UK government could kibosh Salman Butt Test recall
Pakistan's hopes of offering a controversial recall to Salman Butt for their forthcoming tour of England, six years after his involvement in the spot-fixing controversy at Lord's in 2010, could be stopped in their tracks by the UK Home Office, in spite of the willingness of Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, to consider him.
Butt, who was then Pakistan captain, was jailed for 30 months for his part in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal that centred on delivering no-balls to order. The scandal erupted after the third day's play of the Lord's Test, following a News of the World sting.
However, he served just seven months of the sentence before being allowed back to Pakistan under the UK government's early release scheme, which means that the person is formally deported and cannot return to the UK within 10 years of the end of the original sentence.
In a section relating to refusing visas, the UK Home Office website states: "If a person has been sentenced to a period of between 12 months and less than 4 years imprisonment, the ECO [Entry Clearance Officer] must refuse the application until 10 years has passed since the end of the sentence.
"The end of the sentence should be taken to mean the entire sentence imposed, not just the time a person spent in prison."
The Home Office does not comment on individual cases. However, ESPNcricinfo understands that Butt's status as an international sportsman would not entitle him to preferential treatment. One such figure to be caught out by the law, which was amended in December 2012, was the boxer Mike Tyson. He was denied a UK visa for a promotional tour in 2013 on account of his criminal convictions for rape and assault.
Butt's five-year ban from cricket was completed earlier this year and he has returned to action in the Pakistan domestic set-up. Butt, now 31, was the second-leading run-scorer in the National One-Day Cup with 536 runs at 107.20 and Waqar Younis, who recently resigned as coach, had been keen for him to be included the World T20 squad.
Misbah said that the Pakistan Cup, a new tournament which begins this week, is another chance for Butt to impress.
"We have a settled line up between Nos 3 and 7 but the opening slot is not as consistent as the rest of the order. There are issues and we are looking at a couple more options including Shan Masood and Salman Butt," Misbah told ESPNcricinfo.
"Salman is playing well and overall I didn't see any such difference since he left [in 2010]. He is a good prospect and he has also scored ample runs after his comeback. Watching him in the nets he looks good, but now we have to see how well he will do in the upcoming tournament.
If Butt was permitted to make the tour it would open up the possibility of him returning to international cricket at the scene of his crime. The Lord's Test in 2010 was the last of Butt's 33 caps and the ground will stage the first Test of Pakistan's visit this year.
It would also raise the possibility of England facing two of the three players found guilty of spot-fixing in that contest.
Mohammad Amir made his return to international cricket on the tour of New Zealand in January and also played in the recent World T20. A Test return is now on the cards in the England series although he, too, may face visa implications despite having played in New Zealand, Bangladesh and India this year. Successfully gaining a visa for those trips does not mean he will automatically be allowed back into the UK. He was denied a visa for the UK in 2014.
The third of the players jailed, fast bowler Mohammad Asif, who is now 33, also returned to cricket in the same tournament as Butt but is not considered as close to an international return.
The selection of Pakistan's Test squad for the tour to England will be the first major task for Inzamam-ul-Haq who was confirmed as their new chief selector on Monday.
Andrew McGlashan is Deputy Editor and Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent