All things considered, it was just as well that Sri Lanka opted not to tour Pakistan to play three One-day Internationals. At one stage it seemed likely that Sri Lanka would make a flying visit but security considerations or rather the perception of a lack of security had the final say.

There must be some doubts about the Sharjah tournament though one sincerely hopes it will go ahead. These are nervous times in the region and while one admits that our minds are not focused on cricket, still a show of normalcy or the appearance of it would be welcome.

The South Africans are a difficult team to beat at the best of times but at home, they seem invincible as they demonstrated in the first match of the triangular against India. A score of 279 is virtually a winning one or at least it should be exceedingly difficult to overhaul. Yet the South Africans achieved it with two overs to spare. This is an indication of South Africa's batting strength or, alternatively, it could be a reflection on the Indian bowling. It was a combination of both.

Both captains made mistakes. Shaun Pollock won the toss and put India in. He was calculating on the dew factor and preferred to bowl first. Had he chosen to consult the weather bureau, he would have been told that there was only a slight chance dew. India left out Harbhjahan Singh. India must play to its strength. There were two batsmen that the Indians were hoping would be among the runs. The first obviously was Sachin Tendulkar who had been out cricket for several weeks because of injury and the other was the Indian captain Saurav Ganguly who has been on a lean pitch for quite a while. Both got hundreds and they were involved in a tremendous opening partnership.

Ganguly was the more adventurous and took his chances. He was, in a sense, hitting his way back to form. Tendulkar, on the other hand, was more circumspect, feeling his way through. But his hundred is bad news for South Africa.

South Africa needed to make 280 but there was no panic when it batted. There was a measured briskness but both Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs played correct cricket shots and there was no slogging. Their job was made easy by the Indian bowlers who bowled short and indeed bowled badly. Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad are not novices and have plenty of experience and should have been able to defend such a large total.

Still, there are plenty of matches to be played and for India's sake, one hopes that the lessons have been learnt. But one of the joys of watching this tournament is the commentary of Navjot Sidhu. It is refreshing to the extent that he takes far more liberties with the English language than he took liberties when he was batting.

Thus, Jonty Rhodes is as fleet as a gazelle and runs like a hare, all in one sentence. My only regret is that I was never able to share the mike with him. I would have enjoyed it. I did have Bishen Singh Bedi as one of the experts and I enjoyed doing the commentary with him enormously. But most of the fun was when we were off the air. On the air, Bishen Bedi was run-of-the-mill compared to Sidhu who can scale great heights and plumb great depths.

Col Naushad Ali who is the match referee in Zimbabwe is having a busy time. There was first of all the matter of James Kirtley's bowling which he considered to be suspect and appears to have gone public with his suspicion. I am not sure of the protocol. Was he right? Tim Lamb, who is the chief executive of the England Wales Cricket Board (ECB), has expressed his displeasure and has said that the whole thing hadn't been particularly well handled.

Some years ago, Aamir Sohail was penalised by the match referee John Reid in Sri Lanka. Reid promptly went on television. I telephoned David Richards who was the chief executive of the ICC and asked him whether a match referee could go public. He told me that there was nothing in his job-description stopping him from doing so. I don't know if the protocol has been changed.

Then Naushad has had to discipline Nasser Hussain, James Foster and Andy Flower "for bringing the game into disrepute." When Flower was on 99, an appeal for caughtbehind was turned down and Foster, the young wicket-keeper had a rush of blood and exchanged word with Flower. How and why Hussain got into the act is not very clear. All three have been reprimanded.

The one-day series between England and Zimbabwe is hopeless one-sided and one would have expected, at least, the England captain to keep his cool. Hussain is under the mistaken impression that to get excited and uptight is a sign of leadership. He should have been a calming influence on Foster rather than becoming a combatant.

One would have thought that the presence of a match referee would have ensured that a match would be played without incidents which are really childish. But apparently it has not. I think it for the respective boards to ensure that, at least, a captain does not get embroiled in verbals.

The captain, after all represents, the cricket board. If the captain himself sets a bad example, how can one expect the players to behave within the spirit of the game? I think Naushad should have handed out stiffer penalties. But it just goes to show that even a series which is by of a matchpractice session for England can become competitive and nasty.