Pakistan cricket mourns the passing of controversial administrator Ijaz Butt

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Pakistan cricket mourns the passing of controversial administrator Ijaz Butt

NEW DELHI: Pakistan cricket has lost one of its most vibrant, controversial, and influential administrators with the passing of the indomitable Ijaz Butt in his hometown, Lahore. The cricketing world bid farewell to Butt on Wednesday at the age of 85, following health issues.

Ijaz Butt’s legacy in Pakistan cricket is irreplaceable, as he not only represented the nation in eight Test matches but also held crucial administrative positions throughout his career. His contributions ranged from being a member of the 1987 Reliance World Cup organising committee to serving as the secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board during the 1980s. Butt’s journey continued with managing the senior team and finally culminated with him taking the helm of the PCB from 2008 to 2011, making an indelible mark on the sport.

Known for his boldness and stubbornness, Butt never hesitated to assert his authority, even when it meant turning down requests from powerful figures. One such incident occurred when the then President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, appointed Butt as PCB chief in 2008. In a packed meeting, Butt courageously declined to move the national T20 championship from Lahore to Karachi, despite the President’s desire.

Butt’s tenure as PCB chairman was riddled with controversies that could have been dealt with more tactfully. He found himself at the centre of major controversies, including the banning of senior players like Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, and Kamran Akmal. The 2008 terror attack in Mumbai further exacerbated tensions between Pakistan and India, leading to a freeze in cricketing ties between the two nations and the exclusion of Pakistani players from the Indian Premier League.

In 2009, despite winning the T20 World Cup in England and reaching the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals in South Africa, clashes between Butt and senior players emerged, with the chairman convinced that players’ power centres within the team were damaging Pakistan cricket. Infighting reports during the South African tour led to the banning of senior players for indiscipline and leaking confidential team information. Despite the backlash, Butt stood firm, and the players were only reinstated after apologising and paying fines.

Shahid Afridi also experienced Butt’s unyielding methods, facing hefty fines and discipline after announcing his sudden retirement from ODIs and making serious accusations against the board. Butt made it clear that only an apology and fine would pave the way for Afridi’s return to the team.

However, Butt’s tenure was not without its dark moments. The spot-fixing scandal in England, which resulted in the banishment of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir, shook the cricketing world. Under Butt’s leadership, Misbah ul Haq was appointed as Test and later ODI captain.

The most significant stain on Butt’s term came with the militant attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. The incident led to Pakistan losing the hosting rights for the 2011 World Cup and foreign teams refusing to tour Pakistan due to security concerns.

In the aftermath of the attack, Butt faced criticism for his failure to handle the situation diplomatically, further complicating matters for Pakistan cricket. The following year, Butt accused England players of involvement with bookies, igniting a major controversy between the two countries. Despite later withdrawing his statement, Butt’s approach was scrutinised, with ICC CEO Malcolm Speed referring to him as a “buffoon” in an interview.

While opinions may be divided, there is no denying that Ijaz Butt was an administrator who never played to the galleries.
(With inputs from PTI)

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