Three Test matches last week and all three won or lost by an innings, Pakistan against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka against India and Australia against England. Gone seem to be the days when Test matches ended in draws.
The Test match against Bangladesh was so one-sided that it raises the question whether it was given Test status too early. There is no doubt that Bangladesh cricket has a long way to go but that is no reason to despair.
I think Bangladesh should reconcile itself to losing for a long time but while it may lose matches, it should not lose heart. Bangladesh cricket needs to set its priorities right. There are no short cuts and what is required is that the game is developed from the grass roots up. That's where it needs coaches, not at a senior level.
When Kamal Islam was president of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, he told me that he wanted to use the schools as cricket nurseries. He wanted to get coaches who would go talent hunting in the schools. It seemed to be right approach. But the biggest danger lies in the public switching off. Of all the countries in South Asia, Bangladesh seems to be the most cricket-crazy, far more than the public in Pakistan, India or Sri Lanka. The public can be frail.
There were five century makers for Pakistan but the one that was the brightest and the best was by Abdur Razzaq. Razzaq is a quiet sort of person. He has no airs, is not a showman and I would imagine he hardly raises his voice. He lets his cricket do the talking. I can't remember if I have ever seen a batsman hit a six off the backfoot.
I have seen Viv Richards hit the ball all over the park with shots that left one breathless but even he never managed a six off the backfoot. Razzaq did that and did so with effortless ease. He was perfectly balanced and timed the shot to perfection. But the century that holds out the greatest promise was the one by Taufiq.
Naturally, one would like to see him against tougher opposition but he seems to be well organised and has patience. He did not get fazed when he was being deprived of the strike by the more wily seniors. He bided his time. We must not allow this talent to go to waste as we did with Mohammad Wasim and may be doing with Imran Nazir and Hasan Raza.
Danish Kaneria too had a dream Test and obviously his stint at the PCB Academy under Mudassar Nazar has done him a world of good. He is not yet as good as Mushtaq Ahmed and not in the same league as Abdul Qadir but he is young and if he is prepared to work hard, I see no reason why he cannot get a regular place in the Pakistan team. From Pakistan's point of view, Multan was a top class performance. Wasim Akram went wicketless but he bowled well and without luck. Perhaps, he was trying too hard.
I was a little surprised to see Younis Khan dropped. He had a terrific tour of New Zealand and a good one of England. What more was he required to do? I think Faisal Iqbal has a good future and he will cement his place in the side ultimately. But not at the expense of Younis.
The Indians were outplayed by Sri Lanka and returned home empty handed. There is no doubt that India felt the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Vangiproppu Laxman but in the Colombo Test, India was given good starts but frittered them. One would have thought that their senior batsmen had seen enough of Muttiah Muralitharan, yet the wily old fox took eight wickets in India's first innings and India effectively lost the Test match.
It was not a nasty, spinning track. In fact, it was a splendid batting wicket as the Sri Lankan batsmen piled on the runs and there were four centuries including one by debutante Thilan Samraweera. Zaheer Khan slogged some useful runs and in doing so taught a less to his batters. Muralitharan cannot be played from the crease. One needs footwork and one needs to attack him. This is what Tendulkar would have done. Murali was able to dictate terms.
India has a tour of South Africa coming and unless there is a complete transformation in the approach, India will find the going very difficult. India need to decide whether Savrav Ganguly is the right choice for the captaincy. He did not seem to do anything wrong. He led a weakened team, further weakened by injuries. But he needs to keep a cool head and not be so highly strung as to incur the wrath of the match refree. He is, after all, the captain.
The Australians were simply magnificent at the Oval. Having won the toss and electing to bat under overcast skies, they just piled on the runs and the first target was to bat England out of the Test match. Justin Langer and the Waugh twins did just that. With runs in the bank, Steve Waugh was able to attack and he had the choice of pace or spin or both and between Glen. McGrath and Shane Warne, often in tandem, there was no peace for England's batsmen.
It is being said that this is the best ever Australian team. I'm not so sure. This team lost a series to India and England can hardly be considered a great team. I think the real test will come when Australia plays South Africa. I also feel that while Australia would beat Pakistan in Australia, Pakistan would give Australia a real run for their money in Pakistan.
It is good to see so much Test cricket being played and I hope that this continues. I was once asked to compare the two versions of the game. I said that one was like watching ballet and the other like watching belly-dancing. Both are art-forms and one should not be confused with the other. Finally, my deepest sympathies to Saeed Anwar on the death of his three-year-old daughter. We all share in the loss and our prayers are with him and his family and may the soul of the little girl rest in peace.