Pakistan cricket lost one of its most controversial, colourful and strong administrators when the indomitable Ijaz Butt passed away in his hometown, Lahore, due to health issues. The history of Pakistan cricket will remain incomplete without discussing the tenure of Butt, who passed away on Wednesday, aged 85. He played eight Tests for Pakistan and held several key administrative positions. From being a member of the 1987 Reliance World Cup organising committee to a four-year tenure as secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board in the 80s to managing the senior team and finally heading the PCB from 2008 to 2011, Butt did everything on his own terms.
Perhaps, no Pakistan cricket chief has been as bold but also as stubborn as Butt who once had the courage to even turn down a request from the then President of Pakistan.
Former President Asif Ali Zardari had appointed Butt as PCB chief in 2008.
But Zardari was told in clear words during a packed meeting that it would not be possible for the board to move the national T20 championship from Lahore to Karachi as he desired.
That was Butt in a nutshell.
He was never afraid of getting entangled in controversies that could have been handled with more tact.
It was little wonder then that Butt’s tenure as PCB chairman was one of the most controversy ridden times in Pakistan cricket.
Nothing embodied it more than the banning of senior players like Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi or Kamran Akmal.
Soon after Butt took charge of the PCB, the terror attack took place in Mumbai.
The whole chain of incidents eventually closed the door of IPL to Pakistani players and led to a complete freeze in cricketing ties between the two countries.
One year later in spite of differences between Butt and then chief selector, Abdul Qadir, Pakistan won the 2009 T20 World Cup in England and also played in the ICC Champions Trophy semifinals in South Africa.
The fallout between Butt and the aforementioned senior players began from that trip to SA as the former was convinced there were players’ power centres in the team and it was damaging Pakistan cricket.
After reports of infighting in the team in South Africa came through and Pakistan were whitewashed in Australia, PCB banned the senior players for indiscipline and leaking confidential team information.
Despite a hue and cry from politicians and former players, Butt didn’t budge and the players only returned to the team after apologizing and paying their fines.
One year later, Afridi also learnt Butt’s methods the hard way.
The all-rounder had to part with 4.5 million rupees as fine before he got back into the good books of the PCB, which had disciplined him for announcing his sudden retirement from ODIs and also for making serious accusations against the board.
They were many supporters for Afridi as well when he declared that he would not play until Butt was the chairman, and he responded with: “Sau Bismallah.” Butt made it clear that only an apology and fine would save him or Afridi can forget about playing for Pakistan and getting NOCs for leagues.
However, Butt shaken by the spot-fixing scandal in England that led to the banishment of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.
Butt made Misbah ul Haq as Test captain and later made him ODI captain as well.
But the biggest blemish on Butt’s tenure was the militant attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009.
It led to Pakistan getting stripped of hosting rights of 2011 World Cup and foreign teams refused to tour the country citing security reasons for a decade or so.
What was pertinent after the attack was Butt’s failure to handle things diplomatically which led to complications in Pakistan cricket.
One year later Butt accused the England players of linking up with bookies and it turned into a major row between the two countries.
Butt finally withdrew his statement. But at one stage the then ICC CEO Malcolm Speed had termed Butt a “buffon” in an interview.
It was a harsh and one-sided view. But one thing cannot be in doubt — Butt never believed in playing to the galleries.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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