After Amir, it's Zulqarnain
The latest episode of wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider announcing his retirement from international cricket after receiving threats for refusing to fix matches has stunned the world. Similar emotions filled the heart when Mohammad Amir was caught in the storm of spot-fixing. We don't know if Amir is guilty or innocent but at a time when he should have been testing the batsmen, he is struggling to get the ICC ban revoked and with less assistance from the Board.
What makes cricket, or for that matter any sport, exciting? Close contests between the opponents and a fan's passion and faith in his sporting heroes who for him are no less than the saviours of the universe.
But terms like fixing or throwing shake that faith and if proven, breaks that thumping heart. Everything apart, I really feel for Pakistan cricket and its fans.
These are young kids on the block who are immensely talented but find themselves unprotected. What a loss to incur!
At a point when Pakistan cricket is struggling to get its lost reputation back, players like Zulqarnain and Amir are what they need. Having played just one Test and four ODIs and exuding loads of talent, potential and promise, Zulqarnain could have become one of the structuring stones needed to rebuild the Pakistan team. Alas! That was not to be.
His decision is sad but a brave one. He refused to budge and rig the match. He instead chose to walk away, forever. He is completely right in choosing his own and family's safety over cricket. What else could he have done?
He did not tell the team management or the High Commission and many termed his decision a wrong one. His very statement that he would not like to divulge any information since his family was in Pakistan indicates that threat lingered at home. It was too big a bet to take. And let's respect that. Also who do you trust?
A couple of months back, former Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson disclosed in an interview: "what is happening might have nothing to do with money. If these allegations of fixing are proved, it could be related to extortion, threats, and the well-being of their own family members."
He also narrated one such incident during his tenure. "A player who we had not selected for the game approached me, saying: 'I was told I would be playing tomorrow.' My response was, 'Well no, you're not, you've obviously been given the wrong information.'
"Then the skipper of the side called me late in the evening. I went to his room and he was standing there with a very sombre-looking selector. This selector said: 'We must pick (the player who had earlier approached me), I have been told that if he is not in the team tomorrow, my daughter will be kidnapped and I will not see her again'," Lawson said.
Scary but true.
How do you eradicate this menace? By just having a body that proves one innocent or guilty of corruption is not enough. The corruption in cricket goes beyond the dressing rooms.
It's high time the International Cricket Council became a no-nonsense governing body and save the game from falling in the pits of disgrace and distrust.
The responsibility rests both with the administrators and the players. It's important for the administrators to make sure no unwanted elements target the players. Since the youngsters are more vulnerable, special care must be taken. You cannot leave them in this big bad world to fend for themselves, for that is destructive for both the players and the game of cricket.
Also the players should always remember why they chose this game and the game in turn chose them at a bigger level. What was it like to take your first wicket or score that first run? Playing cricket is different from becoming an engineer. Money comes second and that's how it should be. Besides representing your country on the globe should be motivating enough to be honest to yourself, your people and the game.