'All I want to do is bat' - Salman Butt
www.mag4you.netPakistan have tried a number of openers in the last few years, but in Salman Butt they might have found a long-term solution. Nagraj Gollapudi speaks to him in this interview, which first appeared in the April issue of Wisden Asia Cricket.
How have you dealt with the recognition that has come after your batting feats?
It feels great. However, the expectations and the pressure build up at a high rate; but that's the way it works at this level and the best way to deal with it is to work hard. Life definitely has changed after those centuries against India and Australia. And I thank God for the recognition I am getting today.
Are you religious?
Of course, we are Muslims and we believe in Allah. We do whatever Islam says and we try to be what we are supposed to be. Religion is the complete code of life and we follow its guiding principles.
Have you got over the duck on your ODI debut [in the ICC Champions Trophy, 2004, against West Indies]?
It just takes one ball to get any batsman – a Viv Richards or a small fish like me. Yes, I will never forget that moment. I was so depressed and disappointed.
How did you pick up cricket?
Cricket comes as a natural passion to me. Nobody taught me from a book that there is a game called cricket and it's played like this. When I was growing up only cricket caught my attention. And then playing in the streets, and playing at home, breaking mirrors and tube-lights – that was the build-up.
How much of a part did mohalla cricket play in your game?
Initially I wasn't allowed to play because I was too young; then when I finally started playing I kept batting without getting out. So they put down a condition that if I wanted to play I had to bat last. My aim always was to carry on batting and to play freely. That's what I still want to do.
Has your last name been a topic of jokes?
I've been fortunate enough not to have heard even one about it so far.
What's the last cricket book you read?
I got this book as a gift, called Portraits of the Game, by Shyam Bhatia. I am not much of a reader. Growing up, I would always pick up books that had scorecards and records of past players and games. By reading about the experience of cricketers, one feels motivated to go as far as they did, but one has to walk in to get either a zero or a hundred. I would say cricket is 99 per cent hard work and one per cent natural talent.
What have been your most memorable cricket moments so far?
There are two: the first one was the century I got against India in the BCCI Platinum Jubilee one-dayer at Eden Gardens in 2004, which helped us win. And the second was performing well against Australia in Australia.
We saw you play your shots even as you closed in on your hundred in the Sydney Test. Was that a conscious effort?
In the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne I got out on 70 in the first innings. Before getting out I defended and defended well, but they bowled such a good line. The conditions were not like they are on subcontinent wickets, where we play can our shots with the feet nowhere near the bat, and the Australians took advantage of that weakness. So I decided that I would go for my shots if the ball was there to be hit. And at the SCG, I did just that. And I learnt one thing: if you play against Australia, it's better to go at them than to depend on their mistakes because they don't make many. So when Shane Warne bowled a loose delivery, I pulled it. It was mistimed but fortunately it fell just short of Glenn McGrath. I was so relieved that he had not caught it, and celebrated wildly.
Any Australian kudos that you remember?
Adam Gilchrist wrote in his newspaper column that my innings showed that I was on my way to filling in the shoes of someone like Saeed Anwar. That was a very big compliment for me because Anwar was a great, great player and he was my idol along with Aamer Sohail.
You said about your dismissal in the first innings of the Mohali Test that "your feet got stuck in the toilet". What did that mean?
That's just a phrase we use. There are times when we play a shot and our feet are not in position or we get stuck. The hand-eye coordination is there, but the body
is stiff and the legs don't support you. At such times Bob Woolmer will call out: "Where are your feet? In the toilet?"
Youngsters like Michael Clarke and Kevin Pietersen have straightaway hit the big time in their first season. What do you think as a rookie yourself?
They have been brought up in a different environment with different facilities and back-up to support them. Their options are vast, while in the subcontinent the case is different.
You saw Clarke during the series in Australia. What did you think of him?
The one thing about him was his fielding. Rarely would he not hit the stumps when there was a chance. Then there was his aggressive batting style. So those are things that I observed and told myself that I could work more on.
Any mistakes you've made?
I've made a lot of mistakes. Obviously, it's not a school ... koi kaan nahin khenchega yahan (Nobody will twist your ears). I've to learn by myself and occasionally knock on the doors of seniors and learn from them.
He is so cute! read the bolded part!...he is so real!!
Major Teams: Lahore Cricket Association; Lahore City Cricket Association; Lahore, Pakistan.
Batting Style: Left Hand Bat
Test Debut: Pakistan Vs Bangladesh at Multan, 3rd Test, 2003
ODI Debut: Pakistan Vs West Indies at Southampton, ICC Champions Trophy, 2004
Latest Test: Pakistan Vs India, 1st Test at Mohali, 2004/05
Latest ODI: Pakistan Vs India, 6th ODI at Delhi, 2004/05
By Muhammad Fawad Hussain
Ever since making his international debut with a home Test against minnows, Bangladesh in Multan in 2003, Salman Butt has attracted both praise and criticism in equal measure. This orthodox left-handed opener has been compared with the great Saeed Anwar and at the same time rejected by many as too flashy a player to survive the cutthroat world of international cricket.
Not too worried, Salman continues to do what he does best: play cricket from the heart.
"I try to give my best every time I play for Pakistan. There may be some weaknesses in me but I am confident of improving with every match," assures the Lahore-born youngster who was the star of Pakistan's emphatic victory over India in the third One-Day International of the Indo-Pak series in Jamshedpur. Salman hit a stylish century to help Pakistan bounce back in the game after two consecutive defeats against India.
It was in stark contrast to Butt's failure in the Test series that preceded the ODI competition. He went to India after quite a successful tour of Australia where he scored a brilliant century against the Aussies, currently the world's number one team. However, he was unable to repeat that golden show in the Test series in India and was dropped for the last two Tests in Kolkata and Bangalore.
Apart from a century (108) against Australia, the start to Salman's Test career is far from impressive. He has played five matches and has scored 284 runs at an average of around 28. But you can't judge a batsman's class from that few a number of matches. Salman certainly needs more opportunities since he has the potential to help Pakistan overcome their openers' problem both in Tests and ODIs.
Though Salman played his first Test in 2003 and first ODI in 2004 against the West Indies at Southampton (England) in the ICC Champions Trophy, international cricket is nothing new for him.
Before getting a call to join Pakistan's Test team against Bangladesh in 2003, Salman had played for Pakistan in the Under-19 World Cup. On a tour of South Africa with the Pakistan Academy side, he impressed by scoring a blistering 233 against the South African Academy team. His prolific showing at the junior level forced the national selectors to notice him and the rest as they say is history. The 21-year-old has proved himself as a good ODI batsman but a big question mark remains over his ability to play consistently in Tests. He has the strokes but lacks the sort of defence that has made players like Inzimamul Haq, Sachin Tendular and Rahul Dravid great batsmen. "It was my greatest desire to play for Pakistan at the international level," says Salman. "Now that I have achieved it with the grace of Allah, my next target is to help my team win matches in the future," says the talented youngster.
It would be great for the Pakistani cricket team and millions of its fans if he really achieves his goal.
M I NO Runs HS Ave SR 100 50 Ct St
5 10 0 284 108 28.40 59.91 1 1 2 0
M I NO Runs HS Ave SR 100 50 Ct St
17 17 1 574 108* 35.87 75.13 2 2 4 0
M: Matches, I: Innings, NO: Not Out, HS: Highest Score, Ave: Average, Ct: Catches, St: Stumped
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