'I am duty-bound to fully back Lawson' - Butt

In what appears to be a softening of his earlier stance, Ijaz Butt, the new chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, has said he bears no grudge against Geoff Lawson, the Pakistan coach, and that the PCB will continue to support him through the rest of his contract period.

"As the PCB chairman, I am duty-bound to fully back Lawson and to take care of all his liabilities," Butt told Dawn. "What I said in the press conference was my personal opinion which I had also given to the then chairman Nasim Ashraf." Butt added that Lawson would be given whatever support was needed to help him improve Pakistan's performances on the field.

In his first press conference as chairman, Butt had given an unusually harsh assessment of Lawson's tenure as coach, concluding that Pakistan had "no utility for him." He also said that his contract would not be renewed once it was over.

Cricinfo has also learnt that efforts at a reconciliation of sorts with Lawson have been made by the chairman. Speaking to Cricinfo, Lawson revealed that there had been no contact with Butt since he took over. But it is believed that a message has been passed on to Lawson through a third party that there "may have been some misunderstanding" over the initial comments made by Butt.

Lawson has also received unexpected backing from former Pakistan captains Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. Both felt it was unfair to blame Lawson entirely for Pakistan's inconsistent performances since he took over last August.

"How can you blame the coach for Pakistan cricket's ills when your domestic structure is stagnant," Imran told Reuters. "Don't expect miracles from the coach."

Miandad, who had three stints as coach, felt the players should also shoulder the blame. "It is not just an issue of coaching," Miandad said. "Lawson should not be blamed solely. The players should also take responsibility and I think they should be held accountable as well."

Lawson told Cricinfo during the four-nation Twenty20 tournament in Canada recently that he was unfazed by the criticism directed at him.