Nov 15 - 21, 2010

Wicket keeper zulqarnain haider's great escape from dubai to London almost a week ago is being described as the greatest shame that the Pakistani wicket keeper had brought on Pakistan and Pakistan's cricket. Bigger than that when Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaquib Javed and Mushtaq Ahmed were allegedly arrested on a Grenadian Beach on 1992-93 tour of the Caribbean and charged with "constructive" possession of marijuana. They allegedly were frog marched to police station by officers and onlookers. But those four escaped with a reprimand from Pakistan Cricket Board. Some reports had suggested that Wasim Akram had fainted at the police station after his arrest and was saved by Clive Lloyd and Pakistan's Javed Miandad.

The young wicket keeper for reasons unknown and unclear staged a dramatic escape from team hotel in Dubai, took a flight and landed in London just few hours before Pakistan was to play its decisive fifth ODI against South Africa which the visitors won to clinch the series 3-2.

His reason to abandon Pakistan team and flee was that he had been receiving threatening calls from allegedly bookies who wanted him to cooperate in match or spot fixing in the last two ODI of the five match series against the Proetas or else.

The panicked cricketer planned his escape meticulously by getting his passport and the visa slip which is issued separately in Dubai, booked his seat and left the hotel early morning for catching the flight to Heathrow airport.

When Pakistan team was boarding the bus to get to Dubai cricket stadium for the final ODI, Zulqarnain Haider was in the air flying away many thousand mile to England where he felt he would be more secure than Pakistan where his wife and the family are located.

In an era of communication when an action happening thousand of miles away are caught within minutes, Zulqarnain was filmed walking the long arrival lounge at London airport with a knapsack hanging on his back.

Zulqarnain who had valid five years visa for United Kingdom had no difficulty in reaching London. The immigration officials who are the ultimate authority to accept or reject an entry were convinced by Zulqarnain and allowed him to enter.

Within hours of his arrival in London Zulqarnain was talking to Pakistani and English media. The more he talked the more mistakes he made and one could easily pick good number of holes in his statements and arguments which reflected his confusing state of mind.

His statements were contradictory. He spoke about taking asylum, requested security to his family in Pakistan and even talked about returning home to Lahore if given security. The 24 year old who made his test debut just six months ago even announced his retirement from test and international cricket.

Everything happened in just twenty four hours and the story that had emerged with a big bang ended with a whimper. Poor Zulqarnain may end up all loser at the end of the drama, the first act of which had already reached its end. The ICC had also talked to the player with a view to know more about the bookies and their nefarious designs which had landed Pakistan cricket in deep international trouble.

Just two months ago Pakistan's four players touring England on an away tour against England were caught on camera selling themselves to spot fixers bookies. Skipper Salman Butt, pacer Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Aamer and rookie pacer Wahab Riaz all were caught on video camera for their alleged involvement in spot fixing. An English tabloid known for its yellow and sensational reporting planned a sting operation and caught the four on camera playing and bowling exactly the way the reporter of the newspaper the News of the World acting as a match fixer had described in his report. Even the marked money given as bribe to the players were recovered from their hotel rooms.

There was no escape for the four. Even Scotland Yard metropolitan police was brought in to carry out searches and investigation. Wahab Riaz somehow escaped the punishment which the ICC handed down to three by suspending from international cricket after the PCB delayed its move.

With these allegations on its three main players, Pakistan team landed in UAE to play home series against South Africa. The PCB and the team management should have been hyper alert to keep stricter watch on the players. The management had additional power with it through an amended code of conduct that the team was asked to sign before the tour. It was because of this new code of conduct that the management fined three players including Zulqarnain Haider for breaking team curfew. Each of the players Shahzaib Hasan and Abdul Rehman were fined dirham 500.

The first act of the drama had just ended and the second act would soon start. PCB has suspended the central contract of the keeper which gave him a certain amount each month. The stoppage of the contract money will hurt Zulqarnain's family which had already acknowledged the support that the PCB had given to them. An enquiry committee of three persons, the manager of the team Intekhab Alam, security officer of the team Major Khawaja Najam and senior general manager PCB Subhan Ahmed are the members of the committee.

The terms and conditions of the committee had not been made public but once the enquiry gets started many startling facts may come to light and it may even show some light on the spot fixing allegation against three players in England.

A number of theories are coming up from many sources about why Zulqarnain deserted the team. But the most credible one is that Zulqarnain left the team because he saw no long-term future for him in the team in the presence of Akmal brothers who, he felt, had a strong clout among senior players in the team. He felt that he should take a chance to make his future and that was to go to England in order to grab asylum.

One part of this theory looks correct but the asylum part does not fit into it. The other credible theory about his escape is that there still are players in Pakistan team connected with the bookies and they may have encouraged a contact with Zulqarnian and the bookies.

Zulqarnain may have truly received threats forcing him to leave the team. However, there is no explanation why did he not take the management in confidence to sort out the matter.

This is one question and the presence of elements in the teamconnected with the bookies that may surface when the committee starts its investigation. But, much would depend upon cooperation of Zulqarnain.

However, the crucial question will be will the PCB make public the final report which looks unlikely. The PCB would certainly not make the report public if some naked truth about spot fixing with names of the players and the bookies come to light.

It would be against the interest of Pakistan cricket to make the final report public if it contained some unsavory facts against players and the bookies.