Australia won the VB series in style and in the process showed that there were two ways of going about the winning business. The first is to crush the opponent underfoot, show no mercy, take no prisoners.

This Australia did in the first final at Sydney. It was a performance meant to silence Nasser Hussain who had harboured some illusions about causing an upset.

The Australians were awesome and the way that Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden went about reaching a modest target showed almost contempt for England's bowling.

The second way was to take the game to the wire and then, when all seemed to be lost, hand the ball to Brett Lee and to do, what we all hope in Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar will do in a crunch match in the World Cup - bowl fast, bowl deadly straight, and in the block-hole. Lee did that, on cue.

Clearly, Australia was sending out a message. It is a red-hot favourite for the World Cup for very good reasons. It is a red-hot team. Does this make the World Cup a one-horse race? Not necessarily.

There are far better teams than England and they will not fold as unceremoniously as England did. But they will have to play out of their skins to stop Australia.

And I am not being patriotic when I suggest that Pakistan, on its day, is the world's most dangerous team. "On its day" is a tough pre-qualification. But the talent is there and for Shoaib Akhtar, the moment of truth has arrived. There is tremendous back-up for him, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Abdul Razzaq, Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi. But Pakistan will need Shoaib to fire on all cylinders. This could be his tournament and he will need to stamp his authority from the first game that Pakistan plays and which happens to be against Australia.

All teams start with a clean slate. What has happened in the past has no bearing except in not repeating the mistakes that were made. An American Indian saying is appropriate: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Pakistan will need better leadership than was shown on its tour of South Africa. Leadership means more than giving orders. It is the skill of getting the best out of others, the fostering of togetherness, the acrobatics of being a leader of the team while being a member of it. Both equal and first among equals.

I don't wish to seem to be harping on the subject but Pakistan teams, in the past, have been their own worst enemies. It is not uncommon for friendships to form within a team, friendships on the basis of common interests and common pursuits. This may give the perception of groupism. But the pre-eminent loyalty should be to the team's cause and personality clashes should be put on hold. The PCB chairman has spoken to the senior players, as has Imran Khan. Both would have delivered the same message and there is no reason to doubt that the message will not be heeded.

The function arranged at the Gaddafi Stadium to wish farewell to the team may have ended in a somewhat disorderly fashion but the large number of cricket fans who had assembled demonstrated unwavering support for the team.

The players should be encouraged by this support. No team, not even Australia can win, if it does not give its best. In the World Cup, something more than the best will be needed.

In the meanwhile, efforts are still being made to derail the matches in Zimbabwe. We now learn that the England players are not keen to play there, troubled by their conscience. That's a bit rich. The team received anonymous threats in their hotel rooms. The threats could have been the work of some prankster or it could have been some "dirty tricks" by vested interests.

If the England team does not want to play in Zimbabwe, it should simply forfeit its points, a small sacrifice given that they are conscience-stricken.

Ironic that they should feel so strongly about the white farmers in Zimbabwe and have nothing to say about the prospects of thousand of Iraqis being killed when Tony Blair sends his army (air force and navy) into war. But that would be bringing in politics into sports. Precisely. But then, I suppose it is possible to have a selective conscience. Some call it double standards.