Friday, November 12, 2010

Zulqarnain Haider: Hero or Coward?

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has begun legal action against former South Africa coach, Mickey Arthur by serving him with a three page legal notice prohibiting him from repeating recent “whimsical” claims regarding his strong suspicions of match fixing by Pakistan. The PCB cannot understand why Mr Arthur would knowingly concoct a web of lies and deceit, casting the incorruptible nation of Pakistan in a poor light, merely to promote his upcoming book. Surely recent events have proven beyond all doubt that Pakistani cricket is above suspicion in regards to match fixing. . . I sincerely pity the judge who would have to keep a straight face while hearing this argument in court.

I remember, as a child, waking up at 4am and walking alone in the darkness before sunrise to a friend's house (who were incidently amongst the first in our neighbourhood to get an M-Net decoder) to watch that World Cup Final match when Imran Khan's Pakistan team rose from the ashes of that tournament to triumphantly lift the trophy. Although I later went on to support India (in that sub continental rivalry), it was on that day, for some reason that Wasim Akram became my childhood cricketing hero. I wonder how many children would look back on this week and consider Zulqarnain Haider, to be their cricketing hero. Not many I suspect, because other than in the English County he is bound to end up playing for, I doubt Mr Haider would remain famous for much longer (unfortunately fame and success is somewhat of an essential criteria when choosing a cricketing hero).

A brief overview of the saga as it stands. Hours before taking to the field in the fifth and deciding ODI between Pakistan and South Africa, Zulqarnain Haider, Pakistan's wicketkeeper, fled to London. Before fleeing, he posted a cryptic message on his Facebook page suggesting that his life was being threatened and that it had arisen from his failure to fix the previous match. Zulqarnain had scored the winning runs in the fourth ODI against SA to level the series in a nail-biter of a game. Thankfully Zulqarnain is not friends with anybody from the PCB, because when he asked for his passport for personal reasons they had no idea that he intended to flee for his life. He is currently seeking Asylum in England.

The story of a Pakistani cricketer who chose to not get involved in match fixing, at great personal risk, should have been a blessing to the PCB and he should have been hailed as a hero especially after the embarrassment during the English Test series this year. During the fourth Test against England at Lord's in August, three players were accused of being involved in spot fixing after a middle man (Mazhar Majeed) guaranteed three no-balls after receiving £ 150 000 in cash from the News of the World. After it subsequently happened, Pakistan's captain Salman Butt, and bowlers Mohamed Amir and Mohamed Asif were suspended by the ICC and remain so.The ICC had to act swiftly as the PCB refused to impart their own sanctions on the players. The PCB, in this current instance, appear to be much more concerned with Zulqarnain going AWOL with their legal advisor, Tafazzul Rizvi, stating that the player had breached his contract and would face an inquiry and disciplinary action. The reaction of the PCB was in this instance tame compared to the rebuke Zulqarnain received from the Pakistani Sport's Minister who said,

"If he is such a weak and scared person he should not have played cricket in the first place, particularly not for the national team” .

The minister had ironically released no statement regarding the action of the trio above nor had he said anything when Shahid Afridi (current captain) was caught on camera “smelling” the cricket ball during an ODI series in Australia (that was his initial explanation to the match referee).


Although the umpires acknowledged the rather distinctive, and to some, provocative smell of leather, sweat and grass, they were more interested with the chunks of seam that were now missing from the ball. To really appreciate the subtlety with which this was done, please watch the video, if you had not seen it already. And if you have, it is always worth watching again.

I am of the opinion that Zulqarnain Haider should be congratulated and celebrated for his choice to not get involved with this dark side of Cricket because it was clearly not the easy choice to make in this situation. He is now seeking political asylum in a foreign country, has put himself and possibly his family at personal risk and is currently unemployed. As it is unlikely, based on reading the actual text on his famous Facebook update, that he will be writing a tell-all book anytime soon, I hope he is successful in finding asylum and work in England. He is a young cricketer with great potential and like his namesake1, great courage. Hopefully, others would take strength from his example and stand up for justice if faced with a similar situation going forward.

1 Some eastern historians believe that the name Zulqarnain in Quranic text refers to the great Macedonian ruler, Alexander the Great.


  1. Agree competely with u fayyaz khan,the problem in Pakistan is the media,unfortunately this brave act of Haider has been shown as a coward act and the spot fixing trio showed as victims of the icc.Very very unfortunate as Pakistanis to lose a talanted player like haider who had proved himself since u-15

  2. Thanks for commenting Pir. The case against the spot fixing trio is so solid that they were not even allowed a chance to appeal the decision. That the media in Pakistan would still defend them yet condemn young Zulqarnain is shocking. Hopefully the people of Pakistan are not so easily fooled, and like yourself, can see his actions for what they really are.

  3. I have myself written on my blog about Zulqarnain u can read it

  4. That was indeed a great article Pir and it gives the reader an inside look into the saga. Most of us, outside of Pakistan were unaware of all the internal politics but your piece really puts things in perspective.