That long and graceful left arm that made a teenage sports star of Mohammad Amir won't be of much use in prison. Behind bars, his rare ability to hurl a cricket ball with the ferocity of a catapult, to make it swing and spin hypnotically and dangerously through the air and to ground it with smart-bomb precision time after time will go to waste.
Rightly so, given his crimes to cricket.
But tragic, nonetheless.
For fixing, for his stupidity, for murdering the trust of sports fans, for sullying a game that has such a rich history, Amir deserved his sentence of six months' detention in a lockup for young offenders. Some of his cricketing betters suggested he got off lightly. Allowing Amir to walk free from London's Southwark Crown Court after he deliberately bowled badly for money would have sent a message that fixing isn't such a big deal. In imprisoning Amir, the judge sought to deter other cricketers from the boa-like clutch of fixers and the gambling mafias they work with.
Having said all that, of the three Pakistan players in this painful but much-needed trial, Amir was the only one it was possible to feel a modicum of sympathy for.
That is not because he looked vulnerable, lost and sad like a Justin Bieber fan without a concert ticket, hiding his face behind his long dark hair. Rather, it's because only Amir seemed genuinely sorry for the hurt he caused to the game he claimed to love.
Salman Butt, who was Amir's captain and should have protected him, not helped lead him astray, and fellow bowler Mohammad Asif have no excuses. They were older than Amir. They should have been wiser. The judge sent Butt to jail for 2 1/2 years and Asif for one year. Both will be in their thirties when their bans from cricket end, so hopefully we'll never see them on a pitch again.
I've previously written that Amir also should never be allowed to resume professional cricket. But, post-trial, I'm no longer so sure. Like former West Indian bowler Michael Holding, who wrote to the judge in defense of Amir's cricketing talent, I think it would be a great waste if he never played again and that, sometimes but not always, people deserve second chances.
Amir was barely a man, just 18, when he clumsily but intentionally bowled two no-balls to order against England in 2010 on the hallowed wicket at Lord's, cricket's home, as part of a fix.
Youth doesn't excuse criminality but it does mean Amir had less experience of life's pitfalls and, therefore, perhaps less well-built defenses to prevent him from making the horrendous mistakes he'll regret for a long, long time.
"You come from a village background where life has been hard," presiding Judge Jeremy Cooke said in his sentencing remarks. "Compared with others, you were unsophisticated, uneducated and impressionable."
The youngest of seven children, Amir hails from a village about an hour's drive from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. His father worked as a watchman at a government school, his mother has no job. The family lived in a small two-room house. This information from Asif Bajwa, who enrolled Amir in his cricket school at age 11. Bajwa recalled Thursday that the poor kid owned just "one blanket, one pajama and a T-shirt."
Amir grew up playing cricket with "tape-balls" _ tennis balls wrapped tightly with insulating tape. The first time Bajwa handed him a real cricket ball, he says Amir's response was: "What is this? Why is it stitched?"
But his natural talent shone through. Bajwa says Amir was a quick student of the art of swing bowling and "pinpoint accurate." He once took nine wickets for just 11 runs at a 2006 schoolboys' tournament. Within four years, he had become arguably cricket's hottest property and test cricket's most lethal 18-year-old bowler. On Pakistan's 2010 tour of England, Amir became the youngest cricketer to take 50 test wickets and youngest to make it on to the Lord's honors board, a status reserved for those who take five wickets or score a century at the ground.
Yet, for perhaps as little as 1,500 pounds (US $2,400) of fix-money the judge said Amir was caught with, he sold his good name and bright future. At 19, he is young enough to return to cricket after serving his jail sentence and his 5-year ban from cricket's administrators. But it seems easier for fixers to corrupt cricketers than it will be for Amir to rebuild his reputation.
"The moment Amir bowled that huge front-foot no-ball I told myself 'There's something fishy,'" Bajwa recalled.
Judge Cooke blamed Butt for involving Amir in the fix. He said it would have been hard for the "impressionable youngster" who'd only been in the national team for little over a year to refuse his captain, "especially when told there was money in it for him and this was part of the common culture."
It is easy to imagine, as Amir suggested to the court, that the teenager feared his career would suffer if refused to join the scam. Amir also told the court of threats to himself and his family, although he kept details to himself, the judge said.
Whether cricket can ever forgive Amir will largely depend on him and his behavior going forward. He had better hope and ensure that his name never comes up in any follow-up probe that flows from this trial. But no matter how many times he apologizes, he will never be seen the same way again.
With his abilities and good looks, cricket was Amir's to take. Instead, he took dirty money. Those two bought and paid-for no-balls will forever be his ball and chain.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at twitter.com/johnleicester.
AP Sports Writer Rizwan Ali in Islamabad contributed to this column.