KARACHI: It seems that Pakistan’s cricket officials are quite pleased with the fact that Zulqarnain Haider is being treated with skepticism. After all, it shifts the blame on the 24-year-old rather than towards the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which should be forced to answer a lot of questions.
More people are questioning Zulqarnain’s motives though they should be demanding a full-fledged investigation into serious claims made by the wicketkeeper, which if true raise a big question mark over the integrity of cricket as an international sport.
World’s cricket chiefs should make it their top priority to launch a full-blooded probe into claims made by Zulqarnain, who insists that he fled from Dubai to London in a bid to save himself and his family from a powerful match-fixing mafia.
Thankfully, not everybody has rejected Zulqarnain as an unreliable whistleblower, seeking publicity.
Eminent cricket writers like Peter Roebuck and Scyld Berry want the cricket authorities to take Zulqarnain seriously.
“Zulqarnain Haider has been getting a raw deal,” wrote Roebuck in Monday’s (today’s) Sydney Morning Herald.
“More attention has been paid to his character and motivations than to his claims. Cricket cannot afford to be complacent.
“Far from condemning Haider as a hothead and attention seeker, cricket ought to investigate the matches in question, the fourth and fifth one-dayers played in Dubai. Haider says Pakistan was supposed to lose both, and that he refused to go along with it. Instead, he guided his team to a one-wicket win in the first and then fled. History suggests he should be taken seriously,” stressed Roebuck.
In a report in Sunday Telegraph the other day, Berry wrote that Zulqarnain will give ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit useful evidence when they interview him again this week, following his flight from Dubai.
“Haider, who fled to London last Monday, following death threats when he refused to fix two matches against South Africa, will name the coach who he claims forced him to stand down from the captaincy of Lahore Eagles for their 50-over match against National Bank of Pakistan on March 28 2009, which ended in one of the most astonishing results ever recorded,” he wrote.
“Lahore Eagles scored 122 from 40.3 overs. NBP, who had to win convincingly to improve their net run-rate to qualify for the semi-finals of the Royal Bank of Scotland Cup, replied with 123 for no wicket off 6.1 overs. Salman Butt, the suspended Pakistan captain, scored an unbeaten 92 off 25 balls. Kamran Akmal was the NBP captain, and Wahab Riaz and Mohammed Amir were also in the winning team,” he added.
“And if Haider had remained captain, no doubt he would not have kept bowling Usman Sarwar, who had never played for Lahore before or since — who conceded 78 runs from three overs, mainly to Butt.
“Who exactly told Haider to step down? ëThe coach said to me, if you do not rest, you will not be playing next year for Lahore.’ The name of the coach, Haider told The Sunday Telegraph, is Sajad Akbar.”
In his blog in the Guardian, Paul Hayward has stressed that condemnation of the Pakistan wicketkeeper does not bode well for future whistleblowers.
“The curse of the whistleblower is to be denounced as a fraud, a fantasist or a weirdo. In America, where they have an organisation for everything, the National Whistleblowers Center in Washington helps people wanting to expose iniquity, much like our own Public Concern at Work. Either may hear soon from a 24-year-old Pakistani wicketkeeper,” he wrote.
Hayward was critical of former Pakistan captains, who have rapped Zulqarnain for abandoning the national team.
“This censorious tone obscures the dark realities of the past year. The current cycle of trouble began with the dubious tour of Australia, with its suspicious Sydney Test and nine straight defeats for Pakistan in all formats. After the News of the World’s spot-fixing exposÈ, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt are under an ICC provisional suspension and have had their central contracts cancelled by the Pakistan Cricket Board.
He added: “As pressure builds in India, the hub of cricket betting, to legalise and therefore regulate the wild east of gambling on the country’s national sport, you wonder why more punters are not put off by all the evidence suggesting choreography on the field of play. It’s an odd kink of human nature that people will go on betting in an apparently bent casino, as if to beat a crooked system confers more pleasure than winning against an honest house.”
Joining what has become a pretty juicy debate, Toronto Sun backed Zulqarnain for not taking the team management into confidence.
“The idea that Haider, after receiving some sinister text messages, would have been wiser to throw himself back into the arms of his team than slip away to the airport would be laughable if the context was not so grim,” it wrote.
“Could he have relied on the sympathy and support of his team coach, the great fast bowler Waqar Younis? Some of the Younis’s antecedents are certainly not encouraging. Ten years ago the probe into corruption in Pakistan cricket by Justice Qayyum, the most exhaustive ever undertaken and one that led to the stripping of the captaincy from another legend, Wasim Akram, found Younis an extremely reluctant witness — and administered both a fine and an official question mark over his behaviour.”