Ghulam Shabber reveals all about sudden exit from UAE - 'there are no charges against me ... I don’t want to play cricket again'

In an exclusive chat with Paul Radley, the national team wicketkeeper explains the reasons for his departure

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - January 21st, 2018: UAE's Ghulam Shabber makes 50 during the match between the UAE and Scotland. Sunday, January 21st, 2018 at ICC Academy, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Ghulam Shabber says he would comply with the ICC’s anti-corruption investigation if contacted, but denied it had anything to do with him leaving the UAE in the middle of the T20 World Cup Qualifier.

UAE cricket was plunged deeper into disarray when Shabber left the country with no explanation earlier this week, after just two matches of the tournament.

The wicketkeeper says, despite having credit card debt and owing money to three players who have “helped me in these difficult times,” he borrowed more money for his flight to Pakistan as he was so intent on leaving.

It has been widely speculated since he left that he is part of the corruption probe that had already seen four UAE players suspended from playing. Mohammed Naveed, Shaiman Anwar and Qadeer Ahmed were banned after being charged by the ICC with a variety of breaches of cricket's anti-corruption code.

The Emirates Cricket Board also provisionally suspended Ashfaq Ahmed after two matches of the Qualifier, although no formal charges have been made against the opening batsman.

However, Shabber said his decision to leave was driven by frustration at how he was treated within cricket here.

"There are no charges against me," Shabber, 33, told The National. "I have emailed the board with my decision that I have resigned. I have retired from cricket.

“If there is something with regards to anti-corruption, I am ready to cooperate in Pakistan. But I have decided cricket is not in my future.

“I have left cricket behind, and want to move on with my life with my family.  Whatever I can do in my native city, in whatever business, I will do that.”

Shabber, a top-order batsman and wicketkeeper, had been an integral part of the national team since being one of the first batch of centrally-contracted professional players in 2016.

He initially arrived in the country after being frustrated by a lack of opportunities in his homeland, having played three matches in an eight-year first-class career in Pakistan.

He says he has now returned as he felt his basic salary of Dh6,000 per month was neither commensurate with being an international sportsman, nor enough to live on.

“How do you survive on that money? I was desperate for cricket - not money,” Shabber said. “If I played more matches, I would obviously earn more. And so my focus has always been to play.

“But with there being no sign of progress, I began to ask myself whether it made better sense, financially, to move back home where, at least, I can be with family.”

When Shabber was left out of the side after the defeat to Oman in the opening match of the Qualifier, he made his decision to leave.

“I understand people saying I am being investigated for corruption, but I have left because I am unhappy with all of this,” he said. “This has been building, building and building. I saw this tournament [the Qualifier] as a very good opportunity for me.

“Every time a tournament comes, it felt like I might be selected, I might not be selected. There has been a lot of pressure on me.

“This happened in the first game as well. I didn’t get runs, and they dropped me. I came home as I wanted to be with my family. I left my luggage [at the team hotel].

"I don’t want to see my kit, and I don’t want to play cricket again.”

Shabber is hopeful he will receive his end of service payment from the ECB, so he can repay his debts in the UAE, and says he does not know what he will do without cricket.

“At this point, all I know is that I don't want to play cricket, but alternatives for me are few in Pakistan right now,” he said. “Let's see. There is a God, so hopefully something will materialise.

“Of course, people rarely starve to death whatever their financial situations, so I think my family and I will survive.

“But I have nothing else right now. I just hope they [the ECB] understand the circumstances that led me to take such a decision.”

The ECB said they would not make a “formal” response until they have collected more information on the issue.

“Emirates Cricket are still in the process of gathering the facts into the bona fide reason for Shabber’s unexpected and untimely departure,” the ECB said in a statement.

The national team will advance to the second-phase of the Qualifier if they beat Canada at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Sunday evening.