whatever reason are trying to fast-track him into the very system that he had wronged, have obviously not experienced the pangs of betrayal and cheating that fixing causes," wrote Raja in his cricinfo column. Raja revealed he had experienced how fixing can damage the game during the 1990s with a scandal which ultimately led to a life ban on then captain Salim Malik and fines on six leading players, including former captains Wasim Akran and current Pakistan coach Waqar Younis in 2000.

Raja said the current players needed to be asked would they like to play alongside Aamer. "Someone needs to ask the Pakistan players if they at all want Aamer back. After years of perseverance, Misbah-ul-Haq and his men have been able to salvage Pakistan cricket and its image," said Raja of the current Pakistan captain. "Should they be exposed to a virus now?

How unjust would it be to the performers who have toiled long and hard to make way for a man whose integrity is still suspect," said Aamer. Raja, who played 57 Tests and 158 one-day internationals, refused to buy the argument that Aamer was naive. "The argument put across in Aamer's favour is that his talent was compromised at a young age due to poor judgement and his naivete, and because he comes from a poor family.

"If that is the case, there are millions of other Pakistani youth who have had a tough start in life, and less than ideal upbringings. "Does that give them a licence to use underhanded means and cheat to make a living? In fact, to quote an incident, I was approached to find out why Aamer had turned down a more-than-decent offer made to him by an English county just a day before he was caught," said Raja.

"During my conversation with him regarding the offer, I realised that because the offer was a few thousand pounds short of what he expected, he was willing to let go of an opportunity to play and establish himself at a renowned and historic county. "I came to the conclusion that he was not, after all, so gullible and naive about money matters. "It is the most awful and sickening feeling. When a bunch of rogues you share the dressing room with are fighting tooth and nail to lose a match, it kills your desire to play the game, and whips up a desire to kill them."

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