Pakistan wicket-keeper Zulqarnain goes missing in Dubai

Monday, November 8, 2010

KARACHI - Pakistan wicket-keeper Zulqarnain Haider has gone missing ahead of the fifth and last One-day International (ODI) against South Africa at Dubai.

The shocking development has taken the team management, former cricketers and fans back home by surprise.

Team manager Intikhab Alam confirmed that team officials are looking for the wicket-keeper who hit the winning runs in Pakistan’s stunning triumph over South Africa in the fourth ODI last week.

“I can’t comment on this, but I can only confirm that Haider did not come with the team to the ground and we are looking for him,” Intikhab told reporters in Dubai.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has sought help from the Dubai Police to locate Zulqarnain and has informed the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Anti-Corruption and Security Unit.

Source say Zulqarnain may have left for England from Dubai following “murder threats” and that he took his passport from team manager Intikhab Alam Sunday night on the pretext that he needed it for some urgent business. An unsuspecting Intikhab handed the player his passport after telling him to return it as soon as possible.

But since 6.30 a.m. Monday morning, Zulqarnain has been missing. He was excluded from the Pakistan line-up for the final One-day International against South Africa that got underway Monday afternoon and was replaced by Umar Akmal.

Zulqarnain was fined 500 UAE Dirhams Sunday for breaking the team curfew along with opening batsman Shahzaib Hasan and left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman Sunday.

A day later, a cryptic message left as a status update by Zulqarnain on his Facebook page said: “leaving Pakistan cricket because get bad msg fr 1 man fr lose the match in last game.”

The message apparently referred to a text message that he received on his cell phone to throw the last ODI.

Another message left by him at Facebook read that “he is leaving for UK and security should be provided to his family back in Pakistan.”

A Pakistani journalist in Lahore claimed that Zulqarnain has sent him an SMS saying that he is receiving ‘murder threats which is why he is leaving Pakistan cricket. Zulqarnain also sought security for his family back in Lahore.

However, TV reports said that Zulqarnains family is yet to receive any security cover from the authorities.

His brother Ali said they had “talked to Zulqarnain a couple of times during the series and he seemed to be tense.”

Curiously, Intikhab is said to be aware about Zulqarnain’s whereabouts. “I am aware where he is, but can’t give any more details at this juncture”, Alam told Dunya TV.

Former test cricketer Basit Ali said there is more to this case than what meets the eye.

“The influence of betting mafia on the game is not diminishing and I can smell something fishy in this particular incident as well”, he stressed.

Former PCB chairman Tauqir Zia lashed out saying PCB has no control over the players.

“There is no control of the board over the players and this latest incident is a clear mockery of discipline. If the present management continues to run the affairs of cricket in Pakistan, we’ll continue to be the laughing stock,” he said.

Zulqarnain made his Test debut last August in the second Test against England and hit a valiant 88 in the second innings. But he injured his finger during the match and was soon sent back home, missing the rest of the series.

However, after regular wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal underwent a minor operation last month, Zulqarnain was recalled to the national team. He hit an unbeaten 18 in a narrow win in the fourth ODI to help Pakistan level the series 2-2.

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