Claiming death threats, Zulqarnain quits cricket

London/Karachi: The turmoil in Pakistan cricket refuses to subside with wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider on Tuesday retiring from international cricket within three months of his Test debut after sensationally deserting his team due to death threats for refusing to fix matches.

The 24-year-old gloveman, who has played just one Test, four ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals, also sought political asylum in England after dumping his team in the middle of the just-concluded ODI series against South Africa in the UAE.

“My family is still getting threats. I have decided to retire because there is lot of pressure on me and I can’t take it,” Haider told ‘Geo News’ from London after mysteriously fleeing from Dubai ahead of the fifth ODI against South Africa on Monday.

“I will be sending a letter to the PCB to inform them about my decision to retire,” he said.

Haider claims that he received death threats for refusing to fix the fourth ODI in the series which Pakistan lost 2-3.

Haider’s only Test appearance came against England in August when he scored an impressive 88 in the second innings although Pakistan lost the match by nine wickets and his premature retirement further exposed the deep rot in which Pakistan cricket finds itself in.

Haider fleeing to England has reportedly also left the ICC “disturbed” as the governing body feels the wicketkeeper has been targetted by “criminals behind betting operations”.

“We are really concerned and disturbed by what has happened, he is clearly frightened or seriously worried and there is no suggestion that he is guilty of anything except producing a brilliant performance to help his team win a game,” a newspaper in London quoted an ICC source as saying.

“The really disgusting thing is that criminals behind betting operations have targeted players’ families in the past. The PCB is moving heaven and earth to try and find him and help him and his family,” the source added.

The young stumper, who hit the winning runs in the fourth ODI against South Africa on Sunday, met immigration officials at the Heathrow airport for close to five hours last night.

“I understand there is a rule in Britain that if you are right and if you are not a criminal, then they always protect you,” he said.

Haider said he received a message asking him to be a part of a match-fixing conspiracy ahead of the fourth one-dayer but refused to reveal the identity of the person who approached him.

“I was approached by one person who asked me to fix the fourth and fifth match and there would be problem for me if I did not do it,” Haider said.

“I do not want to say who is involved and who is not involved in the match fixing,” Haider said.

“The country is like a mother and anyone who sells it cannot get anything in life. I did not want to sell my mother, I did not want to sell my country and I did what I thought was better.”

Haider took his passport from the team management after the fourth ODI on the pretext of buying a mobile connection but instead fled to London.

“I did not do what I was asked to do in the fourth one-dayer and I also did not let it happen what was being asked to do, so this is the reason that I left the team and came here and I did what I felt better,” he added.

Security has been beefed up at Haider’s house in Lahore but the wicketkeeper, who has played just one Test and four ODIs, said he continues to fear for his family’s safety.

“I cannot say what kind of threats I have received as my family is still in Pakistan,” he said.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has already announced an inquiry into the matter.

Haider confirmed that the person who approached him to fix matches had met him outside the team hotel and that he got a feeling that there were others involved with him.

“You will get lot of money if you cooperate with us but if you don’t cooperate with us you wouldn’t remain in the team and there will be a lot of problems for them.”

Asked about reports that he was planning to take political asylum in the United Kingdom, Haider declined to comment.

“I think you should speak to the immigration authorities about this but I have decided nothing as yet.”

Haider has been replaced by Umar Akmal in Pakistan’s Test squad for the upcoming series againt South Africa.

The controversy surrounding Haider is the latest in the long list of setbacks that Pakistan cricket has suffered in the past few months.

Just weeks before this furore, Test captain Salman Butt and the pace duo of Mohammad Aamir and Mohammad Asif were suspended by the ICC for his alleged involvement in the spot-fixing controversy during the tour of England this year.