17 year old Imran Butt is a top order batsman from Lahore who made his first class debut less than three months ago. Since that debut in December he has made over 700 runs in only nine first class matches at an average of over 61 including two centuries and five half centuries.
Butt was also the third highest run scorer in this season’s Quaid E Azam Trophy and his performances in the Quaid E Azam Trophy have brought him to the attention of Pakistani cricket fans around the world.
Speaking with PakPassion.net, Imran explains how his interest in cricket developed, the challenges presented to him in his debut season in first class cricket, his plans for selection in the Pakistan Under 19s and beyond.
Full name: Imran Butt
Born: December 27, 1995, Lahore, Punjab
Current age: 17 years 79 days
Major teams: Lahore Lions, Lahore Shalimar
Batting style: Right-hand bat
Getting into Cricket
My family have always been very keen followers of cricket. I was born three years after Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup victory in Australia and my parents named me after the great Imran Khan. They have always admired his efforts in cricket and for his work in building the hospital in Lahore and wanted to name me after the former Pakistan captain.
I owe a lot to my elder brother who has always had the ambition that I should play professional cricket. Right from a very young age my brother would take me to Iqbal Park which was formerly known as Minto Park in Lahore where on any given day you can see many cricket matches of varying standards being played. I joined the General Akhtar Afzal Maan cricket club in Lahore from a young age and the coaches there have really helped me develop my game, from the basics to the technical aspects of cricket.
Lahore Under 15 Trials
I was playing schools cricket and club cricket and in 2007, trials were held for the Lahore Regional Under 15 team. The trials were supervised by former Pakistan pace bowler Mohsin Kamal. Those trials turned out to be the turning point of my life and at those trials I realised that I wanted to become a professional cricketer. Mohsin Kamal really impressed me at those trials and he really worked hard with me and the other boys. Mohsin emphasised the importance of having the right cricketing attitude and ensuring that we all worked hard and never took things easy.
The trials went well, the coaching staff liked me and what I did at the trials and I was picked for the Lahore Under 15s team and then went onto play for Lahore District at Under 16 level.
Lahore District/Regional Under 19s
I never had a great time playing in my first season of District Under 19 cricket, in fact I struggled for form. As a result of the poor displays I wasn’t picked for the Lahore Regional Under 19s either. However in the second season of District Under 19 cricket in 2009 I was appointed captain and had a much better season. I made the highest number of runs in the Lahore zone and my team were the champions.
After some good displays in the District Under 19 competition I was picked for the Lahore Regional Under 19 competition however I contracted Dengue fever so I was only able to play in two matches for Lahore Region in 2009. I played in the semi final against Sialkot Under 19s in Islamabad and in the second innings I made 114 but unfortunately we never qualified for the final.
In 2010 I once again captained my District team to another championship. In Regional cricket in 2010 I was the highest run scorer for Lahore making just under 500 runs in that season.
Pakistan Under 19 Trials
I attended the Pakistan Under 19 trials ahead of the Asia Cup last year where 17 players were selected. Two matches were held in Lahore amongst all the players attending the trials but unfortunately I wasn’t selected. However I was picked for an Under 19 team to play against the Pakistan Under 19s due to take part in the Asia Cup in a 50 over match. I made 48 against the Pakistan Under 19s and Mohsin Kamal was very impressed with my performance.
Mohsin Kamal's Guidance
He’s helped me tremendously throughout my career. After I made 48 against the Pakistan Under 19s last year, Mohsin said to me that I had a lot of talent and potential and with some improvement and experience I could do well in future. He suggested to me that I should look to play for one of the Lahore teams in the Quaid E Azam Trophy. He fought my corner and ensured I was picked for Lahore Shalimar in the Quaid E Azam Trophy.
Kamal asked me before the Quaid E Azam Trophy competition what I wanted to achieve in cricket, what were my aims. We were travelling to Karachi and it was a very fruitful and open discussion. Kamal said to me to be realistic rather than come up with some wild and optimistic predictions. I said I wanted to make 700-800 runs in my first class debut season in the Quaid E Azam Trophy and do the best for my team. Kamal was surprised that I had set myself such a tough goal in my debut season but he also said to me that he was impressed that I had set myself a tough target rather than settle for mediocrity.
First Class Debut
I made my first class debut against Karachi Whites who had Sohail Khan, Mohammad Sami, Fawad Alam and several other former Pakistan players in their starting line up. It was nerve wracking making my debut as an opener against a number of experienced cricketers, but thanks to the Almighty I made a half century in my debut innings and then 36 not out in my second innings as we won by 10 wickets.
First Class Cricket
My debut season in first class cricket was like a dream come true. I’d be the first to admit that I had no idea if I would play or whether I would just be a squad member. I had no idea that if I did play, how I would perform and whether I would be a success or a flop.
The season went very well. I only had a couple of poor matches, one of which was against Rawalpindi in Mirpur. The highlight of the season apart from my debut was scoring 126 and 81 against Hyderabad in the final match of the Quaid E Azam tournament.
The step up from Under 19 cricket to first class cricket in Pakistan, like most other countries I would suspect is huge, but I was lucky enough to get off to a good start and had the backing of my coach and team mates which really helped. They made me feel very welcome at what could have been a very difficult time.
The best thing that was said to me ahead of the season - and this is very important I feel to young cricketers - was that I was told not to worry if I did not succeed in the first few matches and I was assured by the team management and team mates that I would get a proper chance and an extended run in the team even if I did not succeed at first. That really eased the pressure on me and built up my confidence.
Important Words That Will Stay With me Forever
When I made my first century in first class cricket against Abbottabad, Mohsin Kamal said to me to “always look to improve, never get in a comfort zone and always behave and conduct yourself in a professional manner. There are lots of so called talented cricketers around the world, but talent alone does not get you to the top of the game.” Those were words that meant a lot and that are important and will stay with me forever.
Ricky Ponting is my hero. He is my all time favourite cricketer. He is someone who has always inspired me and someone that I can only dream of emulating. He was such a great batsman, gutsy, determined and a cricketer that young cricketers like myself around the world admire. His pull shot was something to behold, and I have studied his back foot stroke play a lot and have tried to model my back foot shots on Ponting, but it’s impossible. He was a legend and I can only dream of being a fraction of the player he was.
As far as Pakistani batsmen are concerned Inzamam ul Haq and Mohammad Yousuf are the batsmen that I have always admired.
Opening the Batting
I’ve always opened the batting from a very young age. I want to be out there in the middle facing the bowling for as long as possible. I don’t want to sit in the pavilion and come in at number three or further down the order. You could say it’s just a desire to bat and bat and bat. However if in future I’m required to bat down the order then I will do so.
Away from Cricket
I’m studying a B.Com at the Central University of Punjab, so when I am not playing cricket my studies take up a lot of my time.
I’ve had a great start to my first class career but it’s important to keep my feet on the ground. Selection for the Pakistan Under 19 team is important and would hopefully be a stepping stone to international cricket. I want to make a name for myself, I want to play for Pakistan in Under 19 cricket and then step up to international cricket and play for Pakistan for a long time. I’m determined, I know it’s tough and there is a lot of competition but I have faith in the Almighty and in my own ability.