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From Tests to tennis ball, Zulqarnain Haider completes cycle in reverse

 Agencies |  2016-12-06 22:50:32.0  |  New Delhi

From Tests to tennis ball, Zulqarnain Haider completes cycle in reverse

It is now a part of folklore as to how Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a 'tennis ball king' much before he ruled Indian cricket.

He was one of the best paid batsmen in tennis ball tournaments in Bengal, which used to be a source of decent pocket money for budding cricketers.

But there are cases where cycle of life goes in reverse gear. That's what has happened with former Pakistan Test wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider, who had suddenly walked away from the national team and sought asylum in the United Kingdom.

The 30-year-old Zulqarnain has now picked up pieces and plays private T20 tournaments in the United States and is trying his luck in tennis ball tournaments.

Recently, Zulqarnain came for the 10 Premier League, which offers highest prize money (250,000 Dirhams) for a tennis ball tournament.

"Tennis ball cricket can also be a career option. One of my friends was a part of the organising committee. So I came here for a few matches. You never know but hope this also gives players a scope of growth. The matches are completed in short span of time and is lucrative also," Zulqarnain, who last played first-class cricket in 2014 for Zarai Taraiqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL), said.

His last List A appearance was even prior to that.

Since cricket was his bread and butter, how is he currently running his finances, the keeper-batsman says: "The bank job has helped me. When I came back to Pakistan from my asylum in the UK, the then interior minister Rehman Malik had helped me a lot. So I have this job. Also I went to the United States and played a few tournaments in Chicago, California and Washington. Two were T20 tournaments. So I am earning some money apart from the salary."

He does not want to talk about past but at the same time does not have any regrets.

"I have always maintained that I had specific issues with a few players whom I won't like to name. And I was right, wasn't I ? Now the atmosphere in the Pakistan team is great. I have no problems with any of the current cricketers who are representing Pakistan. In fact, most of them I consider as friends. Those with whom I had problems, they are no longer playing for the national team," said the 30-year-old glovesman, who had played one Test and 4 ODIs and 3 T20 Internationals for the national team.

For all practical reasons, Zulqarnain in immediate future is unlikely to make it to the national team but he is hoping against hope that he gets some good performances at the first-class level and stakes a claim.

A total of 28 runs from 4 innings in qualifying round of Quaid-e-Azam trophy meant that he did not get to play for ZTBL this season.

But the man who scored a fighting 88 at Headingley in his only Test appearance is confident for a second shot at redemption.

"I can still come back to the national side as a second wicketkeeper batsman. I know Sarfraz is doing a good job both with the bat and the gloves but I can be the second choice still. I am good enough for that. I will take it as a new beginning. Even during my first stint with the national side, I was understudy to Kamran Akmal," concluded Zulqarnain. 

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