Why cricket should welcome Salman Butt's return

Why cricket should welcome Salman Butt's return. Credit: PA

Salman Butt is not looking for sympathy, it's redemption he's after.

Five years ago, as a national hero and newly appointed cricket captain of Pakistan, he made a terrible choice.

A choice he has paid dearly for.

At the end of a Crown Court trial into the Test match spot-fixing scandal at Lords, Butt was found guilty, sentenced to 30 months in jail and banned for cricket for 10 years, five of those suspended.

Two teammates were found guilty with him - Mohammed's Asif and Amir. Butt was depicted as the enforcer and blamed for coercing young fast bowling talent Amir to enacting his money-making scheme.

Today, former teammates and opponents are earning hundreds of thousands of pounds for a few weeks work in the Indian Premier League while Butt is scraping by and counting each day as he nears an unlikely return to cricket.

On September 1, Butt will have served his five years and is hoping the rest will be written off by the Pakistan Cricket Board.

They will only do that if they're convinced by his repentance and are satisfied that he has passed all the other criteria associated with his rehabilitation.

These include a series of talks with schoolchildren and young cricketers about why they should never be tempted by the green-backed inducements that seduced him.

Butt is full of regret but incredibly reluctant to talk in detail about what happened at Lords, to give his side of the story or explain what motivated him to become involved in the first place.

After leaving prison and returning home he apologised publicly for embarrassing Pakistan and for the hurt his actions caused family and friends.

Ever since that day he says he's been keen that others learn from his very high profile fall.

Whatever happened, that should not go on in the future generations and what we need to tell them is avoid shortcuts in life and if you get approached by people who provoke you in to getting into something that is not right.

Ex-Pakistan captain Salman Butt

His use of the word 'provoke' is interesting.

My understanding is that it is aimed at the Fake Sheikh, the News of the World's Mazhar Mahmood, not as you may have anticipated his then agent and friend Mahzar Majeed who was the conduit between the players and the undercover journalist.

It is interesting because this week lawyers acting for Majeed and a variety of others who were convicted thanks to elaborate stings carried out by the 'Fake Sheikh', take the next step towards getting their clients convictions overturned.

It doesn't take too much digging into the 'spot fixing' trial to realise that the perception of what went on in the build up to the Lords' test, is rather simplistic.

A different version of events may emerge at a later date and may, or may not, paint Butt in a better light.

The appeals to the Criminal Cases Review Commission are based on the Fake Sheikh's credibility as a prosecution witness.

These appeals were sparked by the collapse of the drugs trial of singer and TV presenter Tulisa Contostavlos.

It was thrown out by the trial Judge who said at the time there were "strong grounds to believe" Mazhar Mahmood had lied on oath "...to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence".

In the months ahead, Butt may consider joining this group action but today it is not his priority.

Time and again in his interview with ITV News he refused to blame anyone else for what happened to him.

Look, we can’t blame one individual for that. You just can’t say one person makes it all happen. Everyone who is involved is wrong somewhere. We are all humans - we all make mistakes.

Salman Butt

Since being released from jail in June 2012, unable to play cricket, Butt has struggled to make ends meet.

He has earned a few thousand pounds here and there as a pundit on local television in Pakistan and has used up all the savings he put aside as a player.

His ambition now is to play for Pakistan again.

Fanciful?

It is impossible to answer that and much depends on how well he performs, if and when he gets his second chance.

Would cricket welcome him back?

Another difficult one and 'welcome' is probably overstating it but cricket would be foolish to turn its back on him.

Many will say Butt's contrition comes far too late and is not only convenient but self serving.

But whatever he did, the game can learn from his experience and so can future cricketing generations.

Butt's stupidity, greed or however you wish to quantify his actions, cost him his reputation and the best years of his professional life.

What better example to others in the future, tempted by riches offered by powerful criminals who lurk in cricket's shadows, ready to pounce as soon as they identify a corruptible weakness.

Of course there is no place in cricket or any sport for cheats but that is exactly why Salman Butt needs to be given the redemption he so badly wants.