Karachi: Pakistan's national cricket coach Waqar Younis has backed an international comeback for convicted spot-fixers Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif, saying that they should not be treated any differently from the rehabilitated Muhammad Aamir.
"The way I see it if Butt and Asif perform well in their comeback in domestic cricket why can't they be considered for a second chance to play international cricket? All the three did the same wrong and also underwent the same punishment so why should they be treated differently," Waqar told Geo News.
Butt scored a hundred in his first competitive match in five-and-a-half years on Sunday in the national one-day championship while Asif took two wickets to leave an impact on the same day Aamir left with the national team for New Zealand.
Waqar's support for Butt and Asif to be treated equally as Aamir is in contrast to recent statements of Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shaharyar Khan and national T20 captain Shahid Afridi who have said the duo's case differs from Aamir and it will not be easy for them to make a comeback. Afridi went as far as to say that Butt and Asif don't deserve to be given a second chance like Aamir as they had lied for three years and had the audacity to criticise the Pakistan team when they were banned for five years.
"I don't know what Shahid (Afridi) is thinking maybe he has his reasons but generally I think Butt and Asif deserve same chance as Aamir and if they show form and fitness, why not consider them for selection?" Waqar said. Asked how he had come around to forgiving Aamir and accepting him back in the national team, Waqar said he just felt it was time to move on.
"Look we basically cut their hands by banning them from all cricket for five years, it was a strong punishment for what they did. Now that they have served their punishment and appear to have learnt their lesson why shouldn't they be given a second chance, it could also be good for Pakistan cricket. There has never been any doubt about their cricket abilities," he said.
Waqar also urged people to forgive the three players and support them.
"There were reservations among the players when Aamir joined the camp but things have improved and I think everything will settle down with time. We expect some reaction from the crowd and generally in New Zealand but it will go away with time. "I just think right now we are putting too much pressure on Aamir and he needs to be now allowed to focus on cricket only."
Waqar Younis also urged senior batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan to continue their Test careers and tour England and Australia this year. Waqar said the experience, commitment and batting skills of the two seniors were required by Pakistan for another year at least. "I don't know what their plans are but I personally would say they should tour England and Australia for the test series this year and then decide what to do," he said.
Waqar said Pakistan would require their presence on both tours and even beyond as their attitude and professionalism remained an example for younger players. "I always tell the young players you don't need to learn much from me just look there at Younis Khan just see how he prepares and goes about a match. I have told them he is an institution in himself the way he has played all his career," Waqar said.
"We will need them over the next one year for sure but I think the positive thing for Pakistan cricket is we have good replacements for test matches."
Waqar conceded that there were some players in the team who needed to change their attitudes and cement their places with consistent performances.