Karachi: Runaway Pakistani wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider has made a comeback to first-class cricket almost eleven months after he last played for his country.
He had stunned one and all by fleeing the Pakistan team hotel in Dubai hours before the final one-day international against South Africa in November 2010. After reaching London, he had claimed that he had got death threats from a person who wanted him to fix matches, and subsequently sought asylum in the United Kingdom.
Zulqarnain, however, voluntarily withdrew his application for asylum in Britain after the Pakistan government assured him and his family of “the highest level of security” in the country, and returned to Pakistan in April.
In June, he withdrew all allegations he had levelled against the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), and apologised to the board’s committee for fleeing the team last year and subsequently making corruption accusations against board members and national cricketers.
On October 6, Zulqarnain kept wicket for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Division One, taking three catches on the first day of the match against Faisalabad, a leading daily reports.
"I have started my career again and it feels like I`m starting from scratch. I don`t know what prospects I have at the moment, but cricket is my bread and butter and I had to get back to playing for my livelihood,” Zulqarnain was quoted as saying.
“I am young and have already lost plenty of cricket for various reasons. I don`t know whether I will be selected for the top level or not but right now I am focusing on my game and the rest is up to the selectors,” the 25-year-old said.
Zulqarnain also said he had no regrets about making accusations that match-fixing was rampant in cricket.
"I know I almost put my career at stake for which I have no regret," he said. "In fact, I have inspired upcoming players to speak up against happenings around them instead of just going with the flow."
Referring to Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar`s recent comments about ball tampering and former captain Shahid Afridi`s criticism of the PCB and the team management, Haider questioned as to why these players had waited so long to come forward with their statements.
"I was well aware I was risking my career but I opted to follow the righteous path. I am not like Afridi and Shoaib who when done with their career are now coming out busting the system. On the contrary I was at the beginning of my career and I raised my voice against the odds, putting my career at risk without any fear," he said.
"Both Afridi and Shoaib have earned a lot of respect and money through the system, and now when they see things are out of their hands they have started lashing out the at entire structure and culture of Pakistan cricket. Why at the end of their career?" he questioned.