In an exclusive interview to PakPassion.net, he spoke about his career so far playing in the first ever Pakistan Super League (PSL) and winning the title with Islamabad United and playing in the Pakistan Cup. He spoke on a wide range of topics from his cricketing role models, and the importance of education for young cricketers.
PakPassion.net : Who were your cricketing role models and what attracted you to this game in the first place?
Amad Butt : In a cricket mad country like Pakistan, I obviously had many role models to look up to but one that I admire the most is Shoaib Akhtar. I know that I can never be a bowler like him but I have always strived to be like him and love his style of bowling. As for interest in cricket, like many other children around the country I was told to forget about cricket and concentrate on my studies but as luck would have it, I didn’t turn out to be very strong in my studies and ended up playing cricket.
PP : You were part of the Islamabad United squad that won the inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL). How was that experience?
AB : The experience was amazing. I got to watch some of the top players in the world at close quarters and saw how they prepare and train for the day ahead. It was impressive to watch Shane Watson and Andre Russell in person and it was an educational experience for me which I really enjoyed. The way they go about their game, whether it’s batting or bowling, was a treat to watch and as an all-rounder myself, seeing two top all-rounders in action was great. I do regret the fact that I couldn’t discuss the game in detail with both of them due to my limited English but watching them was very informative as well. I saw the methods of practice that these two players use and I have taken these away to use in my own game.
With Andre Russell, who apart from being an excellent bowler is also an extraordinary batsman, I was able to have some discussions around aspects of his bowling which will prove useful for me in the future. His batting is something which I don’t think anyone can copy – all you can do is admire it! Remember that both Russell and Watson had some fitness issues and had travelled some distance to play in UAE so watching them getting themselves up and running and back to full fitness was also very useful for me.
PP : What was it like to work with Wasim Akram and what advice did he give to you?
AB : Wasim Akram was phenomenal in the advice he gave to all of us. His thoughts on how to use the old cricket ball to your advantage were a real eye-opener for many of us. To interact with Wasim, who is such a legendary player, was an honour for me and the fact that he took time out to offer his thoughts and provide advice was just amazing. Not only did he speak to us about cricket issues but he also had pointers on our diet and other aspects not strictly related to the game.
There is a funny incident involving Wasim Akram which I will always remember with a smile. This had to do with a meal we all had in a restaurant. I, being a typical Pakistani lad, sat down and got my rice and meat all set up on my plate and was about to dig in when Wasim spoke to me. He said “What have you got on your plate?” I said I can’t stand salads so I am eating what I really like. He replied “You want to be a well-known sportsman and this is what you are eating? What will happen if you eat salad? At worst you will just throw up, so get going and start eating salads!”
PP : What was the reason behind you not playing any games in the PSL?
AB : There was an issue with my fitness which came to light whilst training. Until then, it was the management’s call to not play me in any game as in the initial games our all-rounders had done well and to be honest, it wasn’t all that bad as I was still learning a lot as the 12th man. It just so happened that as the performance of the bowlers dipped a bit and there was a chance that I would get to play, this injury came about and I did not feature in the squad after that. Obviously I was a little disappointed but then these things happen and sometimes they happen for a reason which only the Almighty knows about.
PP : You recently had a successful run in the Pakistan Cup, how was that experience?
AB : This was an amazing opportunity for younger players as we haven’t played in such a high profile fifty-over tournament before. In my case, I was surrounded by some very experienced players like Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq and Shan Masood to name a few. This gave me a great opportunity to pay attention to so many different aspects of the game such as training, diet, fitness and preparation for games. It was also great to see the seniors treating the juniors with so much respect. This is how I wish to behave and conduct myself when I gain some experience, God Willing. It was an honour playing with such players and to tell you the truth, I was making a big effort to lift my game on the field to match what I saw them do for the team.
PP : The loss to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) in the final of the Pakistan Cup must have hurt?
AB : It is true that we felt a little down after losing the final against KPK but remember, no one wants to lose and we did put in our best efforts. It is a fact that our batting did not click in the final with no real partnerships to speak of. The score we were chasing was a big one which also didn’t help our cause. But these things happen in cricket and we have to learn to accept and hopefully learn from them. We had high hopes of beating KPK in the final based upon our victory against Karachi in the previous game, and although we had been defeated by KPK in an earlier game, it was only by the narrowest of margins.
PP : What were some of the more memorable wickets in this tournament for you?
AB : Obviously taking the wicket of a batsman of the stature of Younis Khan is firmly etched in my memory. I took his wicket in the final where I took three wickets in total. I won’t say that the wicket of Younis Khan came due to some extra special planning but it was just a case of me sticking to the basics and the batsman wanting to score runs in a hurry. That wicket is a really important one due to the batsman in question but during the tournament, I also took the wickets of Misbah-ul-Haq and Hammad Azam in our game against Islamabad at a time when both batsmen could have gone on and created problems for our team.
PP : How good was the quality of coaching in the Punjab side during the Pakistan Cup?
AB : We all know that no side can come as far as we did in the Pakistan Cup without support from its coaching staff. We were lucky to have the former Pakistan international, Atiq-uz-Zaman, as our coach and that was a major boost for our team. Not only did Atiq work tirelessly during the tournament with the captain and the team to make sure we planned well to take on the toughest sides, but he also paid special attention to me in terms of bowling and fielding plans. He worked relentlessly with me to iron out any issues I had during the tournament.
PP : How important is a good educational background for today’s cricketers?
AB : I think it’s essential for all players to have this background but obviously you may not have time to pursue both cricket and education at the same time. I do believe that whilst I may not be able to devote time for full time education now, one thing I do want to do is to work on my English as I am sure I would have picked up more useful tips if I could have communicated with the likes of Shane Watson, Andre Russell and Dean Jones in the PSL. This is therefore an absolutely essential skill which I am planning to work on in the future.
PP : How would you describe yourself, a bowler who can bat a bit or a genuine all-rounder?
AB : I am pretty clear about this. I would like to be known as a genuine all-rounder but I also understand that saying this is one thing, and showing it to the world is another issue altogether and I will need to put in some effort to prove that. If I am being honest, I would say that my batting needs more improvement for me to attain this goal. My bowling is fine and is moving along nicely in the direction I wish to move in. My batting needs to become more consistent with better shot selection and this is what I will need to work on if I want to be considered an all-rounder. This is something I need to work on myself but thankfully there is also no shortage of good advice from some very experienced players. For example, in the recently concluded Pakistan Cup where I represented Punjab, our captain Shoaib Malik was very active in guiding me on how to bat and perform better which was great for me.
PP : You must be pleased that you were called up to the Pakistan A team camp. What do you wish to take from this camp?
AB : First of all I would like to say that I am delighted to have been selected for this camp as I understand that the competition to be named for participation in this camp must have been very tough. It is an excellent opportunity for me to take part in such a camp as one can pick up some excellent tips and also train with the best coaches the country has. I would like to add that I have some experience of taking part in such camps, the most prominent being the ‘upcoming talented bowlers’ camp in August 2015 which was supervised by Wasim Akram, so I do know the importance of these for future development.
PP : Now tell us why Sialkot is producing a lot of promising cricketers? Surely there must be something in the water?
AB : Well I really couldn’t say! But what I would say is that this is a blessing from the Almighty and that’s about it. We do have a lot of hard-working cricketers among us and their efforts seem to bear fruit. I am sure there are others in the country who also work hard but it appears that we have some divine help. Obviously, having some famous cricketers from this part of Pakistan also inspires other cricketers from the region to work hard and try and attain the same heights. Apart from that there is not much else different in Sialkot.