Zulqarnain Haider takes a dig at Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar

Zulqarnain Haider said he is still hopeful of making a comeback to the national team one day Getty Images

Lahore: Oct 8, 2011

Pakistan’s controversial stumper, Zulqarnain Haider’s return to first-class cricket has been marked with controversy after he lashed out at some seniors including former captain Shahid Afridi and retired pacer Shoaib Akhtar for their comments on Pakistan cricket and PCB.

Haider, who has been playing in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, took a dig at Afridi and Akhtar, criticising them for giving statements after they retired from the national team.

“Now that they are retired and out of contention they are giving critical statements about Pakistan cricket, the Board and our cricket culture. Why say all this now? Why not when they were playing?,” asked Haider.

“I just feel that once you have played for so long for your country and retired, you should be careful while giving such statements,” he added.

Haider took more pot shots at both Afridi and Akhtar, stating that unlike his seniors, he took a stand when he was playing for Pakistan and was at the beginning of his career.

“I gambled everything including my career. I am not like Afridi or Akhtar, who are criticising the system now and everything else about Pakistan cricket after being done with their careers and knowing they can’t make comebacks,” he said.

Haider also said that the players who earn a lot of money and respect from Pakistan cricket must in turn learn to respect and accept the system.

Reacting to Haider’s statements, the Pakistan Cricket Board said that although the wicketkeeper was not contracted with them but all players appearing in the Quaid Trophy had to adhere to a strict code of conduct.

“Players are not encouraged to give statements other than on their own performances and the match. I think the match and team officials have had a word with Haider over his statements,” a board official said.

The PCB had cancelled Haider’s contract and banned him after he ran away to London. Haider rocked the cricket world last year in November when he fled the Pakistan team hotel in Dubai during the One-day series against South Africa, claiming his life was under threat from the betting mafia.

He fled to London without informing the team management and claimed asylum there but after months of giving statements against the PCB and teammates, he returned home last April on the assurance of interior minister Rehman Malik that the government would look after his security.

With the minister taking keen interest in his case, the PCB disciplinary committee also just imposed a fine of half a million rupees on Haider and put him on probation but cleared him to play domestic cricket again on humanitarian grounds.

After failing to find a spot in his home team, Lahore, Haider finally managed to find a place in the Zarai Taraqyati Bank team.

Haider said he is still hopeful of making a comeback to the national team one day.

“The first step was to play first class cricket and I am doing that now. Hopefully with time I will be back to my normal cricketing self and try to improve my game to impress the selectors. I am still passionate about cricket,” he said.(PTI)