A letter to Salman Butt
There's no point beating about the bush, so I'll come right out and say it. You are a disappointment and a disgrace. This is not just one person's opinion, but a feeling shared deeply by millions of Pakistan supporters, and indeed by cricket lovers around the globe who revere the game and want to keep it clean.
Yet when I address you as "dear", it is not a hypocritical pleasantry. You played some fine knocks for Pakistan, and when you captained your team to Test victory at The Oval, you were magnificent. For that, you are dear to us and always will be.
This makes your transgression, and the stubborn denial of guilt that has followed it, all the more heart-wrenching to bear. You must think we are stupid and find your story believable. We're not, and we don't. Don't you realise we can see through this charade? We are Pakistanis, Salman. We have suffered more than our share of corrupt figures. We know what corruption smells like. It smells like this.
Do you know what really gave it away? It wasn't that you were fingered in court by Mohammad Amir and Mazhar Majeed, nor the gobs of money found in your hotel room, nor your theatrical sprinkling of sawdust over the bowling crease after Amir's even more theatrical no-ball at Lord's. What gave it away was your smirk.
It was during the sentencing phase of the trial that your cool exterior finally crumbled. Before that, you cut a confident, sometimes even aloof, figure, with that cocky smirk constantly visible. Your face didn't say, "I'm innocent." It said, "I've hit a snag, but I'm in control, with all eventualities planned for."
After the verdict, all of that vanished. Your brow creased up, your eyes became downcast, the colour drained from your face. The smirk disappeared. You looked nervous and afraid, but above all you looked angry. The one emotion we did not see on your face was remorse.
It all went so horribly wrong, didn't it? When you first hatched the plan, you could never have imagined it would come to this. The payoff was delicious, and nobody would be the wiser. The only deterrent was the ICC and its code of conduct. There was no fear of coming afoul of the law, and the possibility of going to jail did not even remotely cross your mind.
But you forgot to read the fine print. It would have alerted you to a law known as the UK Gambling Act of 2005. Your moral conscience was certainly not getting in the way; perhaps this statute might have. Eventually you were trapped in a classic prisoner's dilemma. The evidence against you was already hefty; once your accomplices squealed, it was all over.
Now you are back in Pakistan, after serving a fraction of your sentence, in exchange for agreeing to get deported. You are still proclaiming innocence, still stoking delusions of clearing your name. Coming from a clever man like you, this is surprising as well as sad. You are blindly following a strategy of stringent denial, but it seems that once again you have forgotten to read the fine print. In a storm, it is the rigid tree that snaps and breaks while the one that can flex and bend survives. An intelligent mind like yours should easily understand this. The only explanation for your inflexibility is that anger at getting caught is clouding your judgement.
If so, there is hope. In time, your fury will recede and the fog will lift. Family, friends, and other well-wishers, along with reason and logic, will be allowed back into your mental space. At that point, you will begin to see that the journey of redemption begins with an honest confrontation of the truth. We are patiently waiting for that day. When it comes, we will be right there with you to help the healing begin.
All good wishes,
Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi