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The World Cup of Mohammad Amir, the nerd

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Misbah: New Zealand match make-or-break for Pakistan (1:57)

Former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq still saw room for improvement in Pakistan's 49-run win over South Africa at Lord's. (1:57)

Mohammad Amir's lawyers knew who he was, but they didn't really know who he was. Cricketer, young, gifted, Pakistani, now at the centre of this mess. That everyone knew. What his lawyers didn't know was why there was such a massive fuss about him.

One day in 2011, before the spot-fixing trial began, he came into their offices. The idea was for them to spend time with him to find out more about him. He spent the entire day showing them YouTube videos of his bowling. Not to show them how good he was and what the fuss was about. No, he wanted to talk about fast bowling, about why fast bowling was what it was, about why he did it and, most importantly, about how he did it.

He zoomed into screens and zoomed out and showed them why his wrist was angled like this for this delivery, or why he ran in a little wider for that delivery, why he pitched this ball a little shorter, and that ball a little fuller. Some deliveries did things and he admitted he didn't know why but he wanted to find out.

Of course the highlights reel was there but what he talked about, and what he showed them, was not what the fuss was about. What he was doing was nerding out about fast bowling, about the one thing he had held dearest to himself, the one thing nobody had yet managed to take away from him, not even himself: the art, yes, but really the science of it.

This entire tournament has been about Amir the nerd. Not Amir the boy wonder. Not Amir the swinger. Not Amir the coming pace demigod. Not Amir the redeemed. Ordinarily you would look at that wickets chart, see Amir atop it, put two and two together, and bingo: left-arm fast, England, swing, edges taken, stumps clattered, lbws given. Get me that highlights reel now.

Watch on Hotstar (India only): Amir and Shadab wreck South Africa chase

You wish (you, we all still, really do). It's not been that. Pakistan's campaign has been mostly poor and the bowling has been all over the place and back, but Amir? It's been unfamiliar, is about the most accurate way of telling it. Not electrifying, not taking anyone's breath away. A paltry two leg-befores out of 15 wickets, none bowled, and of the three caught-behinds, one was Faf du Plessis' hoick today which could've been caught by point running in.

He's not even come close to knocking sides over. When he got Hashim Amla today, it was his first wicket in the Powerplay that really mattered - the two he got in the West Indies game didn't, given the game was over (although, as we'll come to it, they were significant). No tails have been blown away, though the pulling back of Australia in Taunton was close.

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They have not been ugly wickets exactly, but also definitely not the sexy wickets people still crave for him to deliver. They've come in the middle overs, off slower balls, from cross-seam bouncers, from cutters really dug into the surface. They've come at the death from balls thrown out wide, from wide cutters, from little changes in angle, off poor shots, off batsmen chasing quick runs and Amir reacting to that.

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One lasting impression, though - enhanced by the sheer contrast with the rest of Pakistan's pace attack - has been of a man not lost but playing his own little game in his own little world. This is a world where bowling is taking place for the sake of itself, removed from the world in which the match is taking place. Obviously it has not been exactly that - it's not as if Amir hasn't bowled as the team has needed and the situation has demanded.

But there's been something introspective about it, something - not to get too high-falutin' about it - like an exercise in bowling solipsism. As if Amir has been working out what this Amir can and cannot do, what this Amir's limitations are, what this Amir's scope is, what modifications this Amir needs to make to still be successful, and then, as by-product, what this surface requires, what this match-up needs, what is the need of this hour.

He's been the quickest - and sometimes the only one in his attack - to work out the right lengths on every surface Pakistan have played on, and also the quickest to work out, in the absence of wickets, the right lengths at which he won't be hit. It has, it can't be denied, often felt like he's protecting his figures. But this is cricket, simultaneously an individual and team sport, and so just as with selfish runs, if he's protecting his figures, to a degree he's also protecting Pakistan's.

Maybe this has struck you in his celebration of his wickets. Oftentimes their exuberance has felt out of kilter with what's happening in the match. They've been private celebrations just being played out in public, and that has only heightened the sense that as much as he's bowling as part of an attack, he's also, like some child, messing around alone in the school's chemistry lab.

That's why those West Indies wickets were important to him, because after such a dry spell, after all the frustrations with himself, with the public reactions, he needed to work out a way to get wickets, to see if he even could anymore, no matter how they came, no matter the match situation.

Ball in hand is the one thing he has known all his life, tape ball and nothing else in it, hard ball and the entire world in it, the one thing he has known will see him through all his life, the one thing he lost briefly, but the one thing he knew would, could, never go, and the one thing that has returned. Different ball, different hand, sure, but there, still there, taking him to a world that awaits discovery.