Shoaib Akhtar's bowling action has become a permanent feature of international cricket, not dissimilar to a television serial. He gets reported for 'chucking' and is then cleared. Then he gets reported again and cleared again. What the hell is going on? Is there any special reason why he is being targeted. A high-tech study at the Western Australian University had concluded that his bowling arm was naturally kinked at birth and did not fully straighten during delivery. X-rays of this were duly shown on television.

Perhaps, the time has come for Shoaib to take matters in hand himself and not rely on the ICC whose writ is apparently not binding on a gang of umpires and match referees. He should take legal action. Lt-Gen Tauqir Zia has indicated that the PCB would back him if he decides to go to court. Imran Khan has also backed Shoaib. I think the matter should be resolved once and for all.

Cricket is Shoaib's livelihood and he shouldn't be kicked in the stomach by umpires who routinely make mistakes but the consequences of these mistakes are now career-threatening.

I have written this before and still maintain that the ICC bears a similarity to the United Nations. The United Nations is invoked when it suits the Big Powers and ignored when it does not suit them.

The ICC remained silent when India cancelled its tour of Pakistan. It remained silent too when New Zealand refused to tour Pakistan citing security concerns, influenced no doubt by highly selective pictures of protests that Western television channels showed them as a part of hyping up the war in Afghanistan. The ICC should have sent its own representative to see what was the reality on the ground. The ICC is an independent body and should not become the cat's paw of someone else's foreign policy.

Justice Karamat Bhandari who is holding a judicial inquiry into allegations made by Ali Bacher that Pakistan's match against Bangladesh in the 1999 World Cup was "fixed" has written to Bacher to appear before it but has not received a reply from him. Why has Bacher not chosen to reply? He was pretty cock-a-hoop when he made the allegation. Has he had second thoughts? Or was it an attempt to deflect attention away from South Africa's own problems with match-fixing? I still maintain that people who are not able to substantiate their allegations should not be allowed to get away scotfree.

A team that makes 378 in its first innings should not lose a Test match by nine wickets and with a day and one session to spare. Yet that is precisely what India managed to do in the first Test match against South Africa.

Was it a case of South Africa playing exceptionally well or India playing exceptionally badly? I think it was a combination of both. India was unlucky with injuries and the absence of Harbhajan Singh was crucial.

Normally, it is fast bowlers who hunt in pairs but spinners also do. The South Africans are vulnerable against spin but Anil Kumble couldn't do it all on his own.

But it was India's batting in the second innings that folded up on a seaming track that Shaun Pollock exploited fiendishly. I must confess to being surprised that Rahul Dravid opened the innings for India. After Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid is India's best batsman. Why was he made a sacrificial lamb? In the final of the triangular, he kept wickets! Suddenly, he has been converted into a utility player.

India relied on a pace attack but the two left-arm fast bowlers had had a long lay-off and I rather suspect were not hundred per cent fit. It says something that it was the old war-horse Javagal Srinath who looked the best of the bunch. Tendulkar's hundred was one of the best that he has made. He was pugnacious and quite brilliant.

Saurav Ganguly must learn how to handle the ball aimed at his rib-cage otherwise his utility as a batsman in Test cricket against teams that have quality pace attacks is limited. It is a defect that is curable and he should work with his coach to sort it out. As with Pakistan and Sri Lanka, some serious thought should be given to preparation of wickets at home. I don't see any advantage in preparing flat-tracks.

The best thing that has happened to one-day cricket is the one-bouncer per over that is now allowed. The one-day game used to favour the batsman so heavily that bowlers became trundles and functioned as glorified ball-boys. The introduction of the bouncer has transformed the game. The next change that is over-due is the wide.

Presently anything pitched outside the leg-stump is a wide. The umpires virtually have no discretion. If a batsman is able to reach the ball, it should not be a wide. And while the going is good, the front-foot no-ball rule should also be changed and we should go back to the old, back-foot rule. I think every bowler in the world would welcome it. So too would umpires, I would imagine, those, at least, who are not too busy finding fault with Shoaib's bowling action.

The war in Afghanistan is taking toll of many sporting events. They are being cancelled on the theory of better safe than sorry. I can't help feeling that we are being over-cautious. After expressing some initial fears, England has after all agreed to tour India and the West Indies are in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe is in Bangladesh. But to crown it all, the Sri Lanka Under-19 is in Pakistan. The best way to fight terrorism is to go about our normal lives and sports provides the greatest reassurance of the lot.