With left-arm quick Mohammad Amir back in the Pakistan team after serving his five-year ban, a ray of hope has been provided to the other two players involved in the infamous 2010 spot-fixing scandal – opening batsman Salman Butt and right arm seamer Mohammad Asif – who are also looking to return to the international fold.
The reintegration process has ben far from smooth with critics in Pakistan and across the world questioning the rationale of giving a second chance to players who have sullied the image of cricket.
Despite divided opinions, left-arm fast bowler Amir was the first to gain the selectors’ confidence after the sanctions imposed on the three players by the International Cricket Council expired in September
There were suggestions that Amir should be limited to playing domestic cricket and various T20 leagues across the world but Pakistan’s establishment gave him his full backing, even ignoring vehement protests from current team members like Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez.
Amir is now back in the team and even took a wicket on his return against New Zealand in the first T20 Down Under.
With the 23-year-old pacer well and truly in the national team mix, Butt and Asif are hoping to return to the side on the back of strong performances at domestic level.
And former skipper Butt is making the most of his opportunity, having scored a century on his return as he made 135 while playing for Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) in the domestic National One-Day Cup.
The left-handed batsman followed it up with an unbeaten 99 against Karachi Whites to take his tally to 234 at an average of 167.
The comeback process is expected to be a lot tougher for Butt as he was the captain at the time the scandal broke.
Sport360 caught up with Butt to know how is he planning to change opinions about him, what was going through his mind as he returned to the playing field and his plans for the future.
Q You look in great form with 234 runs in two outings in National One-Day Cup. Is that the frustration of missing out on five years of cricket coming out?
A No, no there is nothing like I’m trying to vent out my frustration. I’m not frustrated at all but I’m really focused on my cricket now as I want to make up for the lost time. As a cricketer, you want to go out and enjoy yourself on the field and that is what I’m trying to do in my career’s second innings.
Your performances on your comeback have been quite amazing. Were you expecting to do so well?
When I was about to resume my domestic career, I talked to myself and said that it is time for me to show that I still have got the runs in me. But even I wasn’t expecting to have such an outstanding run with the bat upfront. It’s the hunger to score runs that is propelling me right now.
Suddenly everyone is talking about Salman Butt and chances of his return to the national team. How do you see it?
I don’t want to think about it now and want to leave it to the selectors to decide. As a player you want to play for your national team because there is nothing bigger than that. For me, the difficult time is behind me and all I want to do is to focus on my game. I want to score as many runs as I can and then leave it to the selectors.
Reintegration into domestic cricket is the first phase for you. How have your WAPDA team-mates reacted?
To be honest, I have been able to score so freely because of the support of the management and the team-mates. There were initial nerves when I joined the side for the first-class season but as time has passed, all of them have only helped me adjust.
They have been really welcoming and provided the space for me to flourish in the ongoing competition, so a big thank you to all of them.
Are there any goals which you have set for yourself?
I have set some goals as to how I’ll reshape my career and I am continuously looking into it whether I’m meeting them or not. I’m writing down things to check what I am doing wrong and what I am doing right. I want to re-emerge not only as a good cricketer but a better human being as well so all these things are important for me, whether I’m ticking the boxes or not.
Five years is a long time and you automatically see changes in your game. How it is going for you right now in terms of your batting and technique?
It’s true that with time, things changes with your game. I’m assessing my innings in detail to see what changes have come into my batting.
Once I’m dismissed, I sit down with an analyst and see what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong, the changes that have come in and the changes I need to make. I write all of it down in my diary and then
try to move forward with the things required to improve.
It will be a challenge to win back the hearts of people, be it supporters or critics. How do you plan to do it?
It is a transition phase for me and I want to prove myself and become acceptable to my fans, team-mates and the nation.
Whatever happened five years ago is in the past now. To me it’s all about cricket, cricket and cricket moving forward. Hopefully, I will be able to win back the hearts by emerging as a good cricketer and a better human being above all.
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