Unlike unhappy families, which according to Tolstoy, are unhappy in their own ways, losing teams resemble one another, low morale, lack of motivation, disharmony in its ranks and poor leadership. Pakistan's ignominious defeat in the Hamilton Test in what was effectively two and half days has stunned the cricket public and this cricket public is entitled to some honest answers.
At the same time, the PCB must do some soulsearching. I don't think it should accept fingerpointing and lame excuses. The Pakistan team set up a world record for the number of injuries.
Wasim Akram, Saeed Anwar, Azhar Mahmood and Abdur Razzaq returned home while Mohammad Sami played the Christchurch Test match with a suspect groin and had to miss the Hamilton Test but worst of all, Yousuf Youhana had a sprained ankle before the start of the Hamilton Test match, took the injury with him into the match, aggravated the injury, as was to be expected, it could hardly have got better by playing, and his foot is in plaster and he is out of the reckoning for the Sharjah tournament.
Whose decision was it to play Yousuf Youhana? One must not forget that captain of the team, Moin Khan also ended up on the injured list and did not play the last Test match.
There has been speculation that some of these players feigned injuries. Why should they have wanted to do so? They are professional cricketers and they would have lost money. These players have been playing cricket all the year round unless they are supremely fit, they are bound to break down.
Sport is now a specialist discipline of medicine and a general practitioner is not good enough. In all international sports, there are professional fitness trainers who are specialists in sports medicine.
I hope Pakistan will see it fit to get one and he should be attached with the team on a full-time basis and he should have the final say - so on the fitness of a player. If he is not satisfied that a player is hundred per cent fit, that player should not be included in the team. It is patently absurd for a player to be carrying an injury into a match. It is foolhardy and a disservice to the team. It does not constitute gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.
The bogey of the senior players having a destabilising effect on the team has been raised many times. It has been used as a convenient excuse by tour managements. Inadvertently it is an admission of failure to exercise authority, either an unwillingness or an inability to do so.
There is also talk about a lack of communication between PCB and the touring team management. This too is absurd. What communication gap? Every player that the touring management wanted was given to it. The team that lost so ingloriously at Hamilton comprised mainly of the "young lions" and not of the trouble-making senior players who were thousands of miles away, in Pakistan.
Pakistan were shot out for 104 in the first innings and on the same wicket and under the same conditions, New Zealand made 407 for four declared and then in the second innings, Pakistan could muster only 118. The ball neither swung nor seamed extravagantly.
The New Zealand bowlers stuck to line and length and kept the ball in "the corridor of uncertainty" outside the off stump and the Pakistan batsmen got themselves out. They showed an alarming ignorance of the basics. I don't think the Hamilton Test should be dismissed as a oneoff bad day. We need to go back to the drawing board.
The technical position (or bureaucratic position) is, as I write this, that India has not formally declined to play at Sharjah but since the CBFS could not wait indefinitely while the mandarins in New Delhi made up their mind. New Zealand has been invited to take India's place and New Zealand has accepted. Obviously, it's not the same thing as having India but at least the tournament will go on.
Hopefully both Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be at full strength, so there is plenty of good cricket in store for the Sharjah fans. I can't help feeling that India is the loser, particularly as they seem to have a resurgent team and obviously John Wright, their New Zealand coach, has made his presence felt, albeit, in a low key sort of way.
Winning the Test series was no fluke and as I write this, they are tied at 2-2 in the one-day series. Sachin Tendulkar has passed the 10,000 run mark in one-day cricket and Vangipurappu Laxman is showing that he is no flash in the pan and is just as comfortable in the limited overs version of the game as he is in Test cricket.
It is the form of Saurav Ganguly that must be of some concern. It can't be the cares of captaincy for the team is doing exceptionally well. Perhaps, he needs a little luck to get out of his lean patch. It is not often realised what part luck plays in getting a batsman back on track.
Tendulkar has left no one in any doubt that he is the world's best batsman. Perhaps, he needed to be spurred on and Laxman's double century at Kolkata might have just been the right tonic for him. Even the world's best cricketers are human. Anyway, my congratulations to Sachin and I am sure that he is not going to rest on his laurels.