There was nothing unsporting about the way of the Michael Vaughan dismissal, handling the ball and there was nothing unsporting about Ashley Giles bowling to Sachin Tendulkar, so-called leg theory.
If the rules permit it, the tactics are legitimate. That it goes against the spirit of the game is to say that bombing civilian targets goes against the spirit of war. One of the enduring myths about cricket has been that it is a "gentleman's game".
The myth may have its origins in that cricket was once a game played by the upper-classes and the upper classes themselves circulated the myth that they lived by a higher moral code.
Dr W.G. Grace is widely considered the patron-saint of cricket and the main gate at Lord's, the spiritual home of cricket, is called Grace Gates. W.G. Grace would have laughed at the notion of the spirit of the game. He had all but invented gamesmanship.
Vaughan looked very hurt when he was given out and in the same hurtful vein said that he was trying to be helpful and handing over the ball to an Indian fielder. He should have first seen a replay of his dismissal. He had no idea where the ball was and when he discovered that it was spinning precariously close to his stumps, he brought his hand on it to stop it. He handled the ball to prevent it from rolling on to the stumps. That's out both within the letter of the laws of cricket and its spirit.
A captain is allowed any tactics within the rules and if Nasser Hussain felt the best way of getting Tendulkar out was to play on his patience, he cannot be faulted. I admit it was boring but this was a Test match and he was not obliged to provide entertainment. England knew, as most teams do, that Tendulkar's is the prize wicket.
Ultimately, Tendulkar did lose his patience and was stumped, the first time in a Test match and England was able to gain an upper hand and a first innings lead of 98. A googly is an offbreak bowled with a leg-break action. It is a kind of deception. Can anyone say that this deception goes against the spirit of the game? Test cricket is always played hard and no quarters are given. I cannot see what the fuss is all about.
England put on a spirited show and though it lost the series, had the better of India in the other two Tests. In a reverse role, for a change, it was rain that came to India's rescue at Bangalore. Normally, rain has been a good friend of England.
England played as a unit, gave the impression of having done a lot of homework and having a game-plan. India did not give this impression. Apart from the Mohali Test, India seemed to be playing by ear. Both at Ahmedabad and Bangalore, India had England on the rack but never went for the jugular.
Either his lack of batting form is affecting Saurav Ganguly's captaincy or the captaincy is affecting his batting. On bothcounts, Ganguly seemed to be wanting. India was expected to prepare spinning tracks, most of all at Bangalore and India duly played three spinners and only one seamer.
It was England's seamers who did most of the damage and barring Tendulkar, none of the batsmen seemed to have a clue when the ball was seaming.
When India goes to England next summer, England's think-tank will have already got their plan ready. India has John Wright as the coach but it would not be a bad idea at all to pick the brains of Sunil Gavaskar on how to play the moving ball.
South Africa was mauled by Australia and I would be very surprised if they do not suffer a whitewash. I have doubts that South Africa is the best team, after Australia. Without being patriotic, I believe that Pakistan is the next best complete team.
That is, when Pakistan plays as a team and is not fractured by petty, personality clashes and in-fighting. Wasim Akhtar, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdur Razzaq backed up by Saqlain Mushtaq is as good a bowling attack as Australia. The batting led by Inzamam-ul-Haq is better than that of South Africa. The one weakness is fielding and this is the area that needs the greatest attention and Pakistan needs to get a fielding coach or a trainer. As the coach, Mudassar Nazar, himself, should ask for this.
Pakistan is sending a full-strength side to Bangladesh, resisting the temptation to blood some new players. This is as it should be. In any case, the Pakistan team hasn't played much cricket and the players are far from being match-fit.
Besides, Test cricket is Test cricket, despite the quality of the opposition, though I am surprised that Shahid Afridi is once again being treated as a one-day player and has been omitted from the Test squad. This tendency to pigeon hole a cricketer as being only a one-day player is gradually being abandoned by other teams. When a player reaches the highest level of the game, he should be able to adjust to both versions of the game. If he can't, he's not good enough for either version.
Apart from Afridi, the Test squad is a good one, the right balance between seniors and the up and coming.
Bangladesh has been getting quite a drubbing and questions are being asked whether it got Test status prematurely. I don't think so though I feel it will be many years before they can provide stiffer opposition. I just hope that the cricket public in Bangladesh does not lose heart and their passion for the game.
All good wishes for the coming new year. The one that is ending has been a wretched one. It even affected cricket and saw the introduction of politics in the game, particularly the cancellation of India's tour of Pakistan.