With his chances of selection to the national team not on the horizon, former Pakistan captain Salman Butt has withdrawn from the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, starting tomorrow, to explore a future in a non-playing role in the game. The PCB has offered him a commentator’s role for the broadcast of the first-class tournament, and he will start from the fourth round, scheduled to begin on November 20. He remains available for white-ball cricket for the time being.
“I understand that I don’t have a future with Pakistan,” Butt told ESPNcricinfo. “I played cricket with distinction and have scored heavily since my return. There has been a purpose to re-earn a place [in the national side] and the context of my performance is to play for the national team. This year, I questioned myself: ‘What I am doing, why I am playing? What is the purpose if I play yet another season?’ I gave a serious thought and realistically I know they are not going to pick me. So I (would) rather explore something where I can contribute and excel to make a difference.
“It’s tough to leave cricket and this is something nobody really prepared for, but then I am not going to play cricket forever. I always thought I will leave the day when I am a burden on the dressing room. There is a time when you eventually have to call off and let someone else take your place. I met with Nadeem Khan [PCB director of high performance] and he gave me some very good career advice, so I am withdrawing myself from the [Central Punjab] squad and taking up a commentary role for Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.”
Khan confirmed the meeting with Butt. “Salman is a good cricket mind and he came to me to talk about his uncertain career,” Khan told ESPNcricinfo. “We have an objective to create an opportunity for the cricketer post-retirement. We want to set a clear pathway so that players do no feel insecure after leaving cricket or after being left out.
“I want to make sure that there is a clear career line and we have a smooth transition for cricketers making their way into a non-playing role. The creation of these opportunities is in line with the PCB’s strategic decision to increase the involvement of former players in domestic cricket and to train and develop the local talent. There had been a dearth of referees, umpires, coaches, curators as there was a big generation gap and we want cricketers from the modern age in the system.”
Butt is 36, and was reintegrated into the system in Pakistan in January 2016 after serving a five-year ban for his part in a spot-fixing scandal of 2010. He marked his return with a century in the National One-Day Cup, and went on to finish the tournament as its second-highest run-getter, with 536 runs at an average of 107.20. He then led his first-class team, Water and Power Development Authority, to the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy title, scoring twin hundreds in the final to finish the season with 741 runs at 49.40. He was also the second-highest run-getter in the National T20 Cup in 2018, with 350 runs at 70.00. Since his return, he averaged 51.28 in T20 cricket for Lahore Whites, and had the best T20 batting average of 52.10 behind Babar Azam’s 54.58, but a poor strike rate of 112.37. He was also fifth in the run-getters’ list in List A games with 2373 runs at 50.48.
His selection to the national team had been discussed several times in the last four years, but the PCB has been cautious on the matter because of Butt’s past. His consistent domestic performances had impressed Pakistan’s previous head coach Waqar Younis and former captain Misbah-ul-Haq, and the lack of stability in the opening combination, especially in Test cricket, had ensured the topic remained relevant. He came close in 2017 for the West Indies tour, with Shaharyar Khan, the PCB chairman at the time, publicly clearing his selection. But following the revelations of spot-fixing in the PSL the same year [though Butt wasn’t connected], the climate changed. The selectors chose to wait, and a year later, they decided to look beyond Butt and try out younger prospects.