Is it right that we should be playing cricket while a war rages in Iraq? I have agonised over this and come to the conclusion that we should not allow the war-mongers to disrupt normalcy, wherever possible. It weakens their power to hold the world to ransom.

I am glad that the Sharjah tournament is going ahead though I am disappointed that South Africa has chosen to opt out because of "security concerns." South African players would no more have been in danger than the players from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

"Security concerns" is too general and too glib. New Zealand used it to avoid playing in Nairobi and was only too keen to accept the advice that was given to it by the US Embassy. In the end, it were New Zealand themselves who paid the price for their timidity. England refused to play in Zimbabwe for political reasons, the same Zimbabwe that has been persuaded to send its team to play in England this summer.

In agreeing to tour England, Zimbabwe has taught a lesson to England that sports should be kept out of politics. England's main concern, of course, was money. Had Zimbabwe cancelled the tour the ECB would have been out of pocket by several millions pounds. Thus this can be considered as aid in reverse.

Pakistan has been a victim of "security concerns" and the Australians refused to tour Pakistan and the series, both Tests and one-day had to be played at neutral venues. Ironically, the one-day series was played in Nairobi, a venue that New Zealand considered too dangerous.

The Indians have now formally cancelled their tour of Pakistan. One would like to know why the ICC is being so timorous? India is a member of the ICC and if it continues to flout its decisions, surely the ICC is bound to examine whether India should continue to remain a member of ICC. But even more important is the seeming indifference of the Indian cricket public to what is a wholly political decision.

India and Pakistan played each other in the World Cup and the heavens did not fall. India beat Pakistan and there was rejoicing in India and there was disappointment in Pakistan. That's about all. By not playing cricket against Pakistan, outstanding disputes between the two countries are no nearer being resolved.

It is not Pakistan cricket that is being hurt but Asian cricket. The Asia Cup had the potential of becoming one of cricket's most prized tournaments, second only to the World Cup. The Asian Test Championship too had got off to a good start and has all but been abandoned.

The World Cup showed how the people of the cricket world could be brought together. All the security measures taken, at great cost, proved to be unnecessary. The final of the World Cup was played when the war against Iraq had started, two contrasting image. We know which was the enduring one and the hopeful. The Indian cricket board must try harder and must put more pressure on its government to resume cricket ties with Pakistan.

The absence of South Africa devalues the Sharjah tournament somewhat but it provides Kenya a chance to show its mettle. And in a way, it provides the new-look Pakistan team a relatively easy passage though it will still be up against Sri Lanka. Given our preoccupation with the war in Iraq, I am not certain how closely the cricket will be followed.

Pakistan's poor performance in the World Cup has almost been forgotten though occasionally an article appears or a letter in a newspaper. It is just as well. The decision of the PCB to 'rest' senior players has been well received though the implication that they were somehow responsible for Pakistan's grief in the World Cup remains unsubstantiated and is a bit rich.

I have written this before but the average age of the all-conquering Australian team is in the vicinity of 30-years and Australia has brought back Steve Waugh and Justin Langer. By the time that the next World Cup will come around in 2007, almost all of the present Australia team will be replaced.

But Australia is not likely to make the same mistake that had the West Indies. The West Indies sacked their senior players in one fell swoop and it has not been able to re-build. The West Indies have tried several captains including Richie Richardson, Courtney Walsh, Brain Lara and Jimmy Adams, finally settling for Carl Hooper.

Team building or re-building has to be undertaken in phases, on a case by case basis. Rashid Latif's deputy is Yousuf Youhana. Youhana is an outstanding batsman but surely we do not consider him to be captain material? The opportunity may have been lost to groom a future captain.

There is a school of thought that believes that the best player is not necessarily the best captain. India tried Sachin Tendulkar and the West Indies Brian Lara and in the not-so distant past, England had tried Ian Botham and David Gower.

A captain needs to have some special qualifications. In a team that had Hanif Mohammad, Fazal Mahmood and Imtiaz Ahmed, Pakistan's captain was Abdul Hafeez Kardar, arguably the best captain that Pakistan has ever had.

I really have no idea which player in the re-built lot is a future Pakistan captain. I had fancied Abdul Razzaq in the role but his own form has taken such a nose-dive that his own place in the team is in doubt. But without seeming to be disrespectful to such a talented cricketer,

I don't see Youhana as a future captain. Perhaps, it is just well that we keep this on hold, otherwise we might find the prospective candidate being undermined. It's known to have happened. Perhaps, when the team is selected for the short tour of England in the early summer, this matter will be given some serious consideration. While building a new team, we should be grooming a captain. The two go together.