Brother Ashraf says Amir should not be shown leniency if found guilty
Chosen the face of Pepsi Cola for his good looks and awesome potential, Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Amir was unabashedly projected in his native Pakistan as an ever-smiling Slumdog Millionaire, an example of hard work enabling a youngster from an underprivileged background to achieve unparalleled fame and glory.
Last Sunday at the end of the ignominious Test against England at Lord's, when Amir was booed by a handful of disgusted spectators as he received his award for Pakistan's man of the series, the winsome smile was conspicuous by its absence.
What does his future hold? Pakistan pacer Mohammad Amir. PIC/GETTY IMAGES
According to London's Daily Mail, police confiscated eggs from some onlookers, while others reportedly shouted 'thieves' at the players.
In Pakistan, fans held placards of donkeys with names of the shamed players stuck on their heads and pelted them with rotten tomatoes and shoes, showing the level of rage in Pakistan.
The anger across the border is said to be particularly acute because the players are alleged to have been lining their pockets while tens of thousands of their countrymen suffer in the devastating floods. Pakistan's iconic former Test captain Imran Khan, laconic as ever, is quoted as saying: 'People are deeply upset, demoralised.'
With 18-year old Amir's promising cricket career, in an era fondly yearning for a tearaway fast bowler, already in tatters for his role in the avarice-driven 'spot betting' racket, close relatives of the teenage sensation say he deserves to be punished if he has brought shame on Pakistan.
According to the newspaper: "In Amir's home village of Changa Mera, 40 miles from the capital Islamabad, (his) brother-in-law Mohammad Ashraf said the player's family had been stunned by the revelations.
"Having enjoyed undreamt-of adulation in Pakistan for producing a national hero in the cricket-crazy country, they are saddened he is now being portrayed as a cheat."
Mohammad Amir's brother Ashraf, a property dealer, said: 'If Amir is a culprit and involved in gambling, he should be punished. 'Though he is our relative, he is also a national player and the "property" of Pakistan. If he is found guilty, he will be a national culprit and should be punished.'
Former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson, who coached Amir in Pakistan at the age of 16 in an under-19 camp in his capacity as national coach, remembers the youngster, from a small village in Swat Valley and considered a future Wasim Akram, as one who was delayed by three hours reporting at training because the Taliban had closed the highway.
Lawson remembers the teenage fast bowling prodigy, who has made pundits the world over sit up and take notice, for his constant smile, his zest for the game and his unbounded energy.
The wunderkind had slipped, as the desi expression goes, from hero to zero, for his heinous involvement in a scam that has caused his prime minister to say it has made the heads of Pakistanis "hang in shame."
Amir could be handed a lifetime ban if found guilty.
As the crisis in world cricket has unfolded dramatically, there has been an escalating demand that the rest of the tour, during which Pakistan is scheduled to play a series of one-day and Twenty20 matches, be scrapped.
Amir, captain Salman Butt, wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal and bowler Mohammad Asif have been questioned by Scotland Yard over claims by a 'sting' by the News of the World, England's Sunday newspaper, which purportedly showed that they took cash from an international betting racket.
Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency the country's highest law enforcement agency has sent three investigators to the UK.
With the shamed Pakistan team facing the prospect of banishment from the world game, Scotland Yard fraud detectives and tax inspectors are trying to trace the money trail.
They are probing a complex network of companies set up by so-called 'fixer' Mazhar Majeed, who was filmed apparently accepting large piles of banknotes from undercover reporters in return for rigging games.
Majeed, a Pakistani expatriate, owns a £1.8million mansion in Surrey and is listed as director of 18 companies
Last week at Lord's , millions around the world watched as Amir and fellow bowler Asif deliver three 'no balls' at exactly the stages of the match "fixer" Mazhar Majeed specified to reporters.
There have also been claims that all the matches in the Test series against England, as also the Sydney Test against Australia last year, had been tainted by fixing.
(With inputs from The Mail).