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. A sting instigated by the News of the World led to a ten-year ban by the ICC, before on November 1, he was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Until his downfall, Butt drew comparisons with the legendary Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar, because he is left-handed and possessed of some supple wrists, His drives and cuts through the arc between extra cover and backward point were inevitably flicked, often scooped and it was a high-scoring region. He didn’t mind pulling either and off his toes, he was efficient rather than whippy as Anwar was. Further, like Anwar, Butt’s footwork didn’t really hold him back. But in attitude and temperament Butt was more Anwar’s long-time partner, Aamir Sohail.
He had a confident air about him, a spikiness and is one of the few younger players confident when speaking English. His breakthrough period was the winter of 2004, where he first scored an ODI century against India at Eden Gardens and then went further by scoring a fifty and a maiden Test century in Sydney later in the year. For most of 2005, he failed to build on that and despite another ODI century, also against India, doubts about his defensive technique and overt dash crept in, resulting in him dropping in and out of the team. But against England to end the year, he responded to criticism by unveiling a startling restraint and change of tempo, hitting a century and two fifties in the Tests, each innings commendably restrained. Though his consistency isn’t up to the mark, he still remains a vital member of the Test team. Following the disastrous tour of Australia in 2009-10, where senior players were slapped with serious punishments by the PCB, Butt came through unharmed and was given the vice- captaincy for the Asia Cup and England tour in 2010.
He had made impressive strides at age-level matches before making his Test debut against Bangladesh in 2003-04, playing in the Under-19 World Cup and touring South Africa with Pakistan’s Academy team, smashing 233 against the South African Academy side. His strokeplay has never been in doubt and he is capable of providing electrifying starts when needed but with the tightening of his defense, Butt could be one half of the opening conundrum that has so haunted Pakistan since…well, Anwar and Sohail left the scene.
2010 became a significant year for him as he finally cemented his place in all three formats and eventually succeeded Shahid Afridi as Test captain. But after winning much praise for his leadership on and off the field – and leading Pakistan to Test wins against Australia and England – his career was rocked by charges of involvement in spot-fixing and, in February 2011, he was handed a ten-year ban (with five years suspended) by the ICC. He was then tried at the Southwark Crown Court in London in October, and found guilty of cheating and accepting corrupt payments on November 1.