A hale and hearty Mark Twain decried reports of his death as "slightly exaggerated." I can't help feeling that speculation that Wasim Akram's career may be over comes in a similar category. That he was not picked for the training camp has certainly come as a surprise. He should have been an automatic selection going on cricket alone.

But, of late, Wasim has been somewhat unpredictable about his fitness and there is a perception that he has developed an "attitude" problem. It is no secret either that relations between him and Waqar Younis are cool. Having said this, it is unthinkable that he can be dropped on cricket grounds. There is no replacement in sight just as there wasn't for Courtney Walsh. It may be true that Wasim Akram may not be the bowler he once was but he's still a hell of a bowler.

The declared intention of the PCB is to ring out the old and ring in the new. But this has to be done in phases, the mansion has to be built, brick by brick. I have made no secret of my opinion of the oneday game. It was the side-show that swallowed the main event and it is still something of a shyster. The World Cup 2003 is not Mount Everest. It has been hyped up for sound marketing reasons and turned into a carnival. The winner of the World Cup is not necessarily the best team in the world. At best it is to be king for a day.

The best team in the world is the one that is consistently the best, as Australia is presently but Australia's claim to greatness comes from its Test team. I make this observation simply to indicate that the World Cup 2003 should not the be-all and end-all of our planning. There's a lot of cricket to be played before it and indeed after it. I don't think that present should be sacrificed for the future.

The probables picked for the training camp represent a nucleus. It does not mean that it is binding and some additions and subtractions cannot be made. When the time comes to pick the actual squad, I am sure that the best team will be picked. Pakistan has lost the last four home series it has played. Will it be said that Pakistan can't win at home just as the Indian's can't seem to win, away from home.


Having fought its way to the final, against heavy odds, India choked or alternatively were put to the sword by Sri Lanka. Once again, it was that splendid warrior Sanath Jayasuriya who led the charge and I would rather imagine that the Indian selectors have their work cut out. As I wrote earlier, there seems to be a problem. I don't think Saurav Ganguly, as captain, is the problem though he does not set a high example with his tantrums and his hot-headedness.

In this triangular, he was banned for one match and had 75% of his match-fee deducted for his behaviour in another match. This conduct is unbecoming of a captain of a national team and what sort of example is he setting for the members of his team, not to mention the millions of young cricket fans who watch television? Television is a double-edged sword. One can learn good things by watching it or learn to be boorish.


England lost the first Test match by an innings, the second by eight wickets and the third at Trent Bridge by seven wickets. Are the contests getting close? All the matches so far ended well within the distance, causing a huge financial loss to the ECB. The Trent Bridge Test match provided England with some chances but as soon as Australia saw the door opening, it slammed it tightly shut. This is a sign of a truly great team and a sign too that there is no room for complacency.

This is the sort of ruthlessness that Steve Waugh has brought to the team. He was desperately unlucky to have pulled up with a painful calf injury but it won't matter that he will not be available for the remaining two test matches for he has done his job and done it in style. The Ashes have been won and the only interest left in the series is whether Australia can whitewash England.

Steve Waugh will still be at the ground, sitting grim-faced on the balcony, and directing operations. He has had such a tremendous impact on the series that he does not need to don flannels. Of course, his batting will be missed but there is such depth in this Australian squad, a replacement will be found without difficulty.

England appears to be demoralised but realistically, did they seriously believe they had a chance? England has a two-bowler attack in Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough. The batting is brittle and though they have had good starts but the middle order has crumbled in a heap, over and over again, the centre does not hold. The key weakness in the England team is the absence of a quality spinner.

The ball at Trent Bridge was doing a lot, swinging and seaming, yet it was Shane Warne who took six wickets in England's second innings whereas Robert Croft was all but a spectator. He came on in the second innings, promptly got the wicket of Ricky Ponting and was promptly taken off. He has every right to feel aggrieved.

I thought it was poor captaincy though by his body-language, Mike Atherton appeared to have given up. Atherton looked a forlorn figure, "solitary as an oyster" in the simile of Charles Dickens. I think it was a mistake to lumber him with the captaincy. He is England's best batsman and should have been allowed to concentrate on his batting.

England should try and salvage something from this summer, some pride. But it cannot do so by making wholesale changes. The risk you take by bringing in new players is to court further disaster and dent the confidence of the new and presumably young players. It is a winning side that bloods in fresh talent, not a losing one. Changes should be made for positive reasons not out of desperation.