Zulqarnain suspended by PCB

The Pakistan board says it has not been able to contact player who fled from Dubai to London.

Zulqarnain Haider was suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) yesterday for abandoning the team in the UAE and fleeing to London.

Zulqarnain left Dubai for London on Monday and said on Tuesday he was seeking asylum because he feared for his safety after allegedly receiving threats from match-fixers. The PCB made its decision after being unable to contact the wicketkeeper.

"We have been trying to get in touch with him but unfortunately we have not established any link yet," Zakir Khan, the PCB director of cricket operations told Associated Press Television News. "What we have heard so far is from him, via press and electronic media. We will like to know what went wrong."

Zulqarnain, 24, announced his international retirement after saying he was approached by a person who asked him to fix the fourth and fifth one-day internationals against South Africa in Dubai.

In interviews with a Pakistani television station, Zulqarnain has since made conflicting comments about retiring from cricket and seeking asylum in Britain.

Earlier yesterday, the International Cricket Council (ICC) offered its support to the wicketkeeper and said it will assist the PCB in its probe into Zulqarnain's actions.

"Clearly this is in the first instance a team matter for Pakistan cricket, but the ICC is willing to provide assistance to the PCB and the player," Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive, said on the ICC's website. "We understand his plight if reports are indeed true, but we can only help if he is willing to engage with us."

Zulqarnain, who hit the winning runs in the fourth one-day match on Friday, left the Pakistan team hotel shortly before the fifth ODI on Monday, which South Africa won to clinch the series 3-2. He landed in London hours after leaving Dubai and spent almost four hours locked in discussions with immigration authorities.

Speaking about his decision to leave, he said: "I was told to co-operate or I would face a lot of problems. This person approached me while I had gone out of the hotel for dinner. He told me co-operate with us and you can make a lot of money.

"He said, 'If you don't co-operate you will no longer be part of the team and we can make life very difficult for you'."

Zulqarnain was a member of the Pakistan squad whose tour of England this year degenerated into chaos when Salman Butt, the Test captain and the opening bowlers, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, were suspended following spot-fixing allegations.

Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan team manager, said Zulqarnain's sudden departure had been a surprise. "He never spoke to me about any of this. I am not a magician to know what is going on in the mind and heart of a person," Intikhab said.