The bans are over and Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Aamer are back; the latter in international colors and the former two for their domestic team. Considering that they did not play any competitive cricket for 5 years and have now come out of the wilderness to get their first taste of cricket, it has been quite a remarkable comeback!
Let us take Aamer out of this equation given the support he was provided throughout his ban by the PCB, ICC, and current and former cricketers. Butt and Asif were condemned by all. They did not get the kind of sympathy Aamer did; not from the administrators, nor from the fans. The PCB did not provide them the same kind of support, nor did the board do them any favors by delaying the rehabilitation process till it was completely necessary.
So in a situation like this when one knows that the entire world is aware of the wrong they have done, how does one motivate themselves? Think about it. Butt and Asif went through jail terms. They served a ban for cheating their team, their sport, their country. They were not provided support by officials in the same manner that another player was. Everyone wrote and spoke about how it was the end of their careers. They were not allowed inside the academies nor did they have access to practice facilities. Butt was condemned by everyone for being the architect of the fix, while Asif had struck the final nail in his coffin full of offenses.
Everyone including me thought that their careers were over! We all knew that Aamer will be back, but none of us ever thought that Butt and Asif would be able to make a comeback. Age was not on their side. A 5-year layoff from any sort of profession is as good as an end of a career, let alone sport where mental strength and fitness play such a major role.
Ignoring what they did and only thinking purely about the mental strength and fitness required to compete at the highest level after a gap of 5 years, their comeback has been nothing short of remarkable. Butt’s 135 and 99* in his first two innings and Asif’s 2-22 and 0-29 are phenomenal achievements given how they spent their past five years.
There was always this remote possibility that they would perform at the domestic level, but now that they have (particularly Butt), what will the PCB do? They have allowed Aamer to come back and don the green; will they be as welcoming to Butt and Asif if both continue to perform in domestic games? It will be highly unfair if both are ignored despite building their cases considering that a fellow player who was accused and convicted for the same crime has been welcomed back.
In fact, the PCB has had to intervene and coerce a couple of players to accept Aamer’s presence in national colors. What will they do in Butt’s and Asif’s case?
I understand that everyone from the administrators to the players and fans believe that Butt and Asif are more guilty than Aamer was. Their respective jail terms also imply that. However, like Aamer, the other two also went through their terms and fulfilled all obligations that were required of them for the ban to be completed. Now that they have been allowed to compete domestically, how can anyone stop them from competing internationally?