Courtesy of http://www.nation.lk/2010/11/21/sports7.htm and BBC
It was a bizarre setting for an extremely unusual story – but what Zulqarnain Haider had to say was chilling.
In the back room of a curry house on the Broadway in Southall, west London, the 24-year-old wicketkeeper recounted what he had been told by a shady middleman in Dubai seeking to fix one-day matches: “He said: ‘If you work with us, we will give you a lot of money. If (not and) you go back home, we will kill you and your family’.”
No wonder Haider looked drawn with bags under his eyes. Although he was dressed smartly with a dark winter coat and a scarf tied tightly around his neck, he cut a distant and isolated figure in a room packed tight with journalists and camera crews.Before his arrival, we had all squeezed into the restaurant and watched as two heavyset security men conducted a search of the top table, where an enormous chair had been set in front of brightly coloured promotional banners for Chaudhry’s TKC. Outside, Haider waited in a car and after another 20 minutes or so finally arrived. At first, no-one seemed to know what was going on but eventually I asked him why he had come to Britain and what it was that had made him go on the run.
“It was very hard for me when I got threats from one person in Dubai,” he said. “I just felt very nervous that he gave me threats. I felt England was a good place.” “If your family was threatened, you would think like me. At that time, I just had the pressure on me and I didn’t want any problems for the Pakistan team or officials. I’m a cricket player. I want to be a good citizen. I want to live in peace.”
At times, the press conference descended into farce as reporters from Pakistan tried to take the conference live on mobile phones back home, prompting howls of protest from TV crews now picking up interference. A row broke out and it looked like a Millbank-style stand-off might develop at one stage. But as journalists yelled, the man in fear of his life carried on talking.
So why did Haider break cover in this way?
He was visibly angry at claims made in Pakistan that he had been paid money by bookmakers in the past to fix matches. He defiantly said he would open up his bank account for everyone to look at. He clearly wanted to get this message across and perhaps this was the reason for arranging the conference at such short notice. But if this was supposed to be the moment cricket’s whistleblower blew the lid off corruption inside the Pakistan dressing room, then Haider did not take it.
He repeatedly refused to implicate any of his team-mates in any sort of scandal and said he was not aware of any others receiving similar approaches. The International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit has already met with Haider and wants to keep speaking with him. But how much does he really know?
Putting all that aside, the events of the last few days must be placed in context. Here is a 24-year-old cricketer – a man who should have the best years of his career ahead of him – taking drastic action after being told he and his family would be killed unless he played ball with the fixers. If we believe him, then this is uncharted territory for a sport already facing serious scrutiny over its integrity.
It also demonstrates the sort of unique pressures Pakistan’s players are under. We should keep this is mind when we rush to judgment on Pakistan cricket. It is no excuse for cheating but it might explain how some – such as the three players accused of bowling deliberate no balls at Lord’s last summer – might get caught up in corruption.
If his story is true – and at this stage we have no reason to doubt him – then Haider has shown remarkable bravery. – [BBC]