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What Amir needs to learn from Junaid

Mohammad Amir reacts after a delivery Getty Images

It is not clear where the style originated from, though there are many guesses. I always thought the inspiration for the hairstyle that captured the imagination of Pakistani males in the '90s was either David Beckham, the footballer, or Nick Carter, the singer from the band Backstreet Boys. Others have reached back further, arguing that Bollywood actor Rahul Roy was the one who influenced the likes of Wasim Akram to adopt the style. Either way, you can recognise it immediately - long hair parted in the middle and styled in a bowl-like way.

In either case, the style was gradually usurped by others but never truly went away. In the late aughts, Bollywood icon Salman Khan reintroduced it in a cult film and it was perhaps that influence that shaped the hair Mohammad Amir would have in the year that he captured the world's imagination. It was also the year that ended with him disgraced and on trial.

Up until then Amir's rise had been spectacular, even by Pakistani fast bowler standards. He had bowled one of the all-time great opening overs, in the final of the 2009 World T20, bouncing out the tournament's standout batsman for a duck. He followed it up by bamboozling Australia's and England's Test sides with both swing and pace. And in between, he picked up Sachin in a tournament match. Akram, perhaps moved by Amir's hair as much as by his wrist position, anointed Amir as his successor while the latter was still in his teens.

Five years later, when Amir made his much-hyped return, the hair was shorter and had a tint of (regrettable) red dye. At first, and particularly with the white ball, it felt like he had never been away. When he rattled India in the Asia Cup, it genuinely felt like Amir was back at his best. But when he returned to the scene of the crime for the England series, things felt different. Yes, he won a huge symbolic victory by finishing off the Lord's win, but this didn't feel like the same Amir.

The ball didn't swing quite the same way, and the length wasn't always on the money. He was no longer blowing batsmen away either - instead, Pakistan's bowling innings would inevitably start with him being smacked for four. It was to Amir's credit that in the middle of this high-pressure tour, where he was seeking to redeem himself, he transformed himself as a bowler. Looking to fit into the #TeamMisbah ethos, he dragged his length back a bit and started bowling more defensively, cutting down on the runs given. It also didn't help that the fielders kept dropping catches off his bowling, making his numbers worse than they deserved to be.

When Pakistan started the ongoing Test against West Indies, it soon became clear that Amir would struggle most on the desert tracks of the UAE. After all, this was a bowler who had made his name almost a decade ago on pitches and in grounds outside Pakistan, where he received assistance from the conditions. Each of Australia, South Africa and England had venues where he could maximise his gifts. As Amir's numbers continued to worsen after his comeback, it was clear that he couldn't be successful just by being the bowler he once was. And particularly out in the unforgiving desert, a new set of tricks was needed.

"Looking to fit into the #TeamMisbah ethos, Amir dragged back his length a bit and started bowling more defensively, cutting down on the runs given"

It is here that one is reminded of a bowler whose career has largely served as a tragic counterpoint to Amir's. Junaid Khan came up around the same time as Amir, but he was never one earmarked for the future or hyped by legends. Instead, he only found his place once the spot-fixing clear-out made room in the squad.

Unlike Amir, Junaid has played 18 of his 22 Tests in Asia, yet he soon mastered the inert surfaces of the UAE. Long before Wahab Riaz had popularised the mad fast spell in the desert heat, Junaid showed how pace can prosper in those conditions. Most of his time was spent bowling in unhelpful conditions, where he showed great intelligence in picking up his wickets. During those years, his one moment in the (proverbial, and not actual) sun came when Pakistan visited India for a white-ball series, where it felt like Junaid had made Virat Kohli his bunny.

The 2015 World Cup was seen by some as the stage for Junaid's ascent to the top echelons of world pace, but instead it was where it all unravelled. His knees led the roll call of fitness issues that undoubtedly were caused in part by being a desert workhorse. Already beset by injuries before the event, Junaid missed the tournament, and then the boat itself. Soon, the likes of Rahat Ali, Imran Khan and Wahab were ahead of him in the Test pecking order, and when Amir returned, he found a spot waiting for him right at the top. Junaid, whose only concession to Pakistani-pace-bowler hairstyles was a soul patch, already seemed a memory.

Even if Junaid doesn't make a well-deserved return, there is much that Amir can learn from him. It is still unclear whether Amir can be the bowler he once was, but it is clearer that in order to prosper in Pakistan's successful Test side, he needs to become the bowler that Junaid was. That would entail adjusting his lengths, his angles, and his approach. It would mean learning the tricks that Junaid, and Saeed Ajmal in particular, perfected - that of bowling dry and attacking after. It might even mean a more understated hairstyle, so that the unreasonable hype and expectations give way to a more grounded reality.

One can only pray and hope that the desperate situation of Junaid Khan is reversed, and that he can make his way into the national side again. Before he does, there is a lot from his example that Amir can embrace and learn from.