Pakistan’s run-away wicketkeeper Zulqarnain plans to go home

April 18th, 2011 - 6:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Shoaib Akhtar Karachi, April 18 (IANS) Pakistan’s run-away wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider is planning to return to his homeland Sunday from London after withdrawing his application for asylum in Britain.

Zulqarnain had filed the application after fleeing Pakistan’s one-day squad in Dubai last November because of alleged death threats from match-fixing mafias.

He is now hoping for a possible return to international cricket later this year.

“I am turning a new chapter in my life and I want to remain positive and look at things with a positive outlook,” the player said Monday.

Zulqarnain, who scored 88 on his Test debut against England at Trent Bridge last summer, was at a meeting in London last week given assurances by interior minister Rehman Malik that he and his family would be protected in Pakistan.

“After meeting with the interior minister and getting assurance of my and my family’s safety in Pakistan, I have decided to return home on 24 April. After getting this assurance, there is no need for me to continue with my asylum application, which I will withdraw,” Zulqarnain said after meeting Malik.

Zulqarnain, 24, was described as “mentally ill” by Pakistan cricket officials after he fled to London hours before one-day match during the ‘home’ series against South Africa in Abu Dhabi.

In London, last November he spoke of the threats from underworld betting syndicates over fixing matches in that series, and regularly made claims that he would expose elements of fixing within Pakistan cricket.

Now he is hoping to get an international recall, especially because of the fact that Pakistan’s top wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal is out of favour these days after giving a poor showing in the World Cup.

However, sources told IANS that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is in no mood to forgive the player who, it believes, ‘tarnished’ Pakistan’s image by abandoning his team.

Meanwhile, the chairman and founder of Lashings World X1 has said his club would be happy to invite Zulqarnain to play for it after April 24, when the former wicketkeeper plans to return to Pakistan.

David Folb described Zulqarnain as a “fine player with a lot of cricketing talent”, and said it was the reason he offered a contract to the player when he applied for asylum in Britain in November last year.

Folb, a sporting PR guru and businessman, said his club would seek permission from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA), besides the immigration clearance for Haider.

The Lashings World XI is a famous cricket team, founded by Folb in 1984. Based in Kent, the team is known for attracting a number of famous international cricketers and other celebrities to its ranks, including many Pakistan cricket greats.

“We would treat Haider like any other player,” Folb was quoted as saying by The News, adding that Lashings had a galaxy of Pakistani greats like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Waseem Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Muhammad Akram and Rashid Latif.

He said the original offer made to Zulqarnain when he came to London to seek asylum still stood and a similar offer will be made in the future.

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