AR Hemant

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Somewhat of a contrarion.

See no evil

Each time a Pakistani cricketer announces his retirement, or gets banned by the PCB, I'm reminded of Yahoo columnist Anand Ramchandran's brilliant spoof on Mohammad Asif.

Despite multiple doping offences, including being caught with a sachet of opium at the Dubai airport, the Pakistani seamer avoided severe sanctions by slipping through legal loopholes — till the spot-fixing scandal caught up with him.

Anand's hilarious take was about Asif getting a "three-month life ban". But when you step back and scan all that has happened in Pakistan cricket recently, you might think Anand was writing on an actual event.

So when the 24-year-old Pakistani wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider says he has retired from the game, it's hard not to react with disbelief.

Sure, he'll be back. Sure, this is just the beginning of his story. And in the end, he'll make his comeback. Surely.

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However, reactions to Haider's decisions have been baffling. Sample Pakistan Sports Minister Ijaz Jakhrani's comments:

"If Zulqarnain is such a weak and scared man, he should not have played cricket especially not for Pakistan. It is unacceptable that he should desert the team in this manner and seek asylum in London."

Is Jakhrani implying that bravely countering bookies and death threats are as much part of a Pakistani cricketer's job description as is net practice?

Jakhrani overlooks the fact that it takes years of slogging in domestic cricket to get the national cap, and that there has to be an extraordinary reason to throw the cap away and go AWOL.

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Zulqarnain Haider's cryptic message on Facebook before he fled to England.

At a time when Pakistani cricket seems seeped in corruption, let's assume the team management thinks Haider is clean. In that case, their message to Haider should be this:

1) His family's safety would be guaranteed
2) He should return to Pakistan and explain himself
3) His fears will be allayed and he can get back to playing for them

Instead, the PCB has suspended him while Alam has heaped scorn on Haider in this manner:

"... I look at his behaviour in the wake of this incident, I feel he had some mental problem. Even the players feel the same way. No doubt he is a clean and nice boy but maybe he was under some kind some other pressures."

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So while the coach says his ward is mental, Lawrence Booth reminds us of an extraordinary incident in March 2009, adding that Haider has strong moral fibre:

The possibility remains, of course, that Zulqarnain has made it all up. But the scorecard of a game between Lahore Eagles and National Bank in March 2009 should persuade you he has previous when it comes to objecting to malpractice. Stripped of the captaincy ahead of the game, Zulqarnain watched in – presumably – despair as the opening bowler picked for one match (and one match only) leaked 78 runs in three overs. National Bank, "inspired" by Salman Butt, boosted their net run-rate as they hoped and Zulqarnain never played for Lahore again.

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The PCB found nothing untoward in that match, which Booth says is worrying and unsurprising. Haider is just one of the countless sad stories coming out of the Pakistani set-up. Worryingly, each time the PCB has just pushed back instead of trying to clean up the house.

It may be interesting to find out how many players go along with the fixing cartel's demands instead of coming out like Haider. And now that they have put the blame squarely on Haider for this case, it's unlikely another player would want to go public with his views.

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In passing, let's also highlight the recent Super Sixes final between Pakistan and Australia.

Australia needed 48 runs from the last eight-ball over, bowled by Imran Nazir.

The Sixes are an annual exhibition fixture in Hong Kong, and its rules are tweaked to produce high-scoring overs.

So, 48 runs needed. Eight balls left.

To see how the game ended, watch this video below.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rB49Py4km8&fs=1&hl=en_US]

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