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Page last updated at 23:03 GMT, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Zulqarnain Haider says he wants to 'live in peace'

Zulqarnain Haider
Haider claimed he had received death threats

Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider is seeking asylum in the United Kingdom and has confirmed he is retiring from international cricket.

Haider fled from Dubai to London on Monday after receiving death threats when he refused to fix two matches.

"If your family was threatened, you would think like me," said the 24-year-old Haider at a media conference in west London.

"I'm a cricket player. I want to be a good citizen, I want to live in peace."

Haider claimed he had been approached in Dubai by a person who asked him to fix the fourth and fifth one-day games against South Africa, who went on to win Monday's deciding game to earn a 3-2 victory in the series.

"He said, 'If you work with us, we will give you a lot of money," said Haider. "'If not and you go back home, we will kill you and your family'."

Illegal betting on cricket matches is a lucrative industry in South Asia, with bookmakers standing to earn enormous sums of money if they have 'fixed' the result or passages of play in a match.

The wicketkeeper suggested that all players' phone calls should be recorded as a way to stamp out corruption.

Explaining why he had sought asylum in Britain, Haider added: "This country is very humane, very co-operative, and there are very nice people here and there are very good rules here for my safety."

However Haider, who is currently staying at an unknown address in Britain and is holding a visitor's visa which will expire after one month, insisted he had no intention of claiming asylum permanently: "I don't want any aid from the British government."

Haider's flight to London on Monday came just a day after the International Cricket Council said how impressed it had been by the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) work on an anti-corruption code, a plan to regulate agents of its players and an improved education programme.

The PCB has suspended Haider's contract for violating its terms and conditions.

Pakistan's cricket authority claims to have been unable to contact Haider, though he has spoken to the ICC's anti-corruption unit who say they will remain in touch with him.

Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan sports minister Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani insisted that the government would not support any move from Haider to get asylum in the UK.

"We don't support his actions and believe he should have come to us if he was under threat from anyone," said Jakhrani.

"He didn't have confidence in the national team management or Pakistan Cricket Board. If he is such a weak and scared person he should not have played cricket in the first place, particularly not for the national team.

"This is not way for a member of the national team to behave or for even a professional cricketer to behave."

Speaking before Haider's media conference, former Pakistan captain Imran Khan said Haider's sudden exit to Britain to seek asylum was a "shameful" incident.

"Sadly, this incident only gives credence to the feeling our players are linked with bookmakers or are controlled by them. The recent spot-fixing allegations have not been helpful at all for Pakistan cricket."

Haider hit the winning runs in last Friday's fourth one-day international win over South Africa in Dubai but then left Pakistan's team hotel and flew to London on Monday.

Senior superintendent of police Rana Faisal told local media in Pakistan that police protection has been provided for Haider's family in Lahore.

The PCB said on Monday that Haider had not informed them that he was leaving the team hotel nor provided a reason for his sudden decision.


Team manager Intikhab Alam confirmed Haider had taken his passport from him, saying he wanted it to obtain a new SIM card for his mobile phone.

Also speaking before Haider's media conference, Angus Porter, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association in the UK, said the wicketkeeper's claims - if true - represented a worrying development in cricket's battle against gambling driven match-fixing.

"If players are indeed being threatened, then I think that escalates the problem to a new level," Porter told BBC 5 live.

"It's our responsibility as the administrators of the game to make sure that players do feel safe if they are approached in coming forward and telling us what they know, and that they get our support if they do that."

The wicketkeeper has played four ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals since his debut in 2007, and played his solitary Test match against England at Edgbaston in the summer, where he was out first ball but scored 88 runs in the second innings.

He broke his finger and missed the rest of the series, which was marred by spot-fixing allegations.

Uncapped wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal, 25, has been drafted in as Haider's replacement for the Test series against South Africa due to start on Friday in the United Arab Emirates. He is set to become the third Akmal brother to keep wicket for Pakistan in international cricket.

Kamran Akmal, 28, has played 53 Tests and 123 one-day internationals but has since lost his place to Haider.

Youngest brother Umar Akmal, 20, has played 12 Tests and 24 ODIs and is a specialist batsman, but had to take over behind the stumps against Pakistan on Monday after Haider's unexpected departure.

The PCB has also announced that batsman Mohammad Hafeez will replace leg-spinner Danish Kaneria in the Test squad.

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see also
Pakistan's year in crisis
09 Nov 10 |  Pakistan
Cricketer Haider may seek asylum
09 Nov 10 |  South Asia
South Africa win Pakistan decider
08 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Pakistan suspend trio's contracts
03 Nov 10 |  Pakistan
England finish off tarnished Test
29 Aug 10 |  England
Pakistan lose injured Zulqarnain
16 Aug 10 |  Pakistan
Pakistan v South Africa (in UAE) 2010
25 Nov 10 |  Cricket

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