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Butt and Asif set for domestic cricket return

LAHORE: Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif will be allowed to return to Pakistan’s domestic cricket in January, three months after their spot-fixing bans ended, officials announced on Saturday.

The disgraced pair, along with Mohammad Amir, were banned for five years following a spot-fixing scandal tied to Pakistan’s tour of England in 2010, where they took money for deliberate no-balls in the Lord’s Test.

Amir was allowed to feature in domestic matches in April this year after the International Cricket Council (ICC) relaxed certain conditions of his ban through an amendment to its code of conduct.

However, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) directed Butt and Asif to complete a rehabilitation programme, and despite the duo being selected by former domestic champions Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), they were not allowed to play in any of the ongoing domestic matches.

But PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan announced that Butt and Asif will be allowed to feature in the national one-day cup starting next month.

“We have cleared Butt and Asif to play in the one-day tournament after they’ve completed their rehab programme,” Khan told AFP.

Amir has already competed in the premier first-class tournament and was also cleared to play in the Bangladesh Premier League.

With his superb wicket-taking form, Amir has already been tipped to return to Pakistan’s national team soon with Khan and head coach Waqar Younis putting their weight behind the pace-man on Thursday, saying his selection was considered.

Asif said he was relieved to get the chance.

“Of course, it was disappointing to be in the dressing room of the WAPDA team but not being able to go on the ground and play, but it will change as soon as next month,” Asif told AFP.

“I think my fortunes will change and I will do my best to force my way into the national team,” said Asif, who will turn 33 later this month.

At the time of his ban, Asif was regarded as the best new ball bowler having taken 106 Tests and 46 one-day wickets in a career besotted by failed dope tests and injuries.

Butt, Pakistan’s Test captain at the time of the scandal, said he is keen to regain his place.

“I am thankful to Almighty,” Butt told AFP. “I was not able to play the first-class matches because of the rehab programme but I am very excited at getting clearance for the one-day tournament.

“Time will tell how good I am and how changed I am. I have done the hard work and have overcome what happened in the past.”

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