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Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Pakistan Cricket: A Curious Case of Zulqarnain Haider

The 24-year-old Lahore-born cricketer Zulqarnain Haider is becoming a matter of concern and headache for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
In a recent development, Haider, who represented Pakistan as a wicketkeeper in the absence of regular wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, has vowed to sue the Board for releasing a report in which the mental state of the player was put into question.
The player, who is currently in England seeking asylum, wrote on his Facebook page that he was now ready to sue the Board for his character assassination. “zulqarnain is ready now 2 sue pcb about mental illnes report and on all inquiry peoples,” he wrote.
The weird thing in all this is the very fact that the runaway wicketkeeper seems to be doing all his interaction with the outside world through a social networking website. The common question which is popping up in everyone’s mind is that instead of talking through a website, why he doesn’t directly contact the PCB and put forward his demands?
Does he really think that the chairman PCB Ijaz Butt checks Facebook updates after every fifteen minutes? (That is if Ijaz Butt even has a Facebook profile.)
The Board, on the other hand, seems less concerned about the player - who is sitting out of the country and hurling threats after almost every week - because it has more serious things to sort out. For example, the finalization of captaincy for the upcoming 2011 World Cup in the subcontinent, jointly hosted by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The issue of captaincy for the World Cup became controversial when the PCB decided not to name the World Cup skipper with the 15-member squad. This has generated many rumours of politics within the team. According to media reports, PCB is looking into other options than Afridi to lead the team. Misbah-ul-Haq, who is the current Test captain, is being labelled as a favourite for the job.
Since 2009, the PCB has been busy with different scandals; first they suspended a number of senior players for alleged involvement in match-fixing after Pakistan’s defeat in the 2009 International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy. Pakistan lost to New Zealand in the semi-final under the leadership of Younis Khan. This loss caused an outrage back in Pakistan and claims were made by former players and certain politicians against some players for losing the semi-final on purpose.
PCB, taking a hasty decision, suspended the players which included the likes of skipper Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Shoaib Malik. This depleted Pakistan’s strength as a squad to a great extent.
But more troubles were yet to follow and last year, while Pakistan was touring England, three main players (Test captain Salman Butt, pacers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif) were accused of allegedly having links with a bookie Mazhar Majeed, who convinced the pacers to bowl deliberate no balls against England during the Lord’s Test. The players were then suspended, faced a trial early this month and are now awaiting a verdict which is set to be made public on the 5th of February. PCB, due to this spot-fixing fiasco, faced tremendous embarrassment both at home and abroad.
Then came the Haider factor, while the team was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) playing in their first major event after the spot-fixing tainted tour of England. The PCB and the team management was hoping to leave all controversies behind and move on but Haider had other things in mind and after helping the team win the fourth ODI, he bailed on his squad before the fifth match. To everyone’s surprise, the touring management had no clue about the whereabouts of the player and his location was discovered hours later when authorities in the UAE confirmed that the player had boarded a plane to the United Kingdom.
Haider, after resurfacing in England, claimed in a press conference that he left the team because he had received life threats from an unidentified bookmaker who wanted him to lose matches while playing for the national team. Describing his rendezvous with the bookie, Haider said, “When I went out of the hotel to eat dinner once, he came up. He was alone but I felt there were two to three people behind him. I can describe him. He spoke Urdu but I cannot describe the accent accurately. He said you will make lots of money if you join us and help us. If not, then staying in the team could be difficult and we can make things difficult for you. I don't know why I was approached and others weren't."
Haider defended his decision to escape to the United Kingdom by telling the press that he did what seemed like the right thing to do. “The fourth ODI, the things I was told to do I didn't, and the fifth ODI, what they wanted done I didn't do. That is why I did what seemed right to me and I came here (UK). I can't tell what kind of threats I received to the country because my family is still in Pakistan."
According to the PCB, the Board tried contacting him many times after his arrival in England but initially the player was reluctant to talk to anyone from the PCB. Haider, however, did speak with ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit and made it clear to them that he was not willing to go back to his native country under any circumstances.
PCB formulated a fact finding committee to look into the events that took place before the player’s decision to turn his back on the national team. The fact-finding committee termed Haider as mentally weak in their report which was made after interviewing team players and after talking to Haider by phone. “It may be noted that the views of some of the support staff about Haider were that he is a complex personality. He is a person who is easily convinced into believing whatever is said to him. He is also stated to be a weak nerves person,” the report said.
This report irked Haider and now after almost a month since the contents of the report went public, the player has pledged to take the PCB to court. But here again there is a mind wobbling thought: how is the player going to pay for the case against the Board, because just a week ago he made it clear that he was out of cash and demanded the PCB to pay up his dues for playing in the national squad? According to details, the PCB owes him 16,000 pounds. However, a source in the PCB made it clear that the Board was not going to release any money to the player until his (asylum) case was sorted out.
This whole saga seems to be going round in circles with no imminent solution in the near future. Someone needs to advise Haider that if the player really wants some serious actions to be taken regarding his current situation, then perhaps it would be better for him to communicate with the PCB directly instead of using a social networking website. Perhaps that will convince the people sitting in the Board to take him seriously.
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