Stephen Brenkley: After offering glimpse of new era for his team, Butt leaves an acute sense of betrayal
In a way this ugly episode was good for Pakistan cricket, a harsh wake-up call
In the 15 months since Salman Butt was nabbed, in the four days since he was convicted it is still bewildering. That he betrayed his position, his team and probably his countrymen is now beyond doubt. His lawyers are considering an appeal against his sentence, of 30 months, but not his conviction for Butt's instrumental part in the match rigging at Lord's in August last year.
Yet for more than a month in the summer of 2010, lest it be forgotten, Butt was treated with unqualified reverence. He had hardened reporters, well accustomed to the superficial duplicities of the press briefing, eating from the palm of his hand.
It is not stretching the point much to suggest that he was viewed as a messianic figure. This, it was openly and repeatedly discussed, was the man to lead Pakistan cricket out of the wilderness and into the promised land.
Butt had assumed the captaincy in July after the shambolic, if brief, era of Shahid Afridi, a model of passionate indiscipline. Immediately, there was an air of charm and calm, as if Butt had been waiting for this moment.
From mid-July to late August, he played it just right and it helped no end that he was fluent in English. He regularly talked of the people at home who were deprived of international cricket because of the unstable state of the country and of the suffering of compatriots in the recent earthquake, into whose lives it was important to bring some joy.
When he won his first match in charge, the second of the neutral Tests against Australia, following Afridi's ignominious exit, there was an outpouring of elation. "This means a lot, it's a new beginning for Pakistan cricket, especially with this young side," he said.
By the time the matches against England came round he was rhapsodising lyrically. On the first morning at Edgbaston, scene of the second Test, he was asked again about his team since they had been crushed in the first match of the series.
He had become poetic by now and when he surveyed the ground his hand swept across the building site that Edgbaston then was. He said that, like his team, it was in the throes of rebuilding but that one day his team, like this great stadium, would be magnificent again. What a statesman, what a leader he seemed then.
The subsequent fall from grace, not long in coming, was compounded by this. Maybe 'twas ever thus. The more disappointed you feel in somebody once held in regard, say a Prime Minister who took a nation to war, the greater the opprobrium it is tempting to heap.
Butt had charisma and approachability, no doubt about it. He first came to England's attention in late 2005 when he played a key role in Pakistan's improbable victory in Multan, England's first Test after their great Ashes triumph of the summer before.
He made 74 and 122, being bizarrely caught in the first innings after his edged drive hit Marcus Trescothick on his cap at slip and rebounded to Geraint Jones. The previous winter he had impressed no less a personage than Adam Gilchrist, who stood behind him for long enough as Australia's wicketkeeper when Butt made a hundred in Sydney.
Butter would not have melted in his mouth then as he discussed opportunities in and out of the subcontinent. He was 23 and talked of the swift rise then of Kevin Pietersen in England and Michael Clarke in Australia: "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 it is different." It is possible now to wonder precisely to what he was referring.
Wow - what a weekend for British Motorcycle racing!
by Luke Wilkins
22 May 2013 05:00 AM
The dust is barely settling on the Premier League season and the bookies are looking to persuade us ...
by Gareth Purnell
22 May 2013 02:01 AM
The guard has changed at Old Trafford for the first time in 26 years. Meanwhile, down the road, the ...
by The Sports Lawyer
21 May 2013 10:01 PM
- 1 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Bloody attack brings terror to capital’s streets
- 2 Mothers' diets may harm IQs in two-thirds of babies
- 4 Eyewitness gives extraordinary account of her confrontation with Woolwich attackers
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.