By Cameron Hogwood
Essex have followed up their summer interest in Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir by signing him as an overseas player for part of the 2017 season.
This is seen by some as a controversial signing, given the 24-year-old was jailed in November 2011 and was banned from cricket for five years after being found guilty of spot-fixing.
Amir was convicted for intentionally bowling no-balls in a 2010 Test match against England at Lords, serving three months in prison.
His return to international cricket in January this year came twelve months after he had been cleared to play domestic cricket in Pakistan again.
The left-arm bowler’s return to action was greeted with mixed responses. Most journalists and fans believe he should be allowed to complete after serving his sentence. He was a foolish young man at the time of the incident and one that was poorly influenced by two highly experienced Pakistan teammates.
Essex chief executive Derek Bowden has been quick to defend the move.
He told BBC Sport: “It was a relatively straightforward, not an easy choice and one has to think about it, but he paid a price and therefore he should be free to go on and further his career and enjoy his life.”
Amir was booed by fans in a Twenty20 match against New Zealand earlier this year and has been the subject of criticism concerning his ability to play professionally again.
It is worth remembering what a remarkable prospect he was when he first broke onto the international scene and also what a gifted bowler he still is now.
Totals of 69 wickets in 20 tests, 37 wickets in 24 one-day internationals and 34 wickets in 31 T20 internationals poses as a reflection of his talent.
Essex head coach Chris Silverwood hailed the new signing. He told the Daily Mail: “He is still only young but has proved himself at international level already, so it is a real coup to get this signing completed.”