Karachi: Disgraced Pakistan paceman Mohammad Amir issued a public apology to fans and players on Wednesday as his five-year ban for spot-fixing expired, vowing to make a fresh beginning.
The 23-year-old is eligible to return to all levels of cricket from Wednesday, along with Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, who were also banned for their part in the notorious 2010 Lord's spot-fixing scandal.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) kicked them out of the game for five years for orchestrating deliberate no-balls in return for money during a Test against England. They were also jailed by a British court.
Amir, who has repeatedly voiced contrition for the scandal, said sorry once again. "I sincerely apologise to everyone I have hurt -- my colleagues, my fans, family and my country," he said in a statement.
"I will never be able to explain how much I regret the mistake I made at the promising start of my career. I disappointed my teammates and seniors who expected much better from me," he added.
A precocious talent, Amir graduated to play for Pakistan aged just 17 in 2009 and received widespread sympathy from across the cricketing world at the time of his ban.
Partly because of his youth and naivety, the ICC earlier this year allowed him to return early to domestic cricket. He featured in Grade-II cricket in April, taking an impressive 22 wickets in four matches before getting injured.
Amir said he wanted to win over doubting fans through his performances. "I am not sure if I can ever be truly forgiven but I hope to win your trust and love with my upcoming performances. I believe this will be the best way to redeem the past. No matter how sorry I feel I can't change the past. What I can do is start fresh and make a cleaner and brighter history, for myself and for Pakistan," he said.
Former players were divided on whether the three players should be allowed to play for Pakistan again. While former captains Ramiz Raja and Rashid Latif vociferously opposed the tainted trio's return to the national side, pace legends Wasim Akram, Imran Khan and Shoaib Akhtar advocated a second chance.
Amir said he has set small goals for himself and is not targeting an early return to international cricket. Before banned, Amir had taken 51 wickets in 14 Tests and 25 in 15 one-day internationals. He also had 23 wickets in 18 Twenty20 matches.