Cricket authorities are appealing to the Pakistan wicketkeeper who fled his team’s tour in fear of his life and flew to London to contact them, as the game’s problems with match-fixing and corruption again came under the spotlight.
Zulqarnain Haider arrived at Heathrow Airport on Monday, without disclosing his intentions to the Pakistan team who were in Dubai, in the middle of a one-day series against South Africa.
Mr Haider has been reported as saying he received death threats directed at him and his family. He hit the winning runs in Pakistan’s closely-fought victory against South Africa on Friday.
The International Cricket Council, whose anti-corruption unit is continuing to investigate three Pakistan players over an alleged conspiracy to deliberately bowl no-balls at the Lord’s Test against England in August, said it hoped the player and the Pakistan Cricket Board would provide it with information. “This is in the first instance a team matter for Pakistan cricket but the ICC is willing to provide assistance to the PCB and the player,” said Haroon Lorgat, ICC chief executive.
“We understand his plight if reports are indeed true, but we can only help if he is willing to engage with us.”
ICC insiders said it was mindful of claims that some players have agreed to co-operate with match-fixers because of death threats.
Geo News, part of a Pakistan media group, played transcripts of conversations with the 24-year-old Mr Haider, in which he said he was retiring from international cricket and was considering seeking asylum in the UK – both of which he later retracted. He said he was ready to return to Pakistan if he could be assured about security for himself and his family.
Of the death threats, he said: “I was told to co-operate or I would face a lot of problems. This person approached me while I had gone out of the hotel for dinner. He told me, ‘Co-operate with us and you can make a lot of money.’ “He said, ‘If you don’t co-operate you will no longer be part of the team and we can make life very difficult for you’.”
Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London, said the commission had not been contacted by the player, but it was ready to offer him its consular services. “We are trying to find out where he is,” said Mr Hasan.
The High Commissioner said he believed Mr Haider had flown to the UK because as a member of the Pakistan touring team in England he would have had a month left on his six-month visa.
The ICC last week upheld provisional suspensions handed down to Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir after the Lord’s Test allegations came to light. They had appealed against the bans. The third banned cricketer, Mohammad Asif, did not appeal.
The Metropolitan Police has yet to decide whether to press charges against the three players.
The ICC is pressing Pakistan to help tackle corruption in the game by keeping a closer eye on its players.
Last week, it praised the PCB for a series of initiatives undertaken since the Lord’s test crisis, including the creation of an anti-corruption code, a plan to regulate the agents of Pakistani players and building a nationwide programme to educate cricketers about the risks of taking money from match-fixers.
However, it is thought that the PCB takes a more sceptical view of Mr Haider’s behaviour.
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