The perception is that all is not well with the Pakistan team. Long accustomed to crisis-situations that in the end turn out to be bruised egos or merely some hiccups , for someone who has been associated with the game as long as I have been, the present muddle is business as usual. There would have been no perception of a crisis if the team had been winning.

The same people would have been involved as are now involved in the losing team. Memories are short but that's the way it has always been with Pakistan cricket. It is an unalterable script, only the cast of characters has changed, like plays that run for years. Agatha Christie's play Mousetrap ran for 25 years in London theatre.

What is happening to the Pakistan team is that it has been caught in the netherlands of transition. Senior players have set the World Cup as a cut-off date for themselves. Understandable, they want to play in it as a sort of last hurrah. If that was their avowed goal, then they themselves should have ensured that they remained supremely fit.

Steve Waugh is a good example. The moment he got a whiff that his days were numbered, he went to England to play county cricket, to keep himself in the game, to be match-fit. And he will be leading the Australians in the Test series against Pakistan. At the same time, he will be trying to get back in the World Cup squad. In other words, he's making an effort, doing all the running unlike our Hamlet-like senior players.

Wasim Akram and Saeed Anwar, reportedly, have opted out for the Test series against Australia I say, 'reportedly' because we don't really know what is transpiring in Colombo between senior players and the team-management. Rashid Latif's name was also among the players who wanted to be 'rested' but he quickly announced his availability.

Yousuf Youhana has indeed a bonafide shoulder injury which makes his unceremonious sending-back on disciplinary grounds as suspicious. Inzamamul Haq apparently needs an operation that will keep him out of cricket for months rather than weeks. Yet, miraculously, as if he had gone to Lourdes, he came out to field as a substitute in Pakistan's match against Holland. We are entitled to ask: what's going on?

The upshot of all this is that a 'new look' team has been selected for the Test series against Australia. This could turn out to be a blessing in diguise. What we may lose in swing of experience, we may gain in the roundabout of motivation. The only person left out, who deserved to be in the team, is Shahid Afridi. He is in the reserves.

Afridi should be considered a bowling all-rounder. His batting then becomes a bonus. He was always treated as a pinch-hitter and used sparingly as a bowler, someone brought on to break a partnership. But, in the absence of Saqlain Mushtaq, he has bowled as Pakistan's lone spinner and bowled extremely well. He is an outstanding fielder and someone who seems to enjoy his cricket. He should have been in the Test squad. The squad could do with some cheerful characters who give hundred per cent of themselves.

I was delighted to see Hasan Raza back in the squad. It is hard to believe that he has been out of the senior team for so many years. He was the youngest cricketer ever to play Test cricket and then after two Test matches was consigned to the dust-bin of has-beens. Had he been preserved with, we would have had a top quality middle order batsman by now. The Sri Lankans kept their faith in Marven Atapattu and the Australians in Ricky Ponting.

The squad for the Australian series has many promising cricketers and though it will be a baptism by fire for them, they have the chance to show their mettle and transform their promise into performance. They need to be encouraged, made to feel welcome in the dressing-room. Most of all, they should not be made 'tourists' or drinks-waiters. They should be played. This is a Test as much of them as it is of the team management.

The ICC Champions Trophy has gone very much as expected, barring, of course, the early exit of Pakistan. The Australians have looked awesome and they now face Sri Lanka in one of the semifinals. In the best match of the tournament so far, India annihilated England. The target of 270 was not an easy one but India reached it with 10.3 overs to spare. In Virendar Sehwag, India has found a cricketer in the mould of Majid Khan.

Majid too bowled off-breaks but on his day, at the top of the order, he was one of the most destructive batsman in the game.

The Indian batting is clicking but India could be made to pay dearly if they insist on using Rahul Dravid as a make-shift wicket-keeper. He was dreadful in the match against England. But next week, will be the time to do a wrap-up of the ICC Champions Trophy.

I wrote about the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit last week. As if to confirm my description of it as Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films, they asked to see the tapes of Pakistan's match against Sri Lanka with special reference to Youhana's run-out. This got tremendous publicity, thanks mainly to Tony Greig going public on television with a sinister interpretation. The ACU came up with a hasty clarification that it would be calling for all the tapes of the matches.

But where then was there a need to issue a statement that the Pakistan had been cleared of any wrong-doing, confirming, in the process, that there had been some doubts, that Pakistan had been targeted? The ACU sleuths should not be allowed in the dressing rooms of the teams. The dressing room should be out of bounds to Inspector Closseau and his gendarmes.