Bangladesh cricket has come a long way since I took a private team to Dhaka in 1985. Kamal Z. Islam was then the president of the Bangladesh cricket board and I have yet to meet a man who loved the game of cricket more than he did.

He invested his time and his own money to support the game and it was on his insistence that I rounded up a team that included Imran Khan and many Test cricketers and we went to Dhaka.

Kamal Islam has nothing more to do with Bangladesh cricket having been 'ousted' in the shuffle that is characteristic of the subcontinent, though he still is an ardent cricket fan. The visit of my team to Bangladesh is a distant memory and most people have forgotten about it and barring Kamal Islam, no one in Bangladesh cricket has even bothered to thank me.

But I was delighted when Bangladesh cricket was given Test status. They will find the going tough and they must not set their sights too high nor should the cricket public in that country to raise their expectations sky-high.

Bangladesh will be playing its first Test match against Pakistan at Multan as a part of the Asian Test Championship. It is a big occasion for them even though, realistically, Bangladesh must know that it is the outsider in this tournament, now reduced to three teams with the pull-out of India, a pull-out that is nakedly political.

I know very little of the Bangladesh team so it is hard to say how they will shape up against Pakistan. But nothing can be taken for granted in cricket, Pakistan will be without Shoaib Akhtar who has ruled himself out on the ground that he is lacking in match fitness. Pakistan will also be without Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi, both playing county cricket in England. But Wasim Akram is in the team and appears to be fully fit.

Wasim is now reaching that stage in his career when he will need to prove himself every time he plays. It's a cruel world and one can't live off past glories. Wasim says that he still has a couple of years of cricket in him and I don't doubt it but this means that he will need to stay fit. A cricketer's career begins and ends the same way, with anxiety. I have been one of those who has supported Wasim Akram but he must not count on it, unless he delivers.


I am undecided about Steve Waugh's decision to play in The Oval Test match. Clearly he was determined to be on the field rather than on the balcony when the curtain came down on the Ashes series. But equally, he was unfit. Yet he went on to make 157, batting or rather, hobbling on one foot. He has been praised for his courage but would he still have played had the fate of the Ashes been undecided?

He played for personal glory and, in my view, has set a bad example. It is wrong on principle to go into a match less than a hundred per cent fit. Besides, he denied an opportunity to Simon Katich who, on that feather-bed Oval wicket, could have made some runs.

The Australians, by and large have stuck to a winning team. Michael Slater was dropped for the Oval Test for "disciplinary reasons" and Justin Langer got a chance which he took with both hands with a superb century. But Australia has persisted with Brett Lee and certainly at The Oval would have been better served by Colin Miller.

Every Test match in the Ashes series was played before full houses. Certainly in England, Test cricket is alive and kicking. This, despite the vagaries of the weather and that the series was one-sided.


Kandy does not seem to be Sri Lanka's happy hunting ground and Saurav Ganguly's men have been able to level the series, with the Indian captain finally running into form. The Sri Lankans have made a conscious effort to change the character of their wickets, opting for more bounce.

This is a healthy development for Sri Lanka can't keep depending on Muttiah Muralitharan who, though, still a great bowler, will have to hang up his bowling shoes one day. But what a terrific character he is. Buoyed by his promotion in the batting order, he came a number nine, he played a joyful innings, knocking the ball all over the park and making 67 of 60 balls. He can now press his claim to being an allrounder. It has become a good series and the Indians looked far more focused and determined than they did at Galle.


Finally, a few word about Mike Atherton. Although he had not officially announced his retirement, he was given a standing ovation when he walked back to the pavilion after being out in the second innings and the Australian fielders joined in the applause.

Atherton has served England cricket well, both as captain and a player. Though he has had his moments when television cameras discovered that he had dirt in his pockets and which he was using to rough up the ball. Then in 1996, he had called a Pakistani journalist a "joker" at a press conference in Rawalpindi. Apparently Cambridge had not smoothed some rough edges. But he has struggled with a bad back for a long time. I am sure he would have wanted to go out with a bang, with a Test hundred.

But The Oval seems to be an unsentimental ground. Donald Bradman playing his last match was bowled by Eric Hollies for a duck and in 1962, Fazal Mahmood had taken quite a battering from England's batsmen.

Needless to say that England will have a hard time in finding someone to take Atherton's place. Too much one-day cricket has made the specialist opening batsman obsolete. Now the theory is that anyone can open a Test innings, even an Abdur Razzaq.