A two-Test series is the equivalent of grabbing a quick snack. It will do for the purpose of providing immediate sustenance but as a regular diet it falls far short of a regular meal. Pakistan has had so many changes of guard in the cricket set-up that one doesn't really know who actually agreed to this daft programme of two-Test series, rightly described as neither here nor there. What were the compulsions on us that we allowed ourselves to be downgraded and brought on par with Zimbabwe?

In Pakistan's last three tours of England in 1987, 1992 and 1996, England was no match and lost all the three series. For England, it makes sense to have Pakistan in the early part of the summer. It provides an excellent opportunity to prepare for the Ashes series and get their team sorted out. It is infinitely better than a conditioning camp or net practice. From England's point of view, it was a master stroke to have got a team like Pakistan to help them get their act together ahead of the Test matches against Australia.

What does Pakistan get in return? I haven't been able to work that out as yet. I remember than even though Pakistan had levelled the series on its inaugural tour of England in 1954, England, by way of reciprocity, had sent a MCC 'A' team in 1956. I wrote then that this was the Colombo Plan in reverse, a developed country asking an underdeveloped one for aid.

I join the chorus of those who have spoken out against the two-Test series and I would like to add that it is insulting as well, particularly to be asked to play a Test match in the month of May for on a single day, you can get all the four seasons. It may be cricket weather but it is not Test match weather but then who cares? It's only Pakistan that England is playing against!

Shoaib Akhtar should be in England by the time this column appears in print unless there is a slip between cup and lip. The drama around his departure has become like a soap-opera. I am not sure whether he is enjoying all the publicity and he may well be doing so given that he is a showman, which on its own, is not a bad thing. But, as each day passes and we read the latest bulletin on him, the expectations are getting higher that he will demolish England and there has never been a fast bowler like him. He will become aware that great things are expected from him.

I have known and seen the world's greatest fast bowlers, Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thomson, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and of course Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, Fred Trueman and Frank Tyson and our own Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. They were a wonderous sight in action as indeed is Shoaib Akhtar. But there was a reticence about them off-thefield and they were almost media shy. When Imran Khan broke down with a stress fracture, he spent two quiet years getting himself fit.

Shoaib must count himself very fortunate that there is a sympathetic PCB that has taken great pains to look after him and got him fit. The only way he can pay them back is by delivering on the field and by being a team man. Whether he should be played in the first Test match is a decision that is upto the team management. It would be something of a gamble for he is short of match practice but it might be worth the gamble. He could bowl in short bursts but I feel the advice of Richard Pybus should be sought. We are sitting too far away to know what is the reality on the ground.

I think Pakistan needed stiffer opposition than the British Universities if the idea of side matches is to allow the Pakistan players to get used to playing conditions. It is the batsmen who need to be spending time in the middle for they are the ones who will have to adjust to green wickets and the swinging ball. Too bad that both Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana missed out particularly Youhana whose foot has been in plaster.

Anyhow Pakistan has made a good start and it was great to see Wasim Akram bang on target, setting to rest, one hopes, the doubts of those who were disinclined to include him in the touring squad and good to read the remarks of Waqar that he and Wasim had buried the hatchet. Judging from the fact that he is making so many statements, all of them upbeat, it would appear that Richard Pybus is enjoying himself and has fitted in well with the team.

Fast asleep for so many years, the ICC is making up for lost time with its probe Committee on a globe-trotting mission. I am all in favour if they can uncover all those guilty of match-fixing. It would be a huge bonus if it could uncover also all those whistle-blowers who have made accusations and when the chips have been down, claimed that they don't have solid proof.

Chief among these would be Ali Bacher who seemed to have gingerly stepped aside after making scandalous allegations. At least, in the case of Javed Akhtar, the ICC must demand proof from Ali Bacher, failing which, recommend his removal from any cricket post he may be holding. It's not the players alone who bring the game into disrepute.