Karachi: Pakistan cricket's enfant terribles Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif started their journey on the road to redemption today with both the convicted spot-fixers making a successful return to competitive cricket during the National One-Day Competition, in Hyderabad (Sind).
Having served a prison sentence and a subsequent ban, it was the duo's first match in five years and four months since they were caught for spot-fixing during the 2010 series against England.
Former national captain Butt scored an attractive 135 while swing bowler Asif looked in good rhythm taking 2/23 in 6 overs with their team Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) defeating FATA region in a match played at Hyderabad (Sind).
Although their ban expired in September, the PCB kept them on hold making it compulsory for them to first complete a rehabilitation/reintegration program. The third member of the tainted trio Muhammed Aamir has already boarded the flight to
New Zealand as he has been fast-tracked into the national squad.
"It is an incredible feeling to score a century after such a long time," Butt told PTI over telephone from Hyderabad.
"I am delighted that I could make such a strong return after such a long lay-off. I credit Waqar and Yousuf for this. I was motivated by the words of the Pakistan coach and Yousuf helped me out in the nets with some useful tips," Butt said.
He said that the last five years had taught him a lot in life and he just wanted to make amends for his mistake five years back.
"It is never easy playing in a competitive match after so many years but since I kept training hard and had regular nets since September, I was mentally and physically prepared for the challenge when this day came," he added.
Butt also thanked the Chairman of WAPDA and the team management and players for their support.
"WAPDA signed us on when our future was uncertain and they backed us. I am happy for Aamir he has gone to New Zealand and I wish him and the team the best," he stated.
The left-hander said he wanted to tell Pakistan cricket lovers that there is a lot of remorse and he is begging for a second chance.
"I just want to tell everyone the remorse is there for what happened five years back but we just want a second chance to show we are sorry for the damage we caused Pakistan cricket. I just want a chance to show everyone I can still play top-flight cricket," he said.
Pakistan's head coach Waqar Younis told PTI before leaving for New Zealand that if Butt and Asif performed well in the National Championship and showed form and fitness there was no reason for preventing them from playing again for Pakistan.
"Why should anything be different for Butt an Asif. All three of them made the same mistake and all three have completed their punishments. So I don't see having different conditions for them," he said.
Pakistan's flamboyant all-rounder and National T20 captain Shahid Afridi, in a surprise outburst earlier this week in Lahore, said he would not like to see Butt and Asif being given a chance to play for Pakistan again.
"Aamir came and confessed to his crime early on. He told the truth. These two lied for three years and they had the audacity to sit on TV channels and criticize the Pakistan team," Afridi told the media.
"I don't think they should be allowed to play for Pakistan again what they did is very different from Aamir’s case," he added.