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A week that promised to deliver the right kind of headlines for Pakistan cricket has once more deepened everybody's sense of bewilderment. Zulqarnain Haider's covert escape from the international squad and his arrival in England has quickly banished the euphoria of two nail-biting victories over South Africa.
What drove Zulqarnain to this extreme measure isn't entirely clear but he is certainly a troubled young man. Threats to Pakistan cricketers are not new, and at the very least Zulqarnain's act will help people outside Pakistan understand some of the pressures that he and his colleagues uniquely face. Pakistan cricketers, like other human beings, aren't born corrupt. They are products, even victims, of their peculiar environment.
Experienced voices in Pakistan are already condemning Zulqarnain's behaviour. He should have turned back to Pakistan and his cricket board in the first instance, they say. Perhaps so. But it is equally understandable that he might feel unable to trust the current malfunctioning cricket board, despite the ICC task force's rather hasty announcement of the PCB's wonderful progress in combating corruption. Naturally, he would feel safer in exposing his concerns in England than in Pakistan, or even Dubai.
Whistleblowers in any walk of life face being discredited. They are marginalised, lose their jobs, and may experience personal danger. They are quickly dismissed as attention seekers and scandalmongers. Zulqarnain might turn out to be either of these but for now he deserves understanding. It takes guts, extreme provocation, or both, to walk out on an international career, something you have worked all your life for and dreamed every night about.
Zulqarnain might not be the most talented player to represent Pakistan but he has shown plenty of guts and determination on the cricket field. He clearly wants to win. He puts his country first, he says. He has dedicated victories to Imran Khan's cancer appeal and Pakistan's flood victims. To me, this is the behaviour of a man whose heart is in the right place, only an extreme cynic would think otherwise.
Where Zulqarnain's mind is, however, is anybody's guess. But now that he has set off on this lonely road he needs to fully expose everything that has gone before, whatever the short-term cost to cricket and cricketers in Pakistan and elsewhere. Once we know the full extent of Zulqarnain’s trauma that will be the time to properly judge the man who wanted to be Pakistan's wicketkeeper.
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets hereFeeds: Kamran Abbasi
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi