The news broke yesterday that Pakistan’s wicket keeper Zulqarnain Haider, the man whose name we’d pay good money to hear Bill Lawry pronounce, had suddenly quit Pakistan’s matches in Dubai and fled to England. He is currently claiming asylum. Haider recently hit the winning runs in the fourth ODI against South Africa. However, he claimed he received a threatening text message beforehand demanding he throw the match. He therefore decided to do a runner sharpish – and who can blame him.
Although there must be a chance that this text was a joke or a bluff (reports have denied the text was sent by Graeme Smith) threats of this nature are no laughing matter. Controversy and mystery surrounded the death of Pakistan’s coach, Bob Woolmer, before the last World Cup, and Haider obviously believed the threats were serious enough to take drastic action. He has since announced his retirement from international cricket at the age of 24 – a decision he couldn’t have made lightly.
Once again this is bad news for cricket. How can the South African be sure they won yesterday’s fifth ODI fairly and squarely? But at least there’s a potential silver lining. By defying the mob, Zulqarnain has shown that cricketers can be brave and incorruptible. Secondly, it raises the question whether Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were similarly threatened before they allegedly bowled deliberate no-balls during the English summer. Would you have done the same if the safety of your family was at stake? It’s an interesting dilemma.
As I had backed them a couple of days before, I was particularly annoyed to discover one of the team was ‘missing’ half an hour before the start.
The three suspended players are outright denying it, with Butt just saying his manager ‘exaggerates’. Be interesting to see if their story suddenly changes.
Surely this is the point where ICC ‘withdraw’ Pakistan from all cricket until there is confidence in their performances and safety of the players is assured?
We’ve just heard that Haider has reversed his decision to retire. We’ll let you know if he changes his mind again. He must be under a lot of strain, but the situation with Pakistan is now becoming rather farcical. It’s a very difficult one for the ICC to call. Nobody wants to see Pakistan temporarily withdrawn from international cricket, but if player safety is a genuine concern then they may not have a choice. After all, the reason they don’t play cricket in Pakistan itself is due to safety issues.