Safety fears cause Haider to quit

Wicketkeeper fled after alleged match-fixing threats
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The Independent Online

Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider today retired from international cricket after admitting he feared for his safety and that of his family.

Haider yesterday left the Pakistan team hotel in Dubai just hours before the fifth and final one-day international against South Africa and flew to London after receiving death threats following his part in Pakistan's victory in the fourth ODI, in which he made 19 not out and hit the winning runs.

He said he did not want to "sell out the dignity and respect of my motherland" by agreeing to throw matches and that and the threats of violence prompted today's decision.

The 24-year-old told Geo News: "I have decided it is best for me to retire from international cricket since my family and I are constantly getting threats.

"It is best for me to step down because I can't play in these circumstances.

"But I would like to continue to play domestic cricket.

"I received death threats to lose the fourth and fifth one-day internationals against South Africa, but I could not compromise the dignity of my country.

"I would rather flee away than sell out the dignity and respect of my motherland.

"I can assure you that I am safe and sound. I'm not under arrest but I cannot say where I am hiding for the sake of protection of my life."

Haider revealed his problems started when he was approached by an unknown individual prior to the fourth game in the United Arab Emirates.

"When I went out of the hotel to eat dinner once, he came up," he said.

"He was alone but I felt there were two to three people behind him.

"I can describe him. He spoke Urdu but I cannot describe the accent accurately.

"He said you will make lots of money if you join us and help us.

"If not, then staying in the team could be difficult and we can make things difficult for you.

"I don't know why I was approached and others weren't."

The International Cricket Council have been slow to pass comment with chief executive Haroon Lorgat insisting it is a matter for the Pakistan Cricket Board at this stage.

He told ESPNcricinfo: "It is a team management issue in the first instance.

"We would of course be interested in speaking to him but nobody knows where he is. So we won't make any comments until we are able to establish the facts."

Lorgat admitted, however, that Haider should have informed the anti-corruption support unit (ACSU) as soon as he had been approached by the individual in Dubai.

He added: "I think we have to build the confidence amongst the players that the right thing to do is to speak to the ACSU officials if they have got anything that they want to declare.

"I don't think it was wise of him to have done what he did, because it doesn't solve the problems for him as well and the right thing would have been to speak to the ACSU."

Haider is thought to be considering applying for political asylum in the United Kingdom.

He added: "Immigration officials in the UK were kind to me and proposed me to hire the services of a counsellor but I am yet to reach a decision.

"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."

Haider said: "I cannot further speak out over the issue until my family is given protection back in Pakistan."

The ICC responded to the matter for the first time in a statement tonight, offering their support to both the PCB and Haider.

"The ICC has today confirmed that it is in regular communication with the Pakistan Cricket Board and has offered to support the PCB in its current investigations into the reasons behind wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider's decision to leave the Pakistan team on the morning of the final ODI against South Africa in Dubai," the statement read.

"At the same time, the ICC has also offered Haider, who left the UAE for London, any help he needs."

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat added: "Clearly 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.

"We understand his plight if reports are indeed true, but we can only help if he is willing to engage with us."