Never say never. The saying holds true in cricket too. The cricketing fraternity decided to close the chapter on a few figures, thinking they would not appear on the main stage again. But looking at recent developments, it seems we might see them ‘perform’ soon.
Salman Butt doesn’t enjoy the unconditional support of fans. I am sure even he doesn’t expect it. Implicated and found guilty in the 2010 spot fixing scandal, the former Pakistan captain was handed a five-year ban for his role in the infamous Lord’s Test involving ‘agents’ and deliberate no-balls.
While Mohammad Amir, the other player along with Mohammad Asif who was caught in the probe, too served his sentence he received wider acceptance as the left-arm quick looked to make a comeback after his five-year ban on cricket ended.
Amir had accepted his guilt fairly early on and dutifully did everything he was asked to during his rehabilitation programme.
However, Butt continued to plead his innocence despite being found guilty. He didn’t accept his mistakes wholeheartedly the way Amir did to Mike Atherton during a tell-all interview in 2012. Butt admitted to his role in the fixing saga only in 2013.
However, that doesn’t mean Butt can’t play the game at the highest level again. Once Amir was allowed to return to the national team, it was only a matter of time before Butt was also given an opportunity. And it looks like he is very much in the mix.
Since his suspension was lifted last year, the 31-year-old Butt scored 536 runs in Pakistan’s National One-Day Cup at an average of more than 100 and finished as the second-highest run getter in the National T20 Cup with 350 runs in eight outings.
Indications are that Butt is being considered for selection. Pakistan have a testing season ahead which includes tours of New Zealand and Australia. They will need as much experience as they can in the batting department and Butt is someone with good international know-how.
So don’t be surprised if you see Amir and Butt playing together this season. You never know, even Asif might regain his touch and fight his way back into the team.
Also, be prepared for N Srinivasan’s return, even though he hasn’t exactly gone off the radar following his removal from the post of BCCI chief in the aftermath of the 2013 IPL betting and fixing scandal.
The BCCI is currently waging a battle on two fronts, first with the Supreme Court of India which is on a mission to completely change the administrative structure of the board and second with the International Cricket Council which is no longer laying out the red carpet for the world’s richest cricket board.
The BCCI feels marginalised, concerned over diminishing clout and an enforced changes to its system. So the once ostracised Srinivasan is suddenly looking like a possible saviour in this hour of need.
There were reports of Srinivasan being made India’s representative to the ICC to ensure the country’s concerns over financial and administrative matters are addressed.
While that idea has been shelved for now, there is no doubt Srinivasan is no longer an outcast in Indian cricket. He recently organised a hugely successful Tamil Nadu Premier League and there is every chance of the 71 year old making a meaningful return to the BCCI power circles, or at least be accepted in the group again.
Srinivasan didn’t commit a crime, the way Butt and Co did. But at the time of his ouster, it seemed like the end of the road for Srinivasan in cricket administration. But he got elected, unopposed, as president of his state association of Tamil Nadu this year and it seems there are many more innings left in him.
VIRAT LOSING HIS EDGE?
India Test captain Virat Kohli recently scored a double century against the West Indies in Antigua. That knock released some of the pressure that had been building on Kohli in Tests for a few matches. In his last 10 innings, Virat has one century and one fifty. His five Test scores after the double ton read 18, 9, 4, 3, 44.
Also, his mode of dismissals are beginning to raise a few eyebrows. He was undone by short delivery and an inswinger in the third Test in the West Indies, and by a bouncer and a lose sweep shot in the first match against New Zealand in Kanpur.
While Kohli is miles ahead when it comes to limited overs cricket, his contemporaries have a much better Test record.
England ace Joe Root averages nearly 55 from 46 Tests, Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson 51 from 52 and Aussie captain Steven Smith nearly 59 from 44 matches. Kohli’s average of 45 doesn’t look that inspiring.
And the road ahead is tough. The pitches in India have been difficult to bat on of late and with a five-Test home series against England scheduled for the end of the year, Kohli will need to raise his game.
His sparkling form in white-ball cricket can’t forever make up for any shortfall in the longest format.
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