SYDNEY - Pakistan's M Aamir admits he almost gave up cricket after being hit with a five-year ban for spot-fixing, but the paceman is now fired up to take wickets and repair his reputation. The left-arm quick, along with new-ball partner M Asif and then-captain Salman Butt, was banned for delivering pre-arranged no-balls in return for money during the Lord's Test against England in 2010.

The International Cricket Council relaxed his penalty in January after the Pakistan Cricket Board requested he be allowed to play domestic cricket before the ban officially expires in September. "I must admit I have been given a new life," Aamir said on the Cricket Australia website Wednesday. "I will try my best to avail this opportunity. I am ready to put in the hard yards to serve Pakistan."

Since the ban was relaxed Aamir has been playing in the Patron's Trophy in Pakistan, which is one level below first-class, and has been taking wickets. His manager Syed Noman Nazir told the website teams were trying to lure him to play in Australia's Big Bash League, but Aamir's "preference will be to feature in Pakistan's first-class tournament starting this September".

Aamir said he is aiming for a gradual return to international cricket, but only after regaining his full rhythm. There have been suggestions he is focusing on a place in the Pakistan Test side for a potential series to be played against India in the UAE in December. "I am extremely pleased to see the crowd and fans supporting me after the comeback. It really is huge force of motivation for me," he said. "They have lot of expectations from me. Now it is my responsibility to not let them down."

During his long hiatus, Aamir admitted that he thought about giving up cricket but his coach Asif Bajwa convinced him to stay focused on the game. "I don't have words to explain how tough last four years were for me. It is not easy when your bread and butter is stopped and you have no other income," he said. "I was in a situation that I wasn't even allowed to touch a ball. It was really difficult. To be honest, yes, there were a few moments when I had lost hope, when I couldn't see anything coming my way."

Now he is in the groove again, Aamer said his immediate task was to improve his fitness and retrieve his reputation -- but he admitted not everyone would be happy to see him back. "No doubt I will have detractors," he said. "Everyone has own way of thinking. As a cricketer my job is to perform on the field." At the time of his ban, Aamir was one of the best bowlers in international cricket, having taken 51 wickets in Tests, 25 in one-day internationals and 23 in Twenty20 matches.