Nothing has suggested so far that there is any basis to the security concerns that have been raised about Harare and Bulawayo as venues for World Cup matches.

It confirms what many of us knew in the first instance that these security concerns masked political objectives which were to discredit Robert Mugabe.

The two matches that Pakistan has played in Zimbabwe have, if anything, been too peaceful, the applause been polite and the school-boys at the grounds have been a joy to watch, happy children with their laughter and broad smiles having the time of their lives, without the benefit of grotesque masks and war-paint on their faces.

The ICC must take the lead in keeping politics out of cricket and not, willy nilly, seen to be a party, reinforcing the perception that it is still a white man's club. If any team chooses not play in any of the venues of the World Cup, a case can be made for booting it out of the tournament.

Enough is enough. The politicians must not be allowed to hide behind their cricket team. And this applies equally to India whose refusal to play against Pakistan is devoid of any kind of logic and is political grandstanding pure and simple.

The series against Zimbabwe pitted one of the strongest Test teams against one of the weakest, made even weaker by some of the shoddiest fielding it has been my misfortune to watch. There was a time once when Zimbabwe's fielding used to be compared with that of South Africa.

Why has Zimbabwe allowed its fielding to go to seed? Consistent bad fielding is proof of a lack of commitment. Yet Zimbabwe's bowlers have toiled hard. Give Yousuf Youhana a chance, and my grandson, aged five would have taken the catch without any effort, and you give Youhana a hundred, give him two chances and it's early Christmas for him.

The Pakistan batsmen were not reading the wickets at Bulawayo and did not have the patience to graft their runs.

Still the presence of Inzamam-ul-Haq and Youhana has made a huge difference. Neither has shown any signs of the injuries that kept them out of the team against Australia. A timely recovery, perhaps, with the help of faith-healers?

Shoaib Akhtar must consider himself a lucky man, the match referee was Clive Lloyd and not someone like John Reid and the umpires were David Orchard and Srinivas Venkatraghavan and not Darrell Hair. He might have been fined or banned instead of being severely reprimanded which is being considered just a rap on the knuckles.

One hopes, all the same, that he has been suitably chastened. He is a greater bowler in his own right and does not need the extra-assistance of ball-tampering. Shoaib is the one cricketer who does not need any more controversies. It took a lot of effort on the part of the PCB to get his bowling action cleared. Even now, there are some who have some doubts about it. But this is behind him. Why start something new? He must know that from now on the umpires will be watching him like hawks to see whether any hanky-panky is going on.

Lloyd may not be sitting in the match referee's chair. Why do our cricketers keep shooting themselves in the foot? I was on Pakistan's tour of England in 1992 when ball-tampering became the main event and the rest of the cricket a side-show.

It wasn't pleasant to read the newspapers or sit in the press-box. It was not pleasant to hear people calling cricketers "cheats". We don't want to start that all over again.

The ICC has not hesitated to bring in technology and the experiment in Colombo was a good one. But something must be done about excessive appealing. So much pressure is being exerted on the umpires that some rank bad decisions are being given.

I think the umpires need some protection and in a previous column I had suggested that the fielding side should be penalised one run for every appeal that is turned down.

After all, bowler is penalised for bowling a no-ball or a wide. Worst of all is the planned and orchestrated appeal where all the close-in fielders go up. This amounts to cheating.

Every team is guilty of excessive appealing, some more than others. It also gets the crowd worked up. I think every effort must be made to make cricket a gentleman's game once again.

Sometimes, I look at old videos and it strikes me how much the game has changed, for the worse. Cricket used to be played with equal passion in those days. Somehow, there seemed to be more dignity in the game. I don't think that one-day cricket can be blamed.

It's just that the game has become too competitive and it has become competitive because the game is all about money. Perhaps, the sponsors could introduce their own code of conduct. And finally a word of advice to Shahid Afridi. He should watch his weight. Otherwise he will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. There seems to be no other reason why he's just cooling his heels.