As I write this, there is still no news whether India will play in the Asian Test Championship and I am frankly at a total loss for words. Is the Indian government trying to get in the Guinness Book of Records for indecisiveness?

I don't think anyone of us is waiting on tenterhooks because it's not really such a big deal. It is not, as if, India was the world champion. In fact, it is a team that gives the impression that it is in disarray if body-language of players in Galle is anything to go by. Perhaps, this could be one of the reasons why the Indian government is reluctant to allow its team to play at Lahore.

India lost the first Test match against Sri Lanka without putting up even a semblance of a fight. India may well bounce back in the remaining two Test but at Galle it looked all at sea, almost literally since the sea was so close to the ground. Without Sachin Tendulkar and Vangipurappu Laxman, the batting lacked substance, not helped by the fact that the captain is in such poor form.

Saurav Ganguly does not give the impression that he is in complete charge. He seems distracted, mindful that the knives are out for him. But this is something that the Indian cricket board will have to sort out. Not for the first time in the subcontinent has the captaincy become a bone of contention and not for the first time has a team suffered because of it. But the Indian government has changed the goal posts so often that nothing can be taken for granted.

We are now told that it is not the Sports Ministry that has to decide but the External Affairs Ministry. Thus the game of cricket has become a part of foreign policy. If the Indian government does not want its cricket team to play against Pakistan, let it say so, bluntly and up front and not resort to sophistry or a jugglery of words. We will all know where we stand. It is clear that the Asian Test Championship will go ahead with or without India.


So much fuss is being made about Don Bradman's dream team including the allegation by Sunil Gavaskar that the team is a fake. There is a need to put matters in perspective. Bradman was the greatest batsman the game has ever known. But we can't really invest his every word as if it is the last word. He had, of course, every right to select his dream team as you and I have the right. It is obvious that Bradman would be influenced in his selection by the players with whom he played and thus the selection of Arthur Morris, Don Tallon, Ray Lindwall and Bill O'Reilly none of whom figure in Wisden's cricketers of the millennium. Thus there is no Viv Richards or Shane Warne.

I would have thought that Bradman would have found a place for Steve Waugh. Others who would have been automatic selections if I was picking a dream team would have been Waseem Akram Malcolm Marshall, either Allan Knott or Wasim Bari as wicket-keeper and Gordon Greenidge and either Gavaskar or Len Hutton to open the innings.

I think too that Bradman should have shown a bigness of heart and spared a thought for Harold Larwood, the one bowler who made Bradman seem human. Albeit using the tactics of body line, tactics that were not illegal but were unethical according to the moral standards of those days. Mark you, Larwood never reached the speed of Jeff Thomson or Brett Lee.


Again, because of deadline constraints, one does not know how the Headingley Test match will end though, given that it has been much affected by rain, it could be a draw and this would mean that England would have avoided a whitewash. But this Test match has shown how much influence a captain can have on a team. Australia felt the absence of Steve Waugh particularly when the bowlers were all over the place in England's first innings. All except Glenn McGrath who must surely be the best bowler in the game. Indeed, take away McGrath from the Australian attack and the two teams would seem better balanced. England felt the presence of Nasser Hussain, back after injury.

Making a debut for Australia was Simon Katich, the first batsman to get a Test cap in three years. This is significant and may be a vital clue in Australia's success. They play with a settled side and don't believe in a revolving-door selection policy. Nor is a Test cap a giveaway item like a ball point pen or a key chain. A Test cap has to be earned the hard way. It is, after all, the highest honour that a cricketer earns.

The other thing that the Australians do not do and that is to change a winning combination. There must have been pressure to drop Ricky Ponting after his repeated failures. But Australia kept faith in him and he finally delivered. Australia has also persevered with Brett Lee though Damien Fleming has better credentials but so long as Australia is winning, Lee will be persisted with because Australia is looking to the future, for the day that must come when they will be without McGrath.


Some observations about the commentary of the India-Sri Lanka match. I have not met Navjot Sidhu and therefore do not know whether his normal speech is as gung-ho as his commentary and whether he uses such expressions as "anxious like a wet hen" in conversation.

I was a little alarmed by Ravi Shastri's comment that since it was Test cricket there seemed no harm in physically injuring the opponents' players or words to that effect. Even if one feels that way, I would not want to admit it openly. It makes cricket less and less a game and more a gladiatorial contest, which it probably is but we should keep up appearances.