Arif Butt, the former Pakistan fast-medium bowler, has died at the age of 63 in Lahore. Butt was suffering from a number of heart and lung-related ailments stemming from diabetes. He had been in hospital for the last month.
Butt played only three Tests for Pakistan, though many felt he should have played many more, especially after one of the most impressive debut Test performances for Pakistan. As a lanky 19-year-old, Butt took 6 for 89 on his first appearance against Australia in a one-off Test at the MCG in 1964-65.
He was a handy lower-order batsman as well, as a first-class career average of 29, four hundreds and over 4000 runs testifies. In the second innings of his debut Test, he was considered good enough to open, replacing the injured wicketkeeper regular, Abdul Kadir, and he hung around for nearly an hour. In what proved to be his last Test, he made his highest Test score of 20, helping Intikhab Alam add 52 valuable runs for the ninth wicket in a low-scoring, tense draw.
It was primarily for his bowling, however, that he was known, possessing a good bouncer and an acclaimed leg-cutter. Along with his height and stamina, those traits enabled him to pick up 14 wickets in his first two Tests, including six wickets in his second Test against New Zealand.
To many people's surprise he never played for Pakistan again after that tour Down Under, more so because Pakistan were struggling to find a decent new-ball pair at the time. On that tour, Butt was often opening the bowling with the less than threatening Asif Iqbal.
A couple of Tests later, Pakistan's new-ball attack was shared by Asif and Majid Khan. On the 1967 tour of England, when Saleem Altaf was often the only recognised fast bowler, Butt's non-selection in conditions ideal for him was widely questioned. It was often suggested that his poor fielding skills and his temperament went against him.
The snub didn't prevent an accomplished first-class career. He began his career playing for the Friends Cricket Club of Lahore, under the watchful guidance of his uncle, Khawaja Abdur Rab, a famous coach. He joined Pakistan Railways, where his father worked, soon after and stayed with them for 16 years.
His maiden century came in a losing cause against Karachi in the 1966-67 Quaid-e-Azam trophy final but his greatest season came seven years later, when, as captain, he led his side to the Patrons Trophy and the Quaid-e-Azam trophy, often opening the batting and the bowling. He took 6 for 55 against Sindh in the Quaid final and ended the season with 718 runs (including a career-best 180 as opener) and 48 wickets from 12 matches. Though he played on till 1977-78, the early 70s remain his best first-class years.