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Moments after being confirmed as Pakistan's new captain following Shahid Afridi's shock retirement, Salman Butt spoke exclusively to Cricinfo
July 17, 2010
How do you summarise the events in the last 24 hours?
I knew nothing about it [Shahid Afridi's retirement from Tests] beforehand. But I have respect for his honest opinion and he made a very good decision. He took the captaincy after we did not have a good tour of Australia, and we'd had a very difficult time, so he has done a great job so far. He has been doing wonderfully well in the one-dayers and Twenty20. I really respect his decision about Test cricket because this is a totally different domain. It is a big decision to make and not too many people would've gone through and made a decision like he did.
Did you predict anything like this might happen when the tour began?
Being the vice-captain meant if anything goes wrong you are the next man. So I was partially ready for something like this, but I didn't expect him to retire like this. So mentally I was partially prepared.
What will be the biggest challenge ahead for you?
We have a very good young unit. The two new guys [Azhar Ali and Umar Amin] have done really well because the standard of bowling at Lord's was world class. Yes, this is a home series but we all know this is not home. Still the way they played it was heartening. It is a step forward. If we play this unit for the next eight to ten months, we will have a different team. We still believe we can beat any side because it is this same side that won two Twenty20 matches against Australia, even though we lost two tight matches in Asia Cup. It is a good sign.
The average age of the side is under 25 so to have this potential is important. If we can see the youngsters play for the next 10-12 years, we can build a very good unit. But the important thing is that we have to be patient because experience does not have any short cuts. We have to give ourselves and the youngsters time and at the same time work hard. I am very sure that these guys are committed and they want to play for each other and the country.
No doubt it is a rebuilding phase but being the captain now, in addition to being the senior batsman, does that increase your burden?
You can add the weight by using a different word but as a player my responsibility is the same: to go out there and perform to the best of my ability. It does not matter who is the captain because I am playing for Pakistan primarily and secondly for myself. If I don't do well I won't be in the team. It applies to everybody. What I see in my team is that they have the ability to fight. The other important thing is the new guys don't think about the big names. We tell each other everyday that we can beat anyone. The belief is steadily starting to develop and one day we will be once again a force to reckon with.
Your batting at Lord's looked settled and confident. Did you work on it consciously before the tour?
There is nothing big to do. The best thing to do is to get your basics right and do the simple things well. I was just watching ball. That was one the one pieces of advice I got from a man, whose name I don't want to reveal at the moment. He was one of the best batsman I saw opening the innings. He just told me "watch the ball from the time it starts form the bowler's hand till it reaches you and let your body react to it." It has worked. The rest of my coaches here - Ijaz bhai, Waqar bhai and Aaqib bhai - they have been helping me and the youngsters. Even I don't have much experience. I have only played 28 Tests. You can call me a senior batsman but compared to other big players I am just two or three years older. I am not promising big things but there is definitely hope and the future is safe.
Can you talk about the coaching think tank - what exactly do they bring to the table?
The best thing they bring is the mind of a champion. These were people that were part of the team that brought Pakistan cricket to the top. They were there when Pakistan won the World Cup. Aaqib bhai has been the coach of two Under-19 World Cup winning sides, Ijaz bhai was coach this year of the Under-19 team which ended as runners up [in New Zealand]. Waqar bhai was a champion bowler and needs no further introduction. These are people who have experienced pressure at the highest level and performed well, so there is nobody else better than these three to describe a game to a youngster. Their presence is very valuable and I hope every squad member will take a piece from their book and apply however he thinks suitable for himself.
The PCB haven't ruled out the return of the two Ys - Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan. How would you look at such a development?
At the moment nothing has been discussed with me about them. Nobody can deny they are two great players but at the moment they haven't been discussed. We have to be content with what we have at hand. I'm very happy with the new boys who have come in. And even former players share the same opinion. We need to give them a long run. Nobody is a born Mohammad Yousuf or Wasim Akram or Inzamam-ul-Haq - even these players were not known when they came into cricket. Their performances made them who they are. So we need to given the youngsters the time. Hopefully, and I'm sure, they will make a name for themselves.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
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