Salman Butt has done his time. By all accounts he is free to play the game, domestically or internationally. In fact, he has been piling up the runs in the domestic circuit, proving a valuable asset to WAPDA.
His run of form almost earned him a nearly earned him a call up for Pakistan’s tour of West Indies back in May 2017. With Younis Khan and Misbah ul Haq about to embark on their last hurrah, Salman Butt would be a solid batsman to have out in the middle.
The selector’s nod and whispered rumours never came to fruition, however, because the board felt Butt would be too much of a liability on the tour and for the team. Of course, back when his name was first under consideration, the board had been painfully aware of the baggage Butt carried with him. What tipped the scales against him in the end was the spot fixing scandal that had hit the PSL a few months ago on the shape of Islamabad United batsman Sharjeel Khan and pacer Mohammad Irfan. Both men are yet to play for Pakistan again.
The PSL was still young when that scandal hit – it reared its ugly head after the first game of the third edition. The PSL still is young, even though it may have made itself integral to Pakistan cricket. Accepting Salman Butt back in 2017 would have been hurtful to Pakistan cricket. Accepting him now still will be.
Yet it is the very league that made any chance of an international comeback – and redemption – impossible for Salman Butt, is where he will get his biggest break since the catastrophe of 2010. The imagery of him joining Lahore Qalandars will not bring up particularly good memories, even though there might be many to pick form.
When one thinks of Salman Butt, they wish to think of the stylish left arm batsman compared to Saeed Anwar in hushed tones. One wishes to think of him scoring a century against India in Eden Gardens, or a maiden test ton against Australia in Sydney. Or even the early days of his captaincy, when Pakistan beat Australia in London or almost beat Australia in Australia.
Yet for all the good, Salman Butt’s career will forever be associated with the events at Lord’s in August 2010, when – as Pakistan captain – he was implicated along with his new-ball bowlers Mohammad Asif and Amir in a betting scam involving the deliberate bowling of no-balls.
Sure, he has done his time. Why should anyone stop him? But him stepping out in the field again will get people talking. And what of how he interacts with his fellow players? What of when Lahore faces of against Karachi and Mohammad Amir bowls to him? Or when Misbah ul Haq, the man that picked up the pieces from the mess he created, face off against him? It will be a challenge for Butt – one requiring super human will. But it will also be an ugly image. He does not have the innocence of youth that Amir had or the bad boy charisma of Asif. He just has the added guilt of being the ring leader. And just his presence will, even if for the briefest of moments, bring back to life the memory of that tumultuous October.