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Akhtar Butt - Ruthless perfectionist

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The 71-year old Lahore-based Akhtar Butt, the best known cricket mentor in Pakistan’s educational domain, has no plans to hang up his boots, just yet.

Thirteen years after the death of Dr. Dilawar Hussain, All India Test wicket-keeper and Principal MAO College (1940-67) at Amritsar and Lahore, Butt took charge of sports at the same institution in 1980.

In 2010, he was a deserving recipient of ICC Centenary Medals for Volunteers, nominated by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for his services to the game. In 2013 he was among the top organisers in the Lahore Region Cricket Association (LRCA) to win the Lifetime Achievement Award. The biggest award to Butt perhaps is the affection and respect, the players and administrators, have showered upon him, in their individual tributes to this legendary figure.

Impressions - 39

In alphabetic order

Aamer Sajjad

‘Originating from a remote village of Lakhodher in the outskirts of Lahore, I was taken in as a first year student at MAO College in 2001 having previously played Lakhodher Gymkhana and Crown CC. My real cricket learning started at MAO with Butt Sahib, who accommodated me both as an opening batsman or middle order. I would not call him a ‘technical coach’ for he was more of a ‘performance coach’ who had the knack of getting us perform to our level best. He had a good reputation in Lahore and it was in our ‘interest’ to avoid his dislikes – a run out, sweep shot and poor time keeping.’

‘I was to spend three years with Butt Sahib at MAO College before I was offered a contract by WAPDA. I owed my foundation to the tough regime laid out by him, particularly in the nets as front-line batsmen were made to play 4-5 new balls in each session. In my first inter-collegiate match against Government College, Lahore, Butt Sahib insisted on my selection, although there was opinion that I was not quite ready for a tough encounter. In my period, MAO was the best prepared team and in the run up to the big tournaments as he would arrange matches against strong clubs. Butt Sahib’s generosity and unselfish take on students from economically struggling classes, is a well-known fact in Lahore.’

Ali Zia

‘I only got to know Butt Sahib, after my quitting first-class cricket, in the 1992-93 winter. We set on a couple of selection meetings for Punjab University in the period LCCA affairs were being run on ad-hoc basis. He is a strong character for sure and is not shy to communicate in his somewhat ‘abrasive’ style and become emotional in tense stages of a close match. No one could ever question his integrity whilst selecting players for MAO College, Punjab University or any other teams. His judgement of players as to who could stand tall in pressure situation, is second to none. Butt Sahib is also a strong disciplinarian and has proved a great mentor for players who came under his wings. A likable personality, away from the cricket field, he has rendered great service to the game in Lahore.’

Amer Nadeem

‘This appreciation is to say thank you for everything coach and manager, Akhtar Butt, has done for the sport of cricket. It is amazing to think he had no prior qualification/education on coaching before his first stint at MAO College, but the impact he had on player development in the sport was unparalleled to anyone else. He has coached at MAO College, Punjab University, and Pakistan Universities team winning several inter-college and inter-university cricket championships, as well as promoting the Pakistan Universities team from Grade II to Grade I. He taught the players to view the sport from a different perspective, ultimately broadening their tactical range along with enhancing their technical ability to make them significantly better players. Many of his players have gone on to represent the Pakistan cricket national team.’

Arsalan Mir

‘I arrived from Sialkot to enrol at MAO College and Butt Sahib made sure that I didn’t have to pay for my stay in college hostel or the education expenses. He had a sound judgement and knew which player needed harsh words and others a gentle ticking, to bring the best out of them. I had no prior experience of leadership but Butt Sahib appointed me captain of both MAO College and Punjab University. He never left me on my own and supported with his ideas whilst encircling the ground. Before arriving in Lahore, my fitness levels were poor and I owed it to his management to look after myself. Butt Sahib is not a qualified coach as such but knows the finer points of the game and through emphasis on sharp focus and hard training, has had great success at MAO College and Punjab College.’

Arshad Sattar

‘As Director Sports of UCP, I was most pleased with Butt Sahib joining us, after having built a great reputation at MAO College, Lahore. He without doubt is the best coach to have at grassroots level of cricket in Pakistan. His total commitment means he is an all-in-all of cricket affairs and we have not considered any other appointments in this domain. Sadly cricket seems the only game in Pakistan that attracts media attention, private sponsorship and patronage at the government level. Both myself and Butt Sahib are keen to see young boys and girls taking up and excelling in all other sports as well. To mark his outstanding services to UCP, we had promised to send Butt Sahib for Umrah, which due to covid-19 is still pending. We hope and pray that he can serve in his role, for many years to come.’

Asadullah Butt

‘I was a student of Islamia College (Civil Lines) and on the insistence of a friend, took an admission in MAO College, where Butt Sahib was in charge of cricket. After my first-class debut for Pakistan University Grants Commission (PUGC), I played for two seasons. The exposure I got there, led me to a contract with Habib Bank. Butt Sahib would pressurize and motivate us to perform out of our skins. He had a real presence and you could feel it from miles. He had developed a reputation of a no-nonsense character who was prepared to take on the authorities, if his players were not given a level playing field. I respect him to this day for he was our genuine well-wisher and never pretended, what he wasn’t.

‘As a mentor Butt Sahib was selfless and led from the front in showing hundred percent commitment. He will not accept any outside interference in selection, which always was merit based. In PUGC’s fixture against the 1990-91 touring England A side, he accepted the decision not to be officially accompany the team as its manager. He was simply happy for the fact that his selected players had a chance to play against a touring side at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore. I compare his discipline and vision to that of Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United football team. Butt Sahib was a champion mentor and I value his input in my cricket career.’

Azhar Zaidi

‘I think we go about 35 years and I have always admired Butt Sahib’s dedication to cricket. I always look forward to his WhatsApp greetings in the morning and it is always reassuring that he is well. In our Punjabi language, Butt Sahib is often referred as ‘okha’ (awkward) and ‘kora’ (harsh) in his role as a cricket manager. Yes that is true but all that is for the betterment of players, team and the education institution that he is employed by. His tenure at MAO College was full of trophies and titles and no one could ever doubt his sincerity to the job. He has a good eye for talent and having picked a player in trials, he would do anything to back and promote him. No wonder his students respect him so much. I am aware of his present commitment with UCP and his good reputation is safe and intact as he continues to win tournaments. His decision-making power is second to none in our country’s cricket.’

Farhan Rashid

‘Butt Sahib is my cricket teacher and there are very few people who would go to the limits, in the manner he did. He picked me as an off-spinner initially with Lahore u-15 and very soon I realised that I will need to work very hard if I was to survive under his supervision, for he was certainly the hardest man to please in the game. The well-being of cricketers was very close to his heart and he treated us like his own children. His dedication all around the year for more than 40 years will never be matched. I also worked as an assistant coach to Butt Sahib for a six-year period, ending in 2014 and he would often assign me to work in women’s cricket. Even to this day, I am in awe of Butt Sahib and love to exchange views on past and present cricket.’

Hasnain Qayyum

‘I was at Government College, Lahore and had heard about Butt Sahib’s undefeated run with MAO College. He picked me among the 15 in Lahore Board trials and found him to be very focused, when we toured Sargodha. He was, and still is I am sure, a very hard man and instead of sympathising with an out of form player with a sympathetic approach, he would rather motivate and remind the player of his capabilities and what he expects from him. A touch abrasive and assertive but he knew what would work best for the players he had backed. At times his period reminds of the 1990s Australian team that had that never-say-die attitude to each and every game they played.’

‘The final playing eleven, he would put on the field, whilst at MAO College, had a different spirit, compared to the other teams. On the days, his top order misfired, which was ever so rare, he had wicket-keeper and bowling all-rounders to rescue the day. His team were both street-smart and disciplined and that seemed to make them unbeatable, for decades. Butt Sahib’s lengthy association with grassroots cricket, certainly merits a ‘case study’, for even after four decades, he has amazingly retained the same level of enthusiasm for what he does so well. Off the field he had a sense of humour but refused to compromise his extremely professional take, once the game kicked off.’

Idrees Baig

‘I knew of Butt Sahib’s reputation whilst in my first year at Government College in the 1989-90 season. By that time MAO College had developed into the most formidable team in inter-collegiate cricket. I single-handedly defied his team in a knock-out stage match and my innings prompted Butt Sahib to invite me to join him. I was advised to accept it as he backed and pushed the talent, like no other coach in our time. With an ambition to represent Lahore, I decided to accept the offer.’

‘I quickly found out, a cricket match was life and death for Butt Sahib and that the word defeat did not exist in his vocabulary. He had a real ‘presence’ and very little came in his way of his goals. 1991-92 was my first season with MAO College and I have no words to describe the love and support he had for his players and how he fought for them. He only rated performances that he witnessed with his own eyes and it was an achievement to impress him. I became one of his favourites in the team and that was a matter of great pride for me. Through his backing I captained Punjab University and the following year he saw me as a deserving candidate for a similar role with Pakistan Universities, which also featured Saqlain Mushtaq.’

Iftikhar Hussain

‘In my three years at MAO College, I came to know how good a coach Butt Sahib was. As a batsman, one was always conscious that throwing away one’s wicket was a cardinal sin in his book and one could expect a reaction featuring explicit and liberal usage of Punjabi expressions. He much preferred to see orthodox cricket strokes and I was most relieved when he approved my style as an opening batsman. As a second year student, I was appointed captain of MAO College intermediate squad.’

‘In a tense match, Butt Sahib would go quiet but still continued to encircle the ground, which was his way of ‘staying in the game’. Without any formal coaching, his cricket knowhow and an eye for talent, was second to none, if not the best. He was hungry for success and believed in working hard for it and facilitating the induction of quality players into the MAO College team. I am sure he is doing the same whilst employed by Punjab College.’

Javed Hayat

‘Butt Sahib created his own style of coaching and managing boys at both MAO College and now with Punjab College and would not allow any interference from anyone. By continually winning trophies, he was able to justify his methods and went on to enjoy a long reign as the cricket supremo. My only year (1983-84) at MAO College under him was also memorable on a personal note. I reached 70 plus score in both innings and claimed 11 wickets in the final of the inter-collegiate against Islamia College (Civil Lines) that featured Aamir Sohail, at LCCA Ground. He earned respect of the college students with his straight forward and honest approach in his role as a manager and coach of MAO College and Punjab University. I would go as far as to say that MAO College was a cricket brand and Butt Sahib’s proactive and dedicated role was the key to it.

Kamran Khan

‘Butt Sahib was very different from other coaches in my playing days for he was both stern and kind. He was very hard during the match and made sure what he thought of your performance but off the field very mindful of our needs. I considered him as a father figure and was treated with kindness for I never broke his rules. His management was top-class and his knowledge and understanding of the different match situations was second to none. He would provide very vocal support to his captain on the field, if he thought his input would help the team. Following my unbeaten double hundred for PUGC against Pakistan Customs at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore in the 1989-90 final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in Grade II, he awarded me with a gold medal which I cherish to this day. I was also pleased to contribute in our first winning of the Governor’s Cup and we were rewarded with a trip to UAE, as promised by Butt Sahib. He asked me to captain MAO College for two years and Pakistan Universities, for one year.’

Maqsood Rana

‘After doing my matriculation in 1987, I had not played any serious club cricket and was also unsure of my future trail. After enrolling at Islamia College (Civil Lines), I was advised that my cricket would develop much quicker if I moved to MAO College, a cricket team of which was run by Butt Sahib. So I did and quickly found out that he was on a ‘mission’ and MAO College was a production line for nurturing the best grassroots talent in Lahore.’

‘In the hot periods our Punjab University nets, with most of it made up of MAO College players, used to kick off at 9am and lasted till 2pm. Butt Sahib would not allow any players to take their eyes off the ball and refused to compromise on punctuality. The atmosphere with him was so different for he insisted on keeping the intensity and no wonder his playing eleven, more often than not, was made up of 11 match winners. He brought the fitness level up so every member of his team had 100 overs stamina in limited-overs cricket. My hats off to his grand services to cricket in Pakistan.’

Mian Mohammad Aslam

‘Akhtar Butt has gone about his role in Lahore cricket in his very own style. My personal relations with him have been fine and I have always appreciated what he has done for the grassroots cricket. As one of the top organizers of cricket tournaments, his stint as Director Physical Education (DP) and Director Sports at MAO College was the highlight of his career. Butt’s efforts have borne fruit in the shape of Saqlain Mushtaq and Salman Butt, as two top cricketers who represented Pakistan. His grand services to the game also include his role in the selection and management of Punjab College, Punjab University and now with University of Central Punjab (UCP). His hard work and sincerity to the job for the last four decades is a longevity that is comparable to anyone in sports management in Pakistan.’

Mohammad Hussain

‘I found Butt Sahib to be very kind and helpful in the period I was at MAO College (1987-89). Most of the cricket I played in that period was limited-overs and I was proud to be part of a very strong squad under Butt Sahib that did ever so well in inter-university cricket. He was very hard on us as he wanted to get the best out of all of us. His aggression would rub off the team and the results bear his success in the role of a manager and a coach of our team. Such was his personality that he was able to take difficult decisions and handle all type of players. Nothing seemed beyond his capabilities. No wonder he is respected by his former students.’

Mohammad Riaz

‘My first experience of Akhtar Butt Sahib was at the trials of Lahore u-14 squad at Punjab University ground, Old Campus in 1984. He was our coach and manager and we won the final by beating Sargodha, that featured Inzamam-ul-Haq, at the time a slow left-arm bowler, in Sargodha. As wicket-keeper and opening batsman, I was also fortunate to be part of the Punjab u-14 that beat Sind in the final at Sahiwal. He was very strict but always appreciated good performances. During the matches, he had a habit of encircling around the boundary ropes, to keep a close an eye on all the action. I would rate him much better than most of the qualified coaches and the six years I spent at MAO College, starting with 1984-85 winter, we remained unbeaten. I also recall a tour of UAE on which we remained unbeaten. He would do his best for boys from poor backgrounds and the cases of talented cricketers were referred to other selectors.’

Mubashir Nazir

‘I arrived in Lahore from a small city of Gujranwala and didn’t know where to go for regular cricket. In my first trials at Government College ground, both Saud Khan and Butt Sahib, picked me on the basis of my smooth run-up. It was a dream come true and I could not have developed so rapidly within a year, without the dedicated mentoring of Butt Sahib, who was in charge at MAO College, whom I had joined. So much so that I was tipped to emulate my hero Waqar Younis.

‘I recall Butt Sahib being blunt and honest and didn’t spare anyone even thinking of skipping a net session or not performing to the required standards. Gus Logie, manager of the 1995-96 West Indies u-19 team, too was impressed with my skills and would tell all that I was the beneficiary of Butt Sahib’s hard work and dedication. He was very possessive of his players and kept an eye on their development, having spotted them as a raw talent. In my experience, no one compares with this ‘one-man army’

Mujahid Jamshed

‘I was a student of Government College Lahore and came to play under Butt Sahib with his Punjab University team. He was a multi-skilled individual with eye on each and every aspect of all, off the field matters. To us he was a mentor and no one in my experience has been so authoritative in sports management. His confidence in players led to enhancing their performance, in their respective roles. Butt Sahib’s strict discipline and refusal to entertain any outside influence in selection, brought great success for MAO College and in the inter-university competition. It gave me great pleasure to be the most successful batsman for Pakistan University Grants Commission (PUGC) that was managed by Butt Sahib in the 1991-92 BCCP Patron’s Trophy.’

Naeem Ashraf

‘As a captain of Muslim Model HS, Lahore, I led our team to an unexpected win, in a friendly match, against a strong MAO College. I was lucky that Butt Sahib considered me talented enough to join his squad for the 1989-90 winter. I came from the walled city and was ever so grateful for Butt Sahib to find a sponsor for my cricket gear, shoes and the college expenses. No praise is high enough for his contribution to the game. During my two years at MAO College, I noticed that he had a gift for spotting talent and then backing his judgement. He had a sharp memory and was mentally very strong. I entered the team as a bowling all-rounder but my batting developed due to Butt Sahib, at times sending me up the order. In that period Lahore beat Rawalpindi in the final of the inter-divisional Commissioner’s Cup at Gujranwala.

Nawab Mansoor Hayat Khan

‘I have known Akhtar Butt for almost 30 years and have enjoyed very co-ordeal relationship with him. In the last decade or so we seem to have spent more time together since his UCP squad have their nets in our ground in Model Town. He is a strong willed man and has his own style and refuses to be influenced by anyone. Akhtar Butt can be very harsh on children but that is only to enhance their individual and team performance and not to satisfy his ego. He has always shown impressive ability to handle all sorts of boys, a fact proven by his success at MAO College and now with UCP. He has always been in demand in the educational environment and there have been many cases of his students following him, wherever he is working. He should be given credit to break the stranglehold of GC and Islamia College in inter-collegiate tournaments. His biggest strength perhaps is honesty and that very factor has enabled him to enjoy success and respect.’

Raja Asad Ali Khan

‘In few years after Akhtar Butt associated himself with MAO College as their cricket coach/manager, it picked up dramatically. So much so that three established education institutions in Lahore – Government College, Islamia College (Civil Lines) and F.C.College – had no clue as to what had hit them. After its initial success, MAO College became ‘the team’ for up-coming cricketers. I know he was very tough on discipline and that often is quoted as the seed of success as a champion unit. No one could ever call him a hypocrite or double faced for with Butt Sahib, you knew where you stood.’

‘I worked with Butt Sahib in the period Lahore regional team was being run on ad-hoc basis in the 1999-2000 winter. He was given charge of the u-19 squad and emerged as champions and his success story has continued in 2021. He refuses to be influenced by the political tussles between the top clubs of Lahore and happily goes about his work. After enjoying a great run of success with MAO College and Punjab University, he has now made both Punjab College and UCP, the teams to emulate in Punjab.’

Rashid Riaz

‘I am very proud to have developed my cricket skills under Butt Sahib, who had great success as a coach, manager and selector at both MAO College and Punjab University. His unbeaten stretch as champion is unlikely to be ever matched in cricket played in education sector. I am originally from Jaranwala and I quickly found out how good he was in identifying talent and then taking great care in developing it. I was the first cricketer from MAO College to be named in Roll of Honours in the 1999-2000 session, leading to my selection as a captain of Punjab University and further opportunities in Grade II with Pakistan Universities.’

‘As a batsman his coaching helped me to value my wicket and he once was most displeased when I got out to a hook. After his telling off, I promised to myself not to do it again. I was studying for B.Com at MAO College and very early got to know how passionately he wanted all the players to treat the net sessions. Looking back, I would say Butt Sahib is in his own league, unmatchable, with no one coming anywhere near him as a coach and a manager. He is famous for being uncompromising for he never accepted any influence from outside and only basing his selection on merit only.’

Raza Hameed

‘For a number of years both Ludhiana Gymkhana and MAO College had their nets in a ground in Sham Nagar. We were all aware of Akhtar Butt’s success as a coach/manager of MAO College and by the time I followed him more closely, there was simply no competition for his boys, at least in Lahore. No member of his squad was allowed to skip his net and each session was made meaningful for every participating player. As a sports journalist, I was very keen to know what went on in his mind and his extraordinary level of multi-tasking

‘Nowadays you can see Punjab College doing the same by bulldozing their opponents and Akhtar Butt is still not finished, just as yet. His reputation has been built through very disciplined and ruthless cricket and it has seen the boys follow his trail. He has a God-gifted sense to spot what to us is a ‘hidden talent’. After watching Salman Butt, bat for the first time, he didn’t take him in but also reminded his parents that by the next season their son would be ready and that is exactly what happened. His services to Pakistan cricket are unique and to me his friendship is as precious as anything the game has offered me.’

Saeed Ajmal

‘I arrived from Faisalabad and enrolled as a third year student at MAO College in the 1998-99 season. The exposure I got with Butt Sahib’s blessings was vital for me as I was picked for both Punjab University and Pakistan Universities. Based on my success WAPDA offered me a contract. Butt Sahib is not a conventional coach for he does not spend too much time on the technique. His coaching came from his heart and he expected his players to perform to their maximum ability with his exceptional motivational techniques.’

‘I saw him as a father figure for the players in his squad and there were two sides to his personality. On one hand he would rip you apart when a player let the team down but on the other would attend off the field personal matters with great tenderness. He was prepared to fight for his players and only good quality would find a place in his squad. No one dared to interfere in his plan for he would not accept outside influence and merit was the only criteria to be in the playing eleven. He once dropped our captain after getting to know that I was only asked to bowl 4-5 overs in a limited-overs match. In my eyes Butt Sahib is as good a coach at grassroots as any in Pakistan.’

Sajid Aziz

‘I had the good fortune of spending 6 years (2000-06) with Butt Sahib for after graduation, I did my masters in mass communications. After a year with Islamia College (Civil Lines), where we lost in the final to MAO College in the 1997-98 season, I took the decision to join the latter. One of the best qualities Butt Sahib had was to emerge as a fatherly figure for us players and I became one of his favourites in the team that added to my confidence. MAO College nets operated for ten months of a year and no wonder throughout the six years we remained the champion team in all the competitions.

‘On arrival at the ground often Butt Sahib had finalized at least nine players and then would only have a debate on the remaining two. The captaincy was usually offered for only one season, allowing other players to up skill and take responsibility. Butt Sahib had a genuine interest in the development of a cricketer, he had preferred over others in the trials. There was no example of him ever putting pressure on other selectors of associations or departments for a particular talent, instead just sending a brief message, ‘have a look’. He remains very unselfish and not keen on self-projection I can’t forget the way he helped out some of the players, who came from low-income families. He was more than happy to come to their aid from his very own pocket. The talented cricketers were exempted from any cost for hostel rooms or education.’

Salman Butt

‘Akhtar Butt Sahab is certainly one of the best people who have maintained merit in sport ensuring the deserving people get their chances despite of several pressures that come along in a society like ours . He has been our coach manager and all in all at district city and provincial levels as I played through age groups of cricket namely u16 and u-19. He has always maintained high standards of discipline and created the kind of environment that produced loads of international cricketers and hockey stars. He is a living legend and should have had a lot more to do with sports then just college level. Unfortunately for us as a society so many diamonds are never made full use off because we lack merit everywhere.’

Saqlain Mushtaq

‘I was taken in by Butt Sahib at MAO College and that was a stepping stone for me and it opened more opportunities for me in Grade II cricket. The three years I was under his management, MAO College Punjab University and Pakistan Universities, won many titles and I am proud to be part of it. Butt Sahib has always been very demanding and passionate and his style of mentoring has produced a number of quality cricketers and the teams he has managed have achieved great success. As an all-in-all figure he took care of all the aspects of the game from organization, trials, selection and management and always looked in control of the situation. He was both honest and blunt with his players.’

‘He was always keen to instil discipline and taught us the value of mental toughness. Butt Sahib made sure he was the first one to arrive in our nets and no one could dare to be late. He backed talented players and his knowhow and wisdom of cricket was remarkable for he was not a qualified coach. His tactical philosophy was no rocket science but instead a simple breakdown of individual and team targets. By empowering the players, he gave them more confidence to achieve better results and stay loyal to him.’

Saud Khan

‘I have had a long association with Butt Sahib for he always had a soft spot for our club – Ludhiana Gymkhana. I have worked with Butt Sahib on a number of trial camps held by Sports Board Punjab. We also worked together in inter-district and inter-divisional trials and selection and found him a no-nonsense character. He really got annoyed when parents of young kids tried to influence the selection. He took MAO College to a new level of success in cricket whilst challenging the supremacy of Government College and Islamia College (Civil Lines) in inter-collegiate cricket in Punjab. As a coach myself, the toughest assignment is to develop players at grassroots level and Butt Sahib was extremely good in that role. He was never afraid to go his own way and could be proud of what he has achieved.’

Shafiq Ahmed ‘Papa’

‘The success achieved by Akhtar Butt at grassroots cricket in Lahore with MAO College and Punjab University, could not have been achieved without great passion that he has always displayed. One could argue with his style of management that often bordered on unpleasantness but there were no two opinions about his commitment to the cause. For a short period he was associated with Lahore City Cricket Association (LCCA) but quickly realised that he was at his best with young college students. He could be very demanding whilst aiming for the top but perhaps that was the only way to keep the youth of Lahore in check and bring the best out of them. I believe, Butt’s lengthy service to the game has yet to be acclaimed in the manner it deserves.’

Shafqat Hussain

‘Butt Sahib is a father figure to me and a unique personality in Lahore cricket. I enrolled at Islamia College (Railway Road) in 1988 and he despite my unusual batting stance, picked me in Punjab University trials. I was thrilled after scoring 57 as an opening batsman in the semi-final against Bahawalpur University at New Campus Ground. Butt Sahib after that never dropped me from his side and it was a great honour when he appointed me to lead Punjab University Grants Commission (PUGC) in Grade II cricket. He would go out of his way for indispensable players in need of financial support and would not compromise with the composition of his team. He was both hard and caring and above all very sincere with his job and players under him. It was a well-known fact that once Butt Sahib identified talent in a player, he would works his socks off in making sure the player reaches his potential. Without his incredible dedication, so many talented players would have remained unknown’

Shahid Ali Khan

‘I was an intermediate student at MAO College when I came under the influence of Butt Sahib. This happened after I took few wickets for Rashid Minhas CC against the college team. Since that I have been extremely fortunate for he has been a father figure in my life. I am flattered when he says I had more potential than Saqlain Mushtaq and Saeed Ajmal. I am sure his opinion is based on the seven years I spent with him, including last one as a coach. We managed to win Pakistan inter-university championship, throughout this period. Butt Sahib would go to the hilt in backing and supporting his players, for he always based his selection or merit. There was often a frosty response to a five-wicket haul or a hundred, and this was his way of motivating the player to do even better.’

Shahid Mahmood

‘I along with Saqlain Mushtaq and Mohammad Hussain, were the three spinners at MAO College with Butt Sahib, in the 1992-94 period. He was a top man who would go out of his way to back players to progress to play for Lahore and other departments. He did it out of passion for the game and didn’t expect any rewards. I also recall playing six matches in a week and our home ground was the Punjab University, Old Campus ground, near old AnarKali Bazar.’

Shahid Nazir

‘I consider Akhtar Butt Sahib as an outstanding personality. I arrived in Lahore from Faisalabad on the recommendation of Ijaz Mahmood. He was of the opinion that if I wanted to go further in the game, MAO College would be a good starting point. Although their 1994-95 squad had been finalised, upon on my request I was given a chance to show my skills at MAO College nets in ShamNagar Ground. At the end of the session, I had made enough impression to be included at the expense of a new-ball bowler Amir, who had been named captain in the original squad.’

‘I have not seen any coach of Butt Sahib’s calibre as he always backed talent and was happy to see them represent associations or departments. I spent a year in the team and MAO retained the inter-collegiate title by dismissing Government College, Lahore for 35. He would always stand up against sub-standard umpiring and once walked out of match in Faisalabad. My accommodation was secured by Butt Sahib in MAO College hostel and no one dared to challenge his authority in the management of players, both on and off the field. I was so grateful for his support for the very next season I was picked for Pakistan A and then in the senior team on the 1996 tour of England.’

Shakeel Ahmed Jr.

‘Butt Sahib was a combination of the two extremes – a warm and caring man once you had been accepted in the team and he will back you to the hilt, the other side was revealed when an individual or the team didn’t perform and my God his wrath could tear you apart. He was not short of words when expressing his frustration. A proud man, who created a special bonding between the players, which served well in both good and bad times. The wholehearted backing provided one with a sense of security and he kept the umpires and other officials on their toes and achieved great success at MAO College, which I joined in 1986-87 period after six months at Government College, Lahore. I quickly got to know that he was a strong personality and created a winning culture through the force of his personality.’

Sher Ali

‘I am very proud to be one of hundreds of players that Butt Sahib has helped to blossom, in his distinguished career as a coach/manager of MAO College and Punjab College. I was at MAO College for a four year period, i.e. 1987-91 in which Butt Sahib chose me to lead college in both intermediate and inter-university competitions. He is very tough in his trials and selection, which has always been merit-based. Butt Sahib also believed in keeping the intensity in nets and as a batsman I recall we from time to time practising and developing our skills on wet wicket. Butt Sahib wanted to make sure his players were as well prepared as humanly possible.

He preferred his squad to be confident but not arrogant and he was the key character in the great era of inter-collegiate tournaments. In my days, often Punjab University team would consist of 8-9 players from MAO College, for its highly disciplined and efficiently-managed unit. All due to the hard work, honesty and dedication of this remarkable individual. I do not have enough words to praise his contribution to cricket in Lahore and Butt Sahib seemed an ideal man for a cricketer to flourish by learning in a tough environment at grassroots level. By the time I entered first-class cricket, I was a mature cricketer, thanks to Butt Sahib.’

Shoaib Malik

‘Butt Sahib is an extremely unselfish cricket coach, who never seeks anything in return for his dedicated efforts. After my selection for Punjab u-16, I spent two years under him, in the late 1990s. He defied Pakistan culture and encouraged and backed players who came from outside Lahore. He was not going to pick a player, simply because he was from Lahore and my selection was a proof of that. He was very hard to please but his honesty and merit-based selection, endeared him to all. He always encouraged us to contribute more, besides our primary role and stay focused on the game for the entire duration of the game.

‘In his set up a batsman was not allowed to just relax after scoring a hundred or taken 4-5 wickets, for Butt Sahib would demand more contribution in the field. I personally believe that intensity is missing in the cricket these days. He carried that intensity in the nets and would closely monitor each and every individual of the squad that he was seeking improvement in his game and as a bowler he was working on his variations. Butt Sahib had his very own style of coaching and the amount of success he has had with different groups of players is a proof that his strict discipline was essential.’

Taufeeq Umar

‘I was selected by Butt Sahib for Lahore u-16 squad and that is when I first came across him. My group of cricketers quickly got to know how influential he was for he was all-in-all and ran the whole affairs on his own term. I was fortunate to be named captain of Punjab u-16 by him. In my first year at MAO College, having played half of the 1998-99 season, I had to leave when offered a contract by Habib Bank. The three teams that I represented under Butt Sahib, were all champions at their respective levels.’

‘As a coach, yes he was very strict but only when he saw potential in a cricketer. A poor stroke, a fielding lapse or a fitness issue would not escape Butt Sahib and he would make sure shortcomings were attended straight away. We all knew he never sat any coaching courses but I found him to possess an amazing eye for talent and he would take great pride in the nurturing and development of it. His coaching methods were effective and produced results and only recently he has added another inter-collegiate title to his name, whilst managing UCP. A quality player with him would get his full support to come out of a poor run of scores. It was his way of showing confidence in the ability of a player. Butt Sahib stood out, by adopting strict merit-based selection and no wonder he still retains his enthusiasm after forty plus years as a grassroots mentor.’

Umar Fayyaz

‘I came through the MAO college cricket trials in the 1994-95 session and it ensured my admission in it on sports basis. Butt Sahib was the best thing that happened in my career for he pushed me as a player and I managed to represent Punjab and Lahore at u-16 and u-19 level. In my three years under my UstadJee, both MAO College and Punjab University, remained unbeaten and we reached that level through sheer hard work and discipline. I can’t describe his coaching in words for one has to watch him live to see his style, keeping everyone on their toes and determined to take on any team without fear. Amazingly, all his working and tactics are in his head. We never saw him even carrying a clip board for notes and have also not sought help from digital technology. He simply trusts his instinct for his technical and tactical judgements.’

‘A shoulder injury put an end to my role as a front-line off-spinner but both Butt Sahib and Aleem Dar at P&T Gymkhana, insisted that I could carry on as a batsman. I went on to play league cricket in Kenya and Bangladesh. In 2005 I got an offer to coach Pakistan Deaf Cricket Team and Butt Sahib assured me that I had the right temperament and ability to coach. Sixteen years on and I am still with the national side, with great unbeaten record against all international teams. Butt Sahib is a great asset to Pakistan cricket, having given hundreds of players to the system.’