DateLine: 19th April 2011
Former Pakistan wicket-keeper Zulqarnain Haiderís return to his homeland next week will formally mark the cancellation of his application for asylum in the United Kingdom. The 24 year old Haider decided to walk out on the squad on the morning of the fifth and final One Day International against South Africa on November 8, 2010 in Dubai, claiming he had received death threats from unidentified people seeking to draw him into match-fixing.
However, Haiderís sudden and unexpected decision to return to Pakistan represents an equally surprising change of direction from him. According to Haider, this decision has come about as a result of discussions with Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
Speaking with PakPassion.net, Haider discussed the thinking behind his decision to return to Pakistan, as well as the experience of the past few months.
"I received assurances from Rehman Malik and also from the Pakistan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, regarding my safety on my return to Pakistan. They gave me their solemn word that my family and I would be safe in Pakistan and I would like to convey my gratitude to both of them and the Government of Pakistan for its assurances to me and my family."
Haider, who scored 88 on Test debut last year, also clarified that this was not the first time that he had received assurances from Shamsul Hasan, however the circumstances had changed for the better and he feels that the time is now right for his return to Pakistan.
"Shamsul Hasan had previously given me assurances of my familyís and my safety, but at that time I felt it was in my best interests to remain in the UK due to the matter being too "fresh" and high profile. Now I feel that there is public support for me and the worldís media is also supporting me, so things are much calmer now."
Haider also had words of gratitude for Scotland Yard and the relevant authorities for their help during his stay in the UK. "I want to express my appreciation to the Authorities and to Scotland Yard for looking after me during this very difficult time for me and my family. I will never forget their help during these times."
Haiderís cricketing future remains uncertain and he feels that the most important thing for him to concentrate upon his return to Pakistan is to spend some quality time with his family.
"Firstly I want to relax and spend time with my wife and children and to see my father who as of late, has not been in the best of health. After Iíve spent some quality time with my family, I will sit down and have a think about where my future lies. My family will also have a say in what I should do. Lashings made me an offer for the 2011 season, so Iíll have a think about that offer for the upcoming season. Iíve not retired from first class cricket, only international cricket, so playing first class cricket next season could be an option also. I will have to see what the scenario is and what options are available to me when I return to Pakistan as there are a lot of things on my mind at the moment and its best to make decisions with a clear head."
Haider also confirmed that he had spoken to PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt since making his decision about returning to Pakistan. "I had a brief conversation with Ijaz Butt after I made the decision to return to Pakistan, but it was just a general conversation and no specific discussions were held."
Haider remains adamant regarding the stance he took and added that he feels that "Pakistan cricket and indeed world cricket needs to change for the better. I will sit down with the authorities and give them my opinions on what can be done to change Pakistan cricket regarding fixing. Until such times as firm action is taken in Pakistan cricket by those in power, these "bad things" will continue to happen. On a wider scale, it is up to the ICC to catch those corrupt elements in the game - it falls under the domain of those running the game of cricket to catch those people out."
Whilst Haider remains willing to work with the PCB and the ICC to root out what he terms as corrupt individuals involved in cricket, he feels that what has happened to him will deter players in future from reporting any sort of fixing to the ACSU.
"The whole experience over the past few months since I walked out on the Pakistan team in the U.A.E. has been a real eye opener for me. I've learnt a lot from the experience. The hardest thing for me to grasp is that problems are created for you and family if you speak out against those who are corrupt. You don't get the help and support from within cricketing circles that one would expect and that is why a lot of cricketers are turning a blind eye to corruption in cricket " No player will report fixing in future. My family has had to endure a lot of problems just because I spoke out against corruption. Every time I spoke out against fixing in cricket, there would be threatening calls made to my family in Pakistan and that meant that I couldn't provide the PCB or ICC with the full information that I wanted to give them."
Haider is expected to leave the U.K. on 24th April and will land in Pakistan the next day hoping to resurrect both his family life and cricket career.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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