There is a holier-than-thou self-righteousness about the Darren Lehmann case. If we are honest with ourselves, we have all been guilty of racial vilification in one way or another.

It was Lehmann's misfortune that someone heard him and the mills of moral outrage started to grind and ultimately a five-match ban was slapped on him. He must now go through life branded as a condemned racist.

Lehmann gave vent to his feelings in an honest way. He is a white man, a product of a system of values of a white community. What is bred in the bones must come out in the flesh.

I have no doubt that the Sri Lankans in their private feelings have much the same opinion of the white man as Lehmann has of the blacks. No community or society is free of bigotry and it is impossible to legislate against bigotry.

The ICC code of conduct against racial vilification is the equivalent of a commandment against sin. Racism is a fact of life, admittedly an ugly fact, but racism is about what is in one's' heart. Racism can even be affectionate.

George Headley, the great West Indian batsman was called "the black Bradman" and Allan Donald "white lightning." When I played cricket for a club in Hastings, I was a favourite with the supporters of my club and when I would go into bat, some of them would cheer: "Go on Darkie,' have a bash." They liked me, loved me but they never made me forget that the colour of my skin was brown.

With the World Cup round the corner, giving so much prominence to racial vilification will accentuate the negative. To the strident nationalism that will be unleashed, one more divisive factor will be introduced. I am sure Darren Lehmann was ashamed of his outburst, made in the heat of battle. That seems punishment enough.

This seems to be a troubled World Cup. Hopefully, the matter of playing matches in Zimbabwe has been resolved but it has left a bitter taste. Whether the England team will shake hands with Robert Mugabe or not has acquired a symbolic importance. It is a way of making a political statement.

It may be entirely possible that Mugabe may not want to shake hands with England and Australian players. So what? Perhaps, all concerned should wear gloves while shaking hands. That way, no one will be infected.

Then there is the matter of the contracts row concerning Indian players and the pay-dispute of Sri Lankan team. Why has all this not been resolved earlier? It is mind-boggling. Instinctively one finds oneself on the side of the players. They are the ones who create the wealth.

Theoretically, cricket boards are not business concerns nor is the ICC. Their job is to promote the game of cricket and the bottom-line is not to show a profit. But cricket, like other games, has created a bureaucracy and to maintain this bureaucracy, costs a great deal of money. And we find ourselves in a vicious cycle.

The players need the cricket boards and the cricket boards need the players and with so much money in the game, thanks to sponsors, conflict of interest is bound to arise. Australian players are paid far more than Sri Lankan players, for example. But they do the same job. But this injustice is not confined to cricket or any other game. Like racism, it is a fact of life.

Pakistan had a horrendous tour of South Africa as did India of New Zealand and Sri Lanka has crashed out of the triangular in Australia. Each of these teams, it is hoped, has learnt some hard lessons. In conditions that are unfamiliar, there is a need for adjustment and the best way of doing so is to go back to the basics.

But Australia considered to be invincible, and an odds-on favourite for the World Cup, does not quite have the bench-strength that we imagined it had. Without Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, the bowling may not be pedestrian but it lacks sharpness and the batting, without Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting is not as menacing.

Most of all, I think that Australia is missing Steve Waugh, his steely resolve and ice-man temperament. He would have been to this Australian team what Imran Khan had been to the Pakistani team in 1992 and what Arjuna Ranatunga was to Sri Lanka in 1996. Cricket is a team game but a team needs leadership, a safe port in a storm.

Besides, Australia is already feeling the pressure of being the favourites. Its performance in the tri-series has been scratchy. I think it's going to be a wide-open World Cup.

But my concern is Pakistan, the lack of consistency in a very talented team. Pakistan will need Wasim Akram to be on top of his game and Shoaib Akhtar to be at his explosive best, not in one or two games but throughout the tournament. And runs are due from Inzamam-ul-Haq. A batsman of his class should not be getting out to careless shots after he has done all the hard work.

There is no reason why Pakistan cannot win the World Cup. But this can be said of other teams as well. In the end, it will be about remaining focused. That's what should be drilled in the Pakistan team. Winning is hard work.