Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt has some word of advice for his fellow countrymen who will be facing a stiff challenge against India at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Saturday.
“We need to cut down on dot balls and rotate the strike more,” he says.
Butt, 31, believes that the big hitting powerhouse that Pakistan enjoys in Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi can only come in handy if they are provided with enough runs to get the fireworks going.
“We need to develop the habit of building innings – and only singles can help us do that. Consistency will only come if we start taking singles.
“All world class players do that. They hit a boundary in an over and they take singles, and by the end of the over you easily have eight to nine runs,” he says, adding that such a strategy reduces risk of losing wickets.
Butt was wary of the fact that the Eden Gardens wicket is good for batting but it can be slow at times, providing an edge to spinners to step in and put pressure on batsmen. “It will depend on what sort of wickets they prepare for the India-Pakistan match,” says the former Pakistan captain.
‘Kolkata appreciates good cricket’
Butt, who has a healthy average of 52.21 in 21 one-day internationals against India, admitted that though 99 per cent of the crowd support in Kolkata will be for India, the spectators will act Pakistan if they play good cricket.
“People of Kolkata understand and respect whoever plays good cricket,” he says, adding: “It is easy to win the crowd there. When I scored a hundred they clapped for me.”
Butt’s only hundred at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata came during the BCCI Platinum Jubilee match played between Pakistan and India on November 13, 2004.
In India’s response to 292, Butt led Pakistan’s reply with an unbeaten century. Pakistan had won the match by four wickets with six balls to spare.
But the former Pakistan captain, who has recently been allowed to resume playing competitive cricket after suffering a jail term and suspension for spot-fixing, says there will be pressure to play in front of a capacity crowd and “only those with good concentration can perform well in front of a jam-packed stadium”.
“Like cricketing abilities, good concentration level is also a God-given gift,” he says.
Records don’t matter
Butt doesn’t like to read too much into previous encounters between the two teams and the records they enjoy over each other.
Despite having a poor run in ICC world events against India, Butt believes Pakistan cannot be totally written off from the contest.
“There have been very close finishes. Sometimes things went to the Super Over or till the last ball,” he says.
India have never lost to Pakistan in a world event while Pakistan have never lost to the tournament hosts at the Eden Gardens.
Speaking on the opposition he faced to a possible return to the international circuit, Butt says: “I don’t care about any opposition that anyone has with me including Shahid Afridi.
“If Allah wants me to be part of the team, I will be selected.”
Butt says he wasn’t expecting to play domestic cricket but in the past couple of weeks, he has featured in seven one-day matches.
“I have no issues with Shahid Afridi. In fact, I hope he does well in the World Cup. If he does well then the team will do well and at the moment they are already under pressure so they need everyone’s support,” he says.
“It’s never about individuals. I wish him luck.”