Cricket: Banned Amir vows to be better on return to sport following reprieve

KARACHI (AFP) - Disgraced Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Amir on Thursday vowed to prove himself a "better player and better human" after his spot-fixing ban was relaxed, allowing him to play again in domestic matches.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), the sport's governing body, gave permission on Thursday for the 22-year-old to return to the game in Pakistan with immediate effect. The move brings him a step closer to a return to international competition and a measure of redemption for his part in one of the most scandalous episodes in modern cricket.

Amir was one of three Pakistani players handed bans of at least five years for arranging no-balls to order in a Test against England at Lord's in 2010.

His ban was due to expire on Sept 2, but the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) used discretionary powers to allow him to return to domestic cricket early.

"The ACSU chairman, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, with the prior approval of the ICC board and the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board), has exercised his discretion to allow Aamer to return to domestic cricket played under the auspices of the PCB with immediate effect," the ICC said in a statement.

Amir said he was overwhelmed by the announcement, the fruit of two years of efforts by the PCB.

"It's the biggest news of my life," he told AFP by phone. "It was the most difficult phase of my life but I am sure it's over now and I am keen to return to international grounds."

Amir, along with captain Salman Butt and new-ball partner Mohammad Asif, were found guilty of orchestrating deliberate no-balls in the Test against England.

The three players and their agent Mazhar Majeed were jailed by a British court after the now-defunct tabloid News of the World exposed them in a sting operation.

At the time of the incident, left-armer Amir was regarded as one of the hottest young bowling prospects in world cricket and there was some sympathy for him, given his young age - he was 18 at the time.

The ACSU said it was satisfied he had shown remorse and cooperated in the fight against fixing by recording messages for education sessions.

Cricket, and Pakistani cricket in particular, has struggled with the scourge of corruption in recent years and there has been some disquiet about Amir's return to the game.

Some former professionals have said he should not be allowed back into international cricket, but he vowed to win over the naysayers with his bowling - and promised to behave from now on.

"If anyone has any problems with my return I am sure he will change his views with my character and good performances," he said.

PCB lawyer Tafazzul Rizvi said Amir will be monitored closely during his return to domestic matches.

"I have not forgotten how to bowl but now my focus on cricket will be more than before as I have to prove myself again," said Amir, who added that even at his lowest points he never thought of giving up cricket.

Legendary Pakistani left-arm quick Wasim Akram, to whom Amir was compared, said it was right to give the youngster a second chance.

"We must adopt a 'forget and forgive' policy and Aamer should also show that he is now a better human being," he said.