The crisis in UAE cricket deepened after it was revealed Ghulam Shabber has left the country with no explanation, in the middle of the T20 World Cup Qualifier.
The wicketkeeper failed to show up for a team meeting at 11am on Monday, ahead of the team’s fixture against Hong Kong.
He was also absent when the national team lost to Jersey on Tuesday, after which it was revealed he has now been located in Pakistan.
“At 11am yesterday we had a team meeting, and Ghulam Shabber did not show up for it,” Peter Kelly, the UAE team manager, said.
“He did not show up for the bus in the afternoon [when the team left for the Hong Kong match].
“ECB are doing due diligence. We are obviously concerned for his well being. We went out of our way to contact any next of kin that we could, as well as any numbers we had for him.
“We also searched hospitals to make sure he was OK. We also got people to go and check if he was at home. Since that point, we have managed to find out that he has left the country. What we do know is that he is safe, but we don’t know the reasons that he has gone.”
Over the past week, the side had already had four leading players suspended as part of a corruption probe.
Mohammed Naveed, Qadeer Ahmed and Shaiman Anwar were charged last Wednesday with breaching cricket's anti-corruption code.
After the win over Hong Kong on Monday, it was announced that Ashfaq Ahmed, the opening batsman, had also been provisionally suspended by the Emirates Cricket Board.
Amid the chaos, a distracted national team were soundly beaten by 35 runs by Jersey on Tuesday, in the qualifying competition for the T20 World Cup in Australia next year.
“It is out of his nature, and we are unsure why he left, and why he chose to not tell people,” Kelly said. “He was not a part of the anti-corruption investigation.
“For the past 24 hours or so, we have been trying to find out if he is OK. We have managed to get to the point where we are. Where we go from here, we [don’t know].
“We do know he is OK, and he has left the country. That is all we know so far. As to the reasons why, that is what we are trying to get to the bottom of.”
With Ashfaq suspended and Shabber now absent without leave, the UAE have 13 players left in their squad for the qualifier – down from 15. They are unclear as to if or when they can find replacements.
Despite the turmoil, the UAE had found themselves in a strong position in their pool match against Jersey, before a spectacular implosion brought about their downfall.
Powerful striking in an innings of 47 by 20-year-old batsman Ben Ward had carried Jersey to 147 from their 20 overs.
Openers Chirag Suri and Rohan Mustafa then put on 60 in eight overs as UAE made a confident start to their reply.
Once they were parted, though, the host nation collapsed to 112 all out. The demise was sparked by 18-year-old spinner Harrison Carlyon, who took 3-15, and Ben Stevens, who took 3-20.
The defeat means UAE have lost two and won two so far in the tournament, with matches left against Nigeria on Thursday and Canada on Sunday.
“It has been frustrating for everyone, but we have managed to stay together really, really well,” Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, said.
“The players deserve a lot of credit for how they have dealt with the situation. We came into this game in a pretty good state. We have played some pretty good cricket, with two good victories coming into this game.
“We have two games now, and clearly we need to win both to give ourselves a chance to make it to the next stages in Dubai.”