Karachi, Sep 3: Salman Butt, Muhammad Aamir and Muhammad Asif may have spent the first day after their five-year spot-fixing ban on a cricket field but Pakistan chief selector Haroon Rasheed has said that the tainted trio must prove strength of character to get back into the team.
The three players enjoyed their first day of freedom from their respective bans with some net cricket in Lahore.
"How they play cricket is important but what is more important is how they convince everyone they have changed and redeemed themselves as honest and decent persons. The truth is it is an uphill road for them and they will have to do a lot to show their character and be redeemed in the eyes of many people," Haroon said here.
The former Test batsman made it clear that the national selectors had ruled out the trio for consideration for the coming tour to Zimbabwe and the home series against England.
"PCB has given them a comprehensive reintegration and rehabilitation plan and it will keep them engaged until January. After that when they have a chance to return to first class cricket we will have to see how things go," Rasheed said.
Butt and Asif were ready to represent the Lahore team in the ongoing national T20 championship from September 2 in Rawalpindi once the ICC announced their bans would expire at midnight on September 1, but the PCB has made it clear the trio have to do a lot to first rehabilitate themselves and reintegrate into Pakistan cricket.
'I sincerely apologise'
"I always knew it would be difficult coming back but just the feeling of being free to play any cricket and train and go to cricket ground or the board academy is enough for me at the moment," Muhammad Asif said in Lahore.
"I am just relieved that the ban is over and I am ready to do anything to convince people and my fellow cricketers to forgive us," the pace bowler said.
Butt spent the afternoon practicing with his club and mingling with his supporters and well wishers. "It is a big relief the ban period is over but our trial is not over and I know a lot of hard work has to be done to get back into mainstream cricket," he said.
The youngest of the three Muhammad Aamir on Wednesday (September 2) coincided the official end of his ban with a public apology to his fans and fellow players.
"I sincerely apologise to everyone I have hurt - my colleagues, my fans, family and my country," he said in a statement.
"I will never be able to explain how much I regret the mistake I made at the promising start of my career. I disappointed my teammates and seniors who expected much better from me," he said.
Kaneria 'still fighting the ban'
Meanwhile leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who is serving a life-ban for promoting spot-fixing while playing County cricket, has pointed out that the even while Butt, Asif and Aamir are being considered for a comeback, he continues to be an untouchable by the PCB.
"I have kept on proclaiming my innocence and am still fighting the ban but the Pakistan cricket Board has not once tried to take up my case or re-examine it or even morally support me. Why I am being treated like this I don't know.
"Maybe because I am from the minority or from Karachi. I just want to tell everyone I am a Pakistani first and than anything else and I have never done corruption at any level be it for Pakistan or Essex," Kaneria told PTI.
"I just want to appeal to the PCB and even the Sindh High Court which is hearing a petition of my case to please reexamine my case and the way the life ban was imposed on me. I was cleared by the Essex police in the spot fixing investigation in England but the England and Wales cricket board used its laws to ban me without giving me a fair hearing," said Kaneria.
"If the PCB can look at pardoning three players who have been convicted for spot fixing why shouldn't they give me a chance to plead my case what crime have I committed to deserve such treatment. I keep on sitting alone and become depressive because of the state I am in," he said.