Pakistan v Australia, 2nd MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Headingley July 20, 2010

Butt backs youngsters to kick back


It would have been understandable had Salman Butt been losing sleep in the week since he inherited the Pakistan captaincy following Shahid Afridi's shock resignation at Lord's. But outwardly at least, he's not showing any ill-effects from the rapid promotion. Key to his comfort is the promise of youth, for Butt believes his inexperienced team possesses the ability to defeat Australia if they can keep their heads straight. But, he warned, Pakistan will only move forward if their administrators can stay patient.

"It is not an unbeatable side [Australia] even if we have lost quite a few matches against them in the past," Butt said on the eve of the second Test at Leeds. "I know we have the ability to beat them. [But] we need to persist and remain patient with the youngsters and appreciate whatever small improvement they make."

Despite their 150-run defeat at Lord's, Pakistan have been all smiles during their training sessions on Monday and Tuesday. Even if their practice lacks the rigorous and methodical pace of top-ranked teams, the Pakistan players have all been devoted to, and enjoying, the various drills imparted by the coaching think-tank led by Waqar Younis and his two assistants Aaqib Javed and Ijaz Ahmed, along with the hardworking trainer David Dwyer.

After nearly a month in their displaced home, the players have finally started to understand their responsibility and don't always need the walking stick presence of the coaches. This was evident yesterday when Waqar was absent from the training but the squad went through the moves without any stutter.

Butt, too, does not want to impose himself straight away. "You don't become a dad," Butt said on his style of his captaincy. Still, his elevation has been unprecedented even by Pakistan's chaotic standards. Butt himself was unaware of Afridi's decision till he had been informed by the media. Subsequently he has kept a clear head and has spoken in mature fashion. "It's a challenge for me but at the same time I have to keep on going as a player and as a batsman, which is more important."

That is proof of his priorities. Pakistan need Butt the batsman to perform to begin with. Though Shoaib Malik is likely to take Afrid's spot, the former Pakistan captain is battling his own demons, after the team management opted for the debutant Umar Amin ahead of him at Lord's. Malik remains a capable bat but is still vulnerable to distractions and it would be a huge challenge for him to anchor the lower middle order. So it is Butt, the second-highest run-scorer behind Simon Katich at Lord's, who remains the pivot. And Australia will gun for him. "If we get two or three partnerships going we'd be in with a good chance to get up a good total," Butt said.

After their abysmal fold-up in the first innings at Lord's in just 41 overs, Pakistan's top-order showed a bit more resolution with Butt and the debutant Azhar Ali combining well to raise a 112-run partnership for the second wicket. Sadly the rest of the batsmen displayed a weaker temperament, throwing their wickets without putting in much effort. One of the culprits was Umar Akmal. Just 20, Umar is a fast-rising talent, arguably the best young batsman in world cricket, but he went for an unnecessary cut in the final over before lunch on the fourth day.

"He's just 20. Having great talent does not mean that you've got experience in your pockets," Butt said, defending Umar. But he followed that with a subtle message. "Because he's a very good player - I think he's the best talent around the world at the moment - sometimes he goes and watches the ball so well that it is hard to control himself. Still I have to back him and be positive with him. I can't ask him to stop his natural game. At the same time I have to [remind him] to respect the occasion. If you've lost a wicket just around the corner, if you're having lunch after one [more] over, maybe you have to be a bit more watchful. But I would never ask him to stop his natural game because that's his strength and I would like him to attack the oppositions."

Such a blunt appraisal will not hurt Umar. It applies to every batsman in the team including the likes of Mohammad Aamer and the tailenders, who showed a weak spirit as soon as the specialist batsmen had departed. Such sloppiness will not yield Pakistan anything and might even prompt their fickle administrators to shake up the side once again.

When asked what Pakistan need to do to level the series, Butt was clear in his requirements. "We have to bat a bit longer, put some more runs on the board," he said. "I think the bowlers have always done well against the Aussies, it's just that the tail we've got to get out a bit quicker."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • IRFAN on July 21, 2010, 10:17 GMT

    As many times pak team change their captain even as many time I don't buy underwear for me to wear new one. Strange policy. even no any policy...Pakistran board should read this paragraph.

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    common guys give some comments to karthik i think he was sleeping when officials call lalit modi.......... karthik give some comment to IPL

  • Jibran on July 21, 2010, 5:31 GMT

    My all dearest you most of all calling bring younis & yousuf back but u forget the last series against Aus & kiew where they lost all match also not score i dont know which kind of expectation u have from them now im not said that they are not good player but now they are not soo strong as we need its all my thoughts i hope salman will bring razaq also yasir i hope soo

    Good Luck my team ALLAH will give u successes in your task......

  • John on July 21, 2010, 3:40 GMT

    I appreciate the hope and optimism of the Pakistan supporters, but the fact is this is maybe the weakest batting side in test cricket at the moment, including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. The bowling is world class, which ought to keep Australia's margin of victory down, but there's very little chance that Pakistan will make enough runs to win. Australia has its own problems, which Ponting seems to be glossing over. Only Katich of the top 6 can look back on the Lord's test with any real satisfaction and the so-called strike bowlers, Bollinger and Johnson, were very ordinary. Australia might actually have been in trouble if not for the bowling of Watson and North and the 126 runs added by the last 2 wickets in the second innings. Australia to win, but they'll be hoping they look a lot more convincing than they did at Lord's.

  • usman on July 21, 2010, 2:46 GMT

    Pak has 0.01 % of winning today. They would have won the series if Younis and Yousuf were in the team. Still they have time to bring them back against England. Even the most deserved players haven't given chances. To name a few Azeem Ghumman, Naved Yasin , Asim Kamal, Anwar Ali(in place of Tanvir Ahmed), Hammad Azam etc

  • wasif on July 21, 2010, 1:34 GMT

    In all the honesty I think it is the time to support Pakistan cricket coz it means alot to world cricket, Pak team cannot play at their home soil, had this series played in Pakistan debutants would made more impact, so it is hard time and with the breed of silly bosses it makes the job more difficult for players. let us support this young team and new captain and stop pressurizing them to show the results straight away, Australia and England are two top test teams any team wanting to beat them needs to be at the top of their game. Wish u all the best Pak team.

  • karthik on July 21, 2010, 0:29 GMT

    hope you wont announce your retirement after you lose this match

  • Abid on July 20, 2010, 21:02 GMT

    If my suspecions are right then I strongly believe Pakistan will do much better in second test as compared to Lords test, even if they have one change in the team that of bringing in Malik for Afridi. However if they bring in Yasir Hameed for Farhat it will be even more improvement.

    I believe it will be due to two reasons: 1. Malik is better batsman in test than Afridi. 2. Both Akmals will play with more responsibility and will not throw away their wickets.

    If they play Yasir Hameed, then it will be further improve since he is better batsman than Farhat plus will allow left and right combination. Additionally, inclusion of Yasir will also provide experience to the team.

  • daud on July 20, 2010, 17:17 GMT

    GOOD LUCK buddy. intentions are clear to BE POSITIVE and play according tol ur lessed talent. HOPEFULL that if they played in this way they can change their track record.

  • Jawwad on July 20, 2010, 16:44 GMT

    Spoken like a man who has a working head.

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