Pakistan news December 12, 2013

Zulqarnain Haider reveals stress problems

Zulqarnain Haider, the former Pakistan wicketkeeper, has said he was suffering from a stress issue when he went missing from the team camp in Dubai during a series against South Africa in November 2010. Haider said he did not know if he would ever play for Pakistan again, but would remain hopeful as long as he was part of the domestic circuit.

Haider had left the team hotel without warning on the morning of the fifth ODI and a day later was found to be in the UK. He claimed to have received threats from unidentified people and retired from international cricket. He even sought asylum in the UK before revoking his application later on.

"There were chances that I could have been misunderstood and ridiculed," Haider told ESPNcricinfo when talking about his issues with stress. "There is always a lack of communication between players, selectors and officials and sharing is never an easy thing. I was nervous, tense and almost crumbled. I could not understand what to do. I reacted the only way I thought I could at the time and in hindsight it proved wrong."

There have been a few cricketers who have revealed that they have been struggling with stress-related issues, England's Jonathan Trott being the latest, when he returned home mid-way during the ongoing Ashes. "I am happy that such things have been reported in the media. It will encourage the player to be honest and part ways [with the team] if they are not 100%.

"I was committed to my cricket and representing the country is a big honour. I had remarkable moments, but at the same time pressure mounts and it's not easy to cope with it. When you represent your country, you are a different man, living with the huge expectations of a nation that is madly in love with the game. But at the end you are human, you feel pain, get stressed and need support.

"Though I was focused, I got distracted with the threats and lost my nerve. You might say I am a weak-minded person but it's not right. I was suffering from a poor mental state at the time and wasn't ready to go on the field and put my gloves on. My confidence was shattered and I didn't want to play again. With such a depression, I wanted to be in a safe place and around those who could help and support me."

With little information emerging around Haider's departure, his contracts with the PCB and his department team were suspended, and after he returned from the UK he was fined Rs 500,000 by the PCB because a disciplinary committee found him guilty of violating the code of conduct.

After Haider made himself available for domestic cricket, there were no immediate takers and he was ignored by regional teams for the national Twenty20 Cup. However, he was later re-hired by his departmental team ZTBL and has played 21 matches since. He had extensive therapy and managed to finish as the top wicketkeeper in the 2011-12 Quaid-e-Azam trophy, with 51 catches and one stumping.

"What I did was bold and obviously not right and I have paid the price of it. I have to start from scratch but I am hopeful about my future. I have started to regain respect in the cricketing circles and I am happy and satisfied that I am accepted again. I have worked so hard to regain my confidence that was poorly shaken after the incident. I know most of the people around me still don't understand me but it's because of the lack of education about such illnesses that are misunderstood and remains a taboo in our society."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here