Australia and lately India play their cricket with intensity. Kenya plays it with zest, with a joyful exuberance, to the beat of drums. Kenya has won the hearts of all cricket fans. Will it lead the revival of cricket, lovely cricket?
The Kenyan captain Steve Tikolo tries hard to look suitably grim but a broad grin keeps breaking out and the sanctity of the occasion is replaced by a celebration.
I have a special interest in Kenya. In 1956, along with A.H. Kardar and Hamid Jalal, I was instrumental in taking a cricket team to the then East Africa under the banner of the Cricket Writers Club.
It was the first international cricket team to tour East Africa. We played against Asians and Englishmen.
I had asked my host whether Kenyans (the blacks) played cricket. "Leave alone play, they are not even allowed to watch cricket," he had told me.
The British ruled East Africa with an iron hand. The Kenyans made up the population but were not considered as people.
In less than 50 years, the Kenyan who had not seen a cricket match has learnt fast and well enough to have a team in the semifinal of the World Cup. A stunning achievement.
Unlike Zimbabwe, which has many white players, the Kenya team has no white player and it has an Indian coach.
Sandeep Patil too was a happy cricketer in his glory-days. Perhaps, he imparted his brand of cricket to his charges.
Many people have moaned that the World Cup has been devalued by the unexpected progress of such teams as Kenya. On the contrary, it has been enriched by it.
Kenya has brought colour and dignity to the World Cup, national pride without the smell of money and without the fear of failure. When Kenya has won; the game of cricket has won.
A fall-out from the World Cup was to be expected. There was never any doubt that Andy Flower would leave his country and pursue his cricket in other pastures.
Once he had made his political statement by wearing a black armband, he had shut the door on himself. Henry Olonga can be considered as collateral damage.
Andy Flower deserved a better farewell than being given out leg-before when he had clearly got an inside edge. Zimbabwe will never be able to find a player who will fill those boots. Andy Flower was one of the great batsmen in international cricket.
Allan Donald retired, an extremely dignified exit, Nasser Hussain has opted out of the one-day game. But the real shocker has been the sacking of Shaun Pollock with an ominous "with immediate effect." I have no idea how the United Cricket Board of South Africa works but Pollock deserved more respect.
There is no indication whether any of the Pakistan senior players intend to retire. Saeed Anwar did but withdrew his decision. There is actually no formal requirement for a player toannounce his retirement.
Sometimes, the decision is made for him by not being picked and the player just fades away.
There is, of course, a clamour for rebuilding the team and implied in the clamour is that several senior players should be axed. My view is simple: It should be a purely cricket decision. I cannot help feeling that in some of the calls, there is some personal agenda, some settling of old scores.
The PCB must be guided solely by the best interests of the game in Pakistan. There are many young players whose progress is being halted.
Room must be found for them. But performance in the World Cup should not be sole yardstick. The Sharjah tournament provides a good opportunity to blood these young players because there is nothing at stake. But a young team needs some experienced players to provide some ballast.
In any case, the PCB should make clear that it has the future in mind, the near-future rather than a distant one. Australia is often cited as an example of a team with a strong bench.
This is because Australia does not put rookies in the team. They do not believe in on-the-job training, the replacements for Shane Warne and Jason Gillespie were not spring chickens. Brad Hogg is in his thirties.
A case in point is Brett Lee. It was made perfectly clear to him that his job was not just to bowl fast. He was also expected to take wickets. He was banished to domestic cricket and when he had performed well, he was brought back to the Australian team, a far better and somewhat chastened bowler.
The yardstick we should apply is that there is no such thing as automatic selection. There is also no place in the team for players with an `attitude'. They become a problem for the whole team. No player is bigger than the game.
I read that Shahid Afridi has been `banned' for sledging. It is not clear whether he was reported by the ICC or whether the PCB took the decision on its own.
We have all been watching the World Cup on television and though we may not be lip-readers, we have a pretty good idea of what is being said on the field.
Indeed sledging is now called verbals and seems to have become accepted, if not respectable. If that is the reason for `banning' him, then he must consider himself unlucky.
It is possible that he may have done something else that warrants punishment. But he obviously did not get into a brawl with his fellow players with a photograph of the brawl appearing in newspapers.
The manager has dismissed this as something that happens or words to that calming effect. Discipline has to be even-handed.
The more I see the World Cup matches, the more I am convinced that the teams that have progressed have been those with selfbelief and it is only a team with self-belief that is able to raise its game when the chips are down. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
No such thing happened, the inspiration was not there when it mattered. Weighed in the balance, we were found wanting. No wonder the cricket public feels short-changed. But we need to resolve the present with an eye on the future. World Cup 2003 should provide lessons, not painful memories. It is over and done with as far as we are concerned.