Zulqarnain Haider’s disappearance from the Pakistan team hotel in Dubai was the latest in a string of controversies surrounding the team. There could be more to come.
Zulqarnain Haider’s disappearance from the Pakistan team hotel in Dubai was the latest in a string of controversies surrounding the team. There could be more to come.

'Zoni' ducks his responsibilities

The Zulqarnain Haider saga is the latest instalment in the soap opera that is Pakistan cricket, further supporting the widely held belief that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has hired a an assembly-line of talented script-writers and story-tellers who are feverishly churning out one implausible story after another, week in, week out.

Zulqarnain, known more widely as Zoni, has received flak and kudos in equal measure after his bizarre and inexplicable behaviour of the past week. While the full facts of the matter are not known, and may never become public, this much is certain: the 24-year-old wicketkeeper from Lahore has acted foolishly and in haste, and in the process, has done irreparable harm not just to his own career, but also to Pakistan cricket.

The facts remain unclear. Zulqarnain alleges he was approached by someone who asked him to underperform in Pakistan's fourth one-day international (ODI) against South Africa on November 5. Pakistan subsequently won that match, through a coordinated team effort. There were match-winning contributions from many players, including Zulqarnain.

This one incident, it seems, prompted Zulqarnain to abscond for the UK on the first available flight. He did so, he claims, out of fear for his life. He appeared to leave in secrecy, without bothering to inform his teammates, the PCB management, the local Dubai authorities, the International Cricket Council (ICC) or even his close friends and family, yet he did have the time to leave an update on Facebook and inform certain Pakistani journalists.

Zulqarnain overreacted and this is borne out by subsequent statements from former Pakistan cricketers. It appears that most experienced cricketers would either have ignored the perceived threat to his family, laughed at it or, if serious, reported it to either the PCB or the ICC. Basit Ali, the former Test batsman who took a courageous stand in the match-fixing scandal of the late 1990s in the era of Azhar-ud-din, Saleem Malik and Hansie Cronje, said: "It is strange the way he acted. I think being a new player maybe he got scared by the threats, but this is nothing new for professional players. Most of us have got threats at some time to do this and that but you just ignore them."

It also seems strange that a potential match-fixer or a bookmaker would approach a wicketkeeper who bats low down in the batting order if the aim was the affect the outcome of Pakistan's batting. After all, Zulqarnain's contributions with the bat in the previous five matches against South Africa in the UAE had been minimal.

Abdul Qadir, the great leg-spinner and former Pakistani chief selector, shares this scepticism: "What is strange to me is that Zulqarnain is not a frontline or match-winning player, so why threaten him? I think he should have informed the team management about the threats instead of taking such an extreme step."

Zulqarnain's disappearance from Dubai and appearance in London thus raises a number of unanswered questions.

Under the ICC's regulations, all approaches or perceived approaches from bookmakers must be reported immediately. This is what players such as Shane Watson, the Australia batsman, did recently. Zulqarnain, however, chose not to report this to the ICC, despite the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) and the ICC being located in Dubai.

It defies belief that Zulqarnain could not find even a single trustworthy confidant: not the ICC or the ACSU; not his teammates or his captain or the officials; not the team manager, the coach, the security manager or even other impeccably honest players such Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf.

He did not even approach the Dubai Police, who accompany the team bus and provide security.

Also, it appears from Zulqarnain's statements he felt the UK was safer than the UAE. It is, however, well-known that crime rates in the UK are significantly higher than in this part of the world.

His apparent lack of concern for his family is remarkable. He felt they were threatened yet instead of joining them in Pakistan he left them in the lurch, disappearing to London and leaving them, according to him, at risk in Pakistan.

He did not even contact them and they found out about the whole issue through the Pakistan media. They have since been calling on him to return to Pakistan and have refused to join him in the UK.

It is thus safe to conclude that Zulqarnain's reported stories and the purported chain of events has more holes than Swiss cheese.

Public accounts of how illegal bookmakers operate would appear to indicate that if he had no prior dealings with the criminal underworld, and had never accepted money from them or done their bidding in the past, he faced little danger.

Deserting a promising cricket career based on one random threat from an unknown stranger seems to be an overreaction.

While he may come across as naive, Zulqarnain is also savvy with the media, unusual for a Pakistan cricketer. He was a user of Twitter and Facebook well before he even started playing for Pakistan.

During the tour of England this summer, he had tried hard to ingratiate himself to journalists by providing quotes and interviews when most other players would have offered no comment or concentrated on their game instead.

In particular, he was very keen to build an online platform by seeking out journalists from PakPassion and Cricinfo.

The role of certain sections of the Pakistan media in his disappearance is thus interesting. It appears the only people Zulqarnain could trust were Pakistani tabloid journalists who could increase his profile. Was there a pay-off involved from the journalists? For Zulqarnain's sake, one hopes not.

There is though a lot of speculation from former players and people connected with Zulqarnain about their disbelief of his story.

As is to be expected in matters where there is a lot of conjecture and the facts are not known, there are conspiracy theorists galore, coalescing around two extreme viewpoints.

The first is that it is all made up and nothing untoward happened. This seems excessive. Why would Zulqarnain go to such lengths and do all this just to seek asylum in the UK? That would imply that he is not only lying and duplicitous, but also idiotic.

The second equally fanciful extreme argues that everything is true, and one cannot trust a single Pakistan player, that Zulqarnain is the last honest man left in Pakistan, and people go around threatening murder in public and in broad daylight in five-star hotels in Dubai - and do so right under the ICC's nose. Again, this extreme is very far-fetched and hard to believe. At this stage, all we can say for certain is that we have not heard the last word on this issue. Stay tuned for further drama from the most riveting soap opera in all sport.

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


Saturday (All UAE kick-off times)

Valencia v Atletico Madrid (midnight)

Mallorca v Alaves (4pm)

Barcelona v Getafe (7pm)

Villarreal v Levante (9.30pm)


Granada v Real Volladolid (midnight)

Sevilla v Espanyol (3pm)

Leganes v Real Betis (5pm)

Eibar v Real Sociedad (7pm)

Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna (9.30pm)


Real Madrid v Celta Vigo (midnight)

Malcolm & Marie

Directed by: Sam Levinson

Starring: John David Washington and Zendaya

Three stars


• Looming global slowdown and recession in key economies

• Russia-Ukraine war

• Interest rate hikes and the rising cost of debt servicing

• Oil price volatility

• Persisting inflationary pressures

• Exchange rate fluctuations

• Shortage of labour/skills

• A resurgence of Covid?

Abu Dhabi GP schedule

Friday: First practice - 1pm; Second practice - 5pm

Saturday: Final practice - 2pm; Qualifying - 5pm

Sunday: Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (55 laps) - 5.10pm

Company profile

Name: WallyGPT
Started: 2014
Founders: Saeid and Sami Hejazi
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Investment raised: $7.1 million
Number of staff: 20
Investment stage: Pre-seed round


Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

Brief scores:

Southampton 2

Armstrong 13', Soares 20'

Manchester United 2

Lukaku 33', Herrera 39'

Directed: Smeep Kang
Produced: Soham Rockstar Entertainment; SKE Production
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Jimmy Sheirgill, Sunny Singh, Omkar Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma
Rating: Two out of five stars 

The biog

Date of birth: 27 May, 1995

Place of birth: Dubai, UAE

Status: Single

School: Al Ittihad private school in Al Mamzar

University: University of Sharjah

Degree: Renewable and Sustainable Energy

Hobby: I enjoy travelling a lot, not just for fun, but I like to cross things off my bucket list and the map and do something there like a 'green project'.

ILT20 UAE stars

1 Nicholas Pooran, 261
2 Muhammad Waseem (UAE), 248
3 Chris Lynn, 244
4 Johnson Charles, 232
5 Kusal Perera, 230

(minimum 10 overs bowled)
1 Zuhaib Zubair (UAE), 9 wickets at 12.44
2 Mohammed Rohid (UAE), 7 at 13.00

3 Fazalhaq Farooqi, 17 at 13.05
4 Waqar Salamkheil, 10 at 14.08
5 Aayan Khan (UAE), 4 at 15.50
6 Wanindu Hasaranga, 12 at 16.25
7 Mohammed Jawadullah (UAE), 10 at 17.00


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Thu Mar 15 – West Indies v Afghanistan, UAE v Scotland
Fri Mar 16 – Ireland v Zimbabwe
Sun Mar 18 – Ireland v Scotland
Mon Mar 19 – West Indies v Zimbabwe
Tue Mar 20 – UAE v Afghanistan
Wed Mar 21 – West Indies v Scotland
Thu Mar 22 – UAE v Zimbabwe
Fri Mar 23 – Ireland v Afghanistan

The top two teams qualify for the World Cup

Classification matches 
The top-placed side out of Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong or Nepal will be granted one-day international status. UAE and Scotland have already won ODI status, having qualified for the Super Six.

Thu Mar 15 – Netherlands v Hong Kong, PNG v Nepal
Sat Mar 17 – 7th-8th place playoff, 9th-10th place play-off

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE



Youngest debutant for Barcelona: 15 years and 290 days v Real Betis
Youngest La Liga starter in the 21st century: 16 years and 38 days v Cadiz
Youngest player to register an assist in La Liga in the 21st century: 16 years and 45 days v Villarreal
Youngest debutant for Spain: 16 years and 57 days v Georgia
Youngest goalscorer for Spain: 16 years and 57 days
Youngest player to score in a Euro qualifier: 16 years and 57 days

Abu Dhabi traffic facts

Drivers in Abu Dhabi spend 10 per cent longer in congested conditions than they would on a free-flowing road

The highest volume of traffic on the roads is found between 7am and 8am on a Sunday.

Travelling before 7am on a Sunday could save up to four hours per year on a 30-minute commute.

The day was the least congestion in Abu Dhabi in 2019 was Tuesday, August 13.

The highest levels of traffic were found on Sunday, November 10.

Drivers in Abu Dhabi lost 41 hours spent in traffic jams in rush hour during 2019


On Instagram: @WithHopeUAE

Although social media can be harmful to our mental health, paradoxically, one of the antidotes comes with the many social-media accounts devoted to normalising mental-health struggles. With Hope UAE is one of them.
The group, which has about 3,600 followers, was started three years ago by five Emirati women to address the stigma surrounding the subject. Via Instagram, the group recently began featuring personal accounts by Emiratis. The posts are written under the hashtag #mymindmatters, along with a black-and-white photo of the subject holding the group’s signature red balloon.
“Depression is ugly,” says one of the users, Amani. “It paints everything around me and everything in me.”
Saaed, meanwhile, faces the daunting task of caring for four family members with psychological disorders. “I’ve had no support and no resources here to help me,” he says. “It has been, and still is, a one-man battle against the demons of fractured minds.”
In addition to With Hope UAE’s frank social-media presence, the group holds talks and workshops in Dubai. “Change takes time,” Reem Al Ali, vice chairman and a founding member of With Hope UAE, told The National earlier this year. “It won’t happen overnight, and it will take persistent and passionate people to bring about this change.”

Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Swollen glands


1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

2. They can be created when massive stars collapse under their own weight

3. Large black holes can also be formed when smaller ones collide and merge

4. The biggest black holes lurk at the centre of many galaxies, including our own

5. Astronomers believe that when the universe was very young, black holes affected how galaxies formed


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Processor: 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1/Exynos 2200, 8-core

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Platform: Android 12

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Front camera: 40MP f/2.2

Battery: 5000mAh, fast wireless charging 2.0 Wireless PowerShare

Connectivity: 5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC


SIM: single nano, or nano and SIM, nano and nano, eSIM/nano and nano

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Price: Dh4,699 for 128GB, Dh5,099 for 256GB, Dh5,499 for 512GB; 1TB unavailable in the UAE

SPECS: Polestar 3

Engine: Long-range dual motor with 400V battery
Power: 360kW / 483bhp
Torque: 840Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
On sale: September



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