When has logic ever come into Pakistan cricket? The PCB today announced that Zulqarnain Haider, the wicket keeper who defied the match fixers and fled for his life, has had his central contract terminated. They didn’t even wait until they’d spoken to Haider, who presumably might have expected the support of his employers after such a harrowing experience. What do the PCB think they are doing? They claim they’re determined to root out corruption from their national game, yet they penalise someone who has apparently made a stand against match fixing at great personal risk.
Let’s not forget either how Ijaz Butt supported Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir when the spot fixing crisis broke during the English summer. The message seems to be this: if you reject approaches from illegal bookies you’re a pariah, but if you bowl huge no-balls and get caught up in a scandal that brings shame on your country you’re given every opportunity to explain yourself. It’s so surreal it makes Twin Peaks look like an episode of Panorama.
The condemnation of Zulqarnain by the country’s sports minister, Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani, was particularly absurd – not to mention vicious and uncalled for. He called the missing wicket-keeper ‘weak’ and claimed his disappearing act was not befitting ‘a member of the national team’ or ‘even a professional cricketer’. Ouch! Jakhrani also claimed that Zulqarnain ‘should not have played international cricket in the first place’ if he’s ‘such a weak and scared person’. Heaven knows what he would’ve made of Robert Croft and Andy Caddick’s decision to skip England’s tour of India a few years ago.
It almost seems pointless trying to dissect Jakhani’s logic – we tried to do the same with Ijaz Butt’s rant during the spot-fixing scandal but it didn’t get us anywhere – however, we’re so astonished by his withering attack on poor Zulqarnain that we can’t resist. Why on earth is it ‘weak’ to defy sinister elements that are threatening your safety? Perhaps, Mr Jakhrani, you ought to remind yourself why Pakistan aren’t hosting international cricket at the moment. Could it be something to do with an attack on international cricketers that cost lives and hospitalised several members of the Sri Lanka team?
Threats to sportsmen should always be taken seriously – and when they occur the individuals concerned need support. Then again, it’s so much easier to characterise men like Zulqarnain as cowards, and pretend that corruption in your country is fictitious and a conspiracy invented by the West. Until Pakistan gets its house in order, the calls to withdraw their team from international cricket are only going to get louder – and that’s something nobody wants to happen.