PCB to tightly regulate Asif and Butt's return
The PCB is set to chalk out a rehabilitation programme for Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, as part of their reintegration into the cricketing community. The two, whose ban for spot-fixing lifts on September 2, will be required to take part in an anti-corruption educational programme, have sessions with a psychologist, and ply their trade in grade cricket for a start. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that the PCB will make the programme public next week.
The Pakistan board has accepted the ICC's decision to lift the ban imposed on Asif and Butt at the earliest possible, but they will not be allowed to take part in the domestic T20 cup in Rawalpindi next month, it said. Instead, they will have to start at the bottom and prove their form and fitness before making it to higher levels of the game.
As part of the educational programme, the pair will have to visit all domestic regions, across four provinces, and spread awareness on corruption issues. They will lecture the players, coaches, and officials at the domestic level on anti-corruption.
"ICC requires us to put these boys under a programme in which they address the players and lecture them on anti-corruption," Shaharyar Khan, the PCB chairman, told ESPNcricinfo. "They should tell the players at all levels about their misconduct and the disgrace they brought into cricket. Meanwhile, we are allowing them to play club cricket and grade 2 cricket, the same policy we adopted with Amir.
"They also have to see psychologist, and by playing grade 2 cricket have to prove their ability and fitness. They can't assume they will pick up where they left off five years ago. After all, they haven't played cricket for last five years. We have to see many factors, including how age has affected them. At the moment they cannot walk back into contention for top cricket, they have to prove their ability to make their way into first-class cricket."
Amid legal rumblings, the PCB can't hold the players back from playing once the ICC's ban lifts on September 2, but they can be restricted to lower levels of the game while they prove their form and complete their rehabilitation programme, which could take several months. Butt, who will turn 31 in October, and Asif, who will be 33 this December, were set to represent Lahore Blue in the upcoming national T20 cup.
"We will tell the region too they cannot play until they prove their ability at the low level," Khan said. "They can't be allowed to play any national championship but can only be allowed to play the second-class cricket. They can't walk back in the system with the reputation they had five years ago.
"The point to understand is the public must accept them, and more importantly the other present players - many players expressed to us that they will not play with them. So this rehabilitation will eventually help them to be accepted in the dressing room and in the public. We have been in disgrace these last many years, and it's a big stigma on Pakistan cricket."
Butt, Asif and Mohammad Amir were banned for 10 (five years suspended), seven (two years suspended) and five years respectively, after an ICC tribunal found them guilty of spot-fixing in a case stemming from the 2010 Lord's Test. The possible reduction in the penalty came on the condition that Asif and Butt would commit no further breach of the anti-corruption code and participate in a PCB-controlled anti-corruption education programme.
The ICC ACSU official met both the players to assess how both have changed over the last five years - in which they could not engage in any kind of cricket activity. The details of the meeting haven't been disclosed, but the ICC has confirmed it has decided against activating the additional suspended years.
After a series of appeals against their suspensions and long periods of maintaining that they are innocent, the duo finally issued public apologies and said they were available to undergo educational programmes. The PCB, though, it is understood, denied them access to educational programmes for more than two years, but now after the ICC's clearance it is offering it to them.
Amir, who had pleaded guilty to spot-fixing at a very early stage, was allowed to return to domestic cricket in January this year, given his remorse and cooperation with the authorities. He will play in the upcoming T20 cup for Rawalpindi. He has already completed his rehabilitation programme by featuring in various educational ventures, including the ICC's anti-corruption video. His return might have been fast-tracked, but he too was made to play club and grade 2 cricket before making his way into major competitive cricket.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson