Hypocrisy of Pakistani Cricket Fans. A journey from Amir to Salman Butt

Hypocrisy of Pakistani Cricket Fans A journey from Amir to Salman Butt
Sharjah: In the past few days four important events unfolded in sequence at the Pakistan Super League. First, Lahore Qalandars’ skipper Mohammad Hafeez, who had injured himself a couple of days earlier, was declared out of the tournament with a fractured thumb.

Second, much against the hopes of their fans, the Lahore Qalandars management announced that AB De Villiers will not be able to lead the Lahori franchise because his contract' duration did not extend beyond nine matches. Third, and most significant, Salman Butt was selected as the captain of the Qalandars. Fourth, in a deluge of outrage, PSL fans publicly exposed their hypocrisy.

It all started when star all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez was hit on the thumb off of his own ball.

He walked off the ground and Mr. 360 took on the captaincy for Lahore Qalandars for that match. Initially it looked like it was a run of the mill injury but later it proved to be a fracture which requires surgery. Lahore Qalandars had lost not only a captain but also a strong all-rounder.

The hunt was on. Who would replace Hafeez?

The ideal man would be suitable for both as a player and as a captain. Many names were thrown about. But as we all know, nothing is more surprising than Lahore Qalandars in every edition of the Pakistan Super League and they just shocked everybody again with the replacement they finally settled upon.

None other than the ex-captain of the national side, Salman Butt.

It is not difficult to understand why this decision has triggered a war on social media and left the cricket fraternity divided. Remember that Salman Butt was considered the mastermind behind the 2010 match fixing scandal during Pakistan’s tour of England; arguably the most infamous chapter of our cricketing history. Star bowlers Muhammad Amir and Muhammad Asif were also involved in the controversy. As the country watched in despair and shame, all three were subsequently banned and fined by the International Cricket Council.

All of that was in the distant past though. Now all of them have completed their sentences. Muhammad Amir, who was shown leniency by the ICC because of his age, was the first one to be selected in the national side. The other two knocked the doors of selectors multiple times but were not let back in.

Until now. Salman Butt has finally received his life saving opportunity. Pakistan Super League 2019 will be his first mega event in almost a decade, although he's performing regularly for Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) in domestic cricket.

Which brings us to the last event that I mentioned above, where we cricket fans as a collective have exposed our hypocrisy. A few years back, I was one of the few people who criticized and lambasted every step by the Pakistan Cricket Board to bring Muhammad Amir back in the game, be it club cricket or international. All to no avail.

Amir was selected and he is still playing. The green star that he sold for a few measly pounds is still pinned on to his jersey. Yes, he completed his sentence and legally he was allowed to play. That he has been performing poorly is the least of the injuries his inclusion has made. The worst dent that his inclusion into the national side has done is that it gave hope to all the culprits who were waiting on the fringes. If Amir could play, then so could they, even after selling the country. Anything can happen if you are popular enough.

We saw another incident of spot fixing in the PSL where we lost Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif. I don't blame them, because inadvertently, they were shown that there is always a way back from such crimes. A door is always left open.

Now, all of a sudden, Pakistani sports fans have been triggered. They talk of dignity and honor. They don't want Salman Butt to play. I ask them, why? Why is Salman Butt different? Perhaps yes, he was more talented than Amir, but talent does not even figure in into the discussion here. We are talking about a crime, and in that both Amir and Salman were equally responsible.

With a heavy heart, I am going to support Salman Butt’s inclusion into the Lahore Qalandars team. If one criminal is given a second chance to prove himself, another one deserves the same chance too. Don't punish him for not being a favorite of the coach.

And, maybe, we deserve him. If all the culprits who humiliated their country can be welcomed back, then why not Salman Butt?

Usama Virk is a sports journalist associated with GNN. He tweets @BeingUsamaVirk