Regarded as one of the top batting talents in Pakistan at the moment, 23-year-old Imran Butt has excelled in this seasons's Quaid-e-Azam Trophy as the highest-scoring batsman with 934 runs to his name.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Imran spoke about his satisfaction with his performance in the 2019 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, differences between the current and previous editions of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, why he thinks Misbah-ul-Haq will be successful in his position as Head Coach and Chief Selector for Pakistan and his aspirations to play for Pakistan in the future.
By Amir Husain (8th December, 2019)
PakPassion.net: How satisfied are you with your performances in this season’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy?
Imran Butt: I am very happy to an extent with how I performed this season, but I also know that I could have done better than what I achieved this time around. As a professional, one should and can never be satisfied with one’s performances but all-in-all, I would say I did well in scoring 934 runs this season. You can always look back and say that maybe I should have done things better and so I feel that there were a few innings in the season which I should have batted for a longer period, especially some innings where I ended up getting out for 70 or so. If I had prolonged those innings, I could have crossed the 1000 run mark for the season but that didn’t happen, and I do regret that.
PakPassion.net: What are the main differences between the previous editions of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and this year’s six-team format?
Imran Butt: I believe the biggest difference in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy seems to be that it is much more competitive this time around due to the smaller number of teams having some of the top names in Pakistan cricket playing for them. The other significant difference is due to the type of cricket ball being used this season. We used to play with the Dukes and Greys balls in past seasons and as a batsman, you would start to doubt your abilities at some points in the innings due to the uncertain nature and behaviour of these balls. Even the bowlers I had spoken to in the past would say that they weren’t sure about the behaviour of the ball as they would be bowling an out-swinging delivery, but the ball would end up as an in-swinger which they could not explain. I would say that the Kookaburra ball helps a batsman’s self-belief and allows him to play longer innings as well.
PakPassion.net: Performing so well in such a competitive environment must have been very fulfilling for you?
Imran Butt: As a professional, you are expected to rise to the challenge when the competition gets tough and that gets the best out of you as you need to do that to stay in the side. In the past, you could get away with poor performances in one or two games but nowadays, you need to perform in each innings you play in order to retain your place in the side. To me this is all about having an environment where there is healthy competition, and this is what we see with the new six-team Quaid-e-Azam Trophy format.
PakPassion.net: Do you feel pitches have favoured batsmen a little too much this season?
Imran Butt: I do not think the pitches have made that much of a difference when it comes to high scores from batsmen in this season of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. I believe it’s the type of ball being used, Kookaburra, that has made all the difference. With this ball, the fast-bowlers need to bowl close to 145KpH, and bowl long spells, to be able to have any hope of taking wickets. Unfortunately, as we know, such bowlers are rare in our domestic cricket. When it comes to spin, it’s the temperament and patience of the batsmen that can determine how much he scores, regardless of the pitch or the ball.
PakPassion.net: How much emphasis is being put on fitness and fielding in the new domestic setup?
Imran Butt: I feel that we have experienced a big change in the fitness and fielding aspects of our domestic game, due to the new system put in place by the PCB. In fact, as players we have been discussing amongst ourselves the fact that this is the first season where we have fielded more than 100 overs in each innings. So, player fitness has been put to great test this season and therefore the fitness preparations have to be excellent to be able to compete. This is also the type of fitness that is needed for international games so fielding for 100 overs or more in an innings is helping our domestic players prepare for their future with the Pakistan team as well.
PakPassion.net: Which fast-bowlers have you found difficult to face in this season in First-Class cricket?
Imran Butt: To be brutally honest, I have not come across any outstanding fast-bowler this season. If I had to name one bowler who impressed me this season, it would be Haris Rauf and only because he was the only fast-bowler who got me out in both innings of a match.
PakPassion.net: Given your association with Misbah-ul-Haq during your SNGPL days, you must be encouraged by his elevation to the position of Head Coach and Chief Selector for Pakistan?
Imran Butt: Regardless of my past association with Misbah bhai, I can tell you that he is one of the most reasonable and nicest people I have met in my life. What I am really sure about is that he will do full justice to the positions he has been given by the PCB. I say this based upon the fact that I have known him at a personal level since the 2013/14 season. He has always been kind and helpful to me and in the last couple of seasons that he was at SNGPL, he spent a lot of time working on my batting technique which has really helped me improve as a batsman. Whilst I do know him well, I know that to get into the national side, I will have to perform really well to be noticed by the Pakistan selectors.
PakPassion.net: What do you feel about the competition for openers in Tests for Pakistan?
Imran Butt: I understand that Pakistan at the moment is well-served by the likes of Shan Masood, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali and there are some good players like Sami Aslam who can also take on the role of an opener which is the kind of healthy competition that is needed. As far as I am concerned, having to compete with other stronger candidates is not something I fear, in fact i feel that I perform the best and get a 100% out of myself when I have to compete against others. For Pakistan, we are lucky that we have 3-4 excellent openers who give us solid bench-strength and if I can at some point also add my name in that list than that would be excellent news for the team.
PakPassion.net: Which current players do you enjoy watching bat most?
Imran Butt: I am currently a great fan of Babar Azam’s style of batting. He is a very good player in terms of technique and tactics and of course he is very consistent in his performances. But my role-model for the longest format of the game is without doubt Asad Shafiq as he is played around the world and performed really well and is the ideal player to follow and he is a kind person too.
PakPassion.net: What format of the game interests you the most at the moment?
Imran Butt: At this point given my performances, I consider myself a 50-over and four-day specialist. My performances in Twenty20s are not that great at the moment, so I will hold my judgement on that format for now.
PakPassion.net: Do you feel you are ready to represent Pakistan?
Imran Butt: By the Grace of God, I have never played cricket just for entertaining myself and like every professional player, my ultimate goal is to represent my country. I believe that I have what it takes to represent my country at the international level, and I do feel that I will prove myself right in the future. I have not been named in the Pakistan squad for the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka but I am not disappointed at all even though I was praying and hoping to be called up for national duties. I do, however, wish the best of luck to every player selected for this series. What I will do now is to concentrate on making sure that my batting technique and fitness is in line with what is needed for international cricket and hope to be noticed by the selectors to represent Pakistan in the future.