All the signs are there that the Sharjah tournament will go ahead, the most positive of which is that Pakistan has announced its squad. No other cricket playing country has been so badly hit by the political turmoil in the region than Pakistan.

Putting aside India's refusal to play against Pakistan on one side, this refusal is in a class of its own, New Zealand cancelled its tour and last minute attempts to get Sri Lanka to play three One-day Internationals fell through because the Sri Lankans got cold feet.

In retrospect, both the New Zealand tour and Sri Lanka's short visit could have come through. Television reports of disturbances in Pakistan have been greatly exaggerated and those of us who live in the subcontinent are quite used to processions and demonstrations. But that is now water under the bridge.

There are no surprises in the Pakistan squad and all those selected have been playing domestic cricket particularly Shoaib Akhtar who seems to have held out reasonably well and there has been no recurrence of any injury. With Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Abdur Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood in the squad, Shoaib cannot take his place in the team for granted. This is a healthy sign and there will be that extra bit of motivation for him to give his hundred per cent.

Shoaib can become a great bowler but this greatness will not fall like manna from the sky. To his natural talent, he will have to add hard work and most of all discipline. He is a bit of a loose cannon. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has shown great indulgence, as well as, having made a sizeable investment in him.

But the onus of fulfilling his potential lies squarely on Shoaib's own shoulders. Letting your team down is one thing, inexcusable as it is, but letting yourself down, is even worse. He is still young in years but by now, he should be sufficiently old in hours to understand that no player is greater than the game.

Sometimes a correct decision is reached through a circuitous route. Richard Pybus who was the Pakistan coach went back to South Africa and is not returning because of the political uncertainty. This has led to Mudassar Nazar being appointed to the job. He is an excellent choice and there are many, including Imran Khan, who feel that he should have been made coach in the first instance.

Mudassar is a likeable, easy going man with no hang-ups about his own importance. He will get on well with the players. Imran had a lot of respect for his cricketing knowledge and used to consult him frequently.

His appointment will also bring to an end the argument that there should be a Pakistani rather than a foreign coach. It was an argument that was stirred up by some ex-players who fancied themselves for the job. Mudassar has been running the cricket academy at the Gaddafi Stadium and was manager of the Pakistan 'A' team's tour of Sri Lanka and by all accounts has done a good job. It remains to be seen if his is a make-shift appointment or whether he will get the job permanently.

The suggestion by the ICC that Pakistan's matches should be played at neutral venues so long as the present political troubles last makes good sense. The difficulty will be trying to find neutral venues. Sharjah and Morocco have been mentioned, as has Northern Australia. It could be a combination of venues. Obviously, Pakistan will want to keep the television rights but the main thing is for the Pakistan team to be playing.

There is still the remaining part of the Asian Test Championship and I had suggested that since both Pakistan and Sri Lanka had qualified for the final, there seemed no point in a league match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka and we should proceed to the final, making it a best of three finals. If for some reason the final cannot be played in Pakistan, then the best of three finals could be played in Colombo, Dhaka and Sharjah.


Poor Kenya seems hopelessly out of place in the triangular in South Africa. But this surely does not mean that it shouldn't be competing. Kenya came to South Africa without any illusions. They knew that they were a long way from this level of cricket. But the only way they will get there is by competing.

Look at the way the African countries have come up in football. There must be a lot of untapped cricket talent in that vast continent. Namibia has already qualified for the World Cup 2003. I first went to Kenya in 1956. It was then a part of East Africa. We had taken a Cricket Writers team. Leave alone, any native Kenyan playing, they were all but barred from coming to the ground to watch the matches. That seems a long long time ago.

And finally in a lighter vein, here is Navjot Sidhu describing the fielding genius of Jonty Rhodes: "He is the Great Wall of China. He is a machine".