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Spotlight: Salman Butt

Pakistan cricket team vice-captain and opening batsman Salman Butt is known for his delicate wristwork. One could compare his batting style with Saeed Anwar, one of the greatest batsmen the world has ever seen.

Like Saeed, Salman also loves to cut and drive the ball through backward-point and extra-cover regions. When a few months ago, Salman Butt was named vice captain of the national team, it whipped up a lot of debate, because prior to that, he was not even a regular member of the side.

Salman’s batting abilities were first noticed in 2003 after he had played some impressive innings during junior level matches, representing the country in the Under-19 World Cup and touring South Africa with the Pakistan academy team.

Salman -- who has now played 26 Tests scoring 777 runs and 36 ODIs scoring 1072 runs -- enjoyed a good season in 2004 after making his Test debut in 2003 against Bangladesh. The very next year he disappeared from the international scene owing to some lacklustre performances.

He staged his comeback in the team for a three-match off-shore series against the World Cup-2007 finalist, Sri Lanka, in Abu Dhabi in April this year. Soon after the series he was appointed Shoaib Malik’s deputy in place of Mohammad Asif.

Salman made his Test debut in one of the historic matches involving Pakistan and Bangladesh in Multan in 2003. It was the match in which Inzamamul Haq saved Pakistan by a whisker by winning the Test with an unbeaten century (138).

Salman Butt is passionate about cricket. He has a small circle of friends. It may surprise his fans, but Salman is neither fond of listening to music nor is he into watching films, simply because he doesn’t have much time for leisure activities.

"I have four or five friends. Some are playing league cricket in England and others are studying. All of us are busy all the time, so we rarely meet each other. I love to spend my time at home with my mother, wife and two sisters.

"I do watch TV plays and other shows whenever I have time, but I seldom have time to watch movies. Out of the very few movies that I have seen was one that our late coach, Bob Woolmer wanted the team to see.

The film was Remember the Titanic which conveys the impressive message about how you can fight against all odds if you have unity in your ranks,” Salman says. He believes the movie served Woolmer's purpose to a large extent as by that time (2005) the Pakistan team had transformed into a well-knit unit.

"I remember after watching the film, Woolmer's first lesson to the boys was about the true meaning of the word ‘team’. Woolmer said T stood for together, E for each, A for achievements and M for more. We managed to win quite a few series in 2005, but the following year was bad for us as we faced doping charges (involving Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif), forfeited the Oval Test, faced a penalty-run for tampering with the ball etc."

About music Salman says, "I do get time for listening to music but only during long drives or when I’m feeling bored."

Salman Butt comes from an educated background. He understands the importance of a good education for any sportsman. "I did my O Levels from a renowned school and then passed the intermediate examinations as an external candidate. Now I want to obtain a bachelors’ degree.”

Salman Butt believes that if he’s vice-captain of the cricket team, it’s because of the fact that he’s a Pakistani. He’s indebted to his country.

"I’m aware that after the World Cup 2007, people were coming up with the suggestion that I should be made captain of the side replacing Inzamamul Haq. Inzi no doubt is one of the greatest batsmen the world has ever seen. But posts don’t matter. Whoever becomes captain of the side should thank his country first and then think of anything else.

"I remember once someone said to Wasim Akram that if he had not been in the team Pakistan could not have won the World Cup (1992). Wasim replied that it was all because of Pakistan that the team had won, because he wasn’t born as Wasim Akram the great fast bowler, but the country gave him the name and the status."

Salman doesn’t seem to be particularly bothered about the selection process. However, he has an opinion on the selection procedure and media.

"A match-winner can be dropped from the playing XI but he should not be thrown out of the dressing room if he has not performed up to scratch. He may stage a comeback at any time; but when you separate him from the Pakistan team, to go and play at a lower level, it affects his morale.

He must be a part of the team and given a chance appropriately. And if he again fails to deliver then he must be shown the door. The Australians kept Mathew Hayden in their side despite the fact that he was not in the playing XI for a whole year. India treated their all-rounder Yuvraj Singh in the same way.

"I think a match-winning player needs the support of the national press when he is passing through a bad patch. When you strike a purple patch, the support comes from every corner. I have made a comeback after struggling for one-and-a-half year. I learned a lot during that period and realised it is not easy to deal with exclusion."

Salman's favourite cricketers are those who have the ability to change the complexion of the match any time.

"As a cricketer I always admire those who can turn the match on its head. I learn from them. Among such players are Inzamamul Haq, Ricky Ponting, Micheal Hussey, Mathew Hayden and Yuvraj Singh."

But Salman's role model is the legendary Imran Khan. "As a cricketer and a human being Imran's services to Pakistan cricket and to humanity are exemplary.”

Contrary to what people think, Salman, being junior to many members of the current Pakistan team, does not face problems while dealing with senior colleagues, especially Shoaib Akhtar.

"I have great respect for all seniors and that includes Shoaib Akhtar. In fact, Shoaib is always ready to help his juniors. Whenever I want help I walk up to him and he is always there to give advice."

About Pakistan's prospect in the forthcoming Twenty20 World Cup, Salman appears to be quite realistic.

"Yes we have failed to perform up to scratch in the last two major ICC events (the Champions Trophy and the World Cup). Therefore, we have to prove ourselves as one of the better international teams in the Twenty20 Cup. We will try our best, but no one can guarantee victory. The boys are eager to succeed.

About the new Pakistan coach, Geoff Lawson, Salman says, “Though I have not interacted much with Geoff, I believe the PCB’s think-tank must have picked him for solid reasons and hope the team will do well with him.”

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