India and Pakistan reunited will leave Dalmiya licking his lips

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The Independent Online

A relatively minor piece of news that was discreetly tucked away in the margins last week is a stuttering resumption of service between the cricketers of India and Pakistan. Their Under-19 sides are going to do battle before long, not a piece of news that would normally attract earth-shattering headlines.

Yet it will have been surprising if it did not send more than the faintest quiver of alarm through the corners of the International Cricket Council offices at Lord's. If these matches go off without precipitating a declaration of war, Test series between the two countries will soon be on the agenda. Big things often have small beginnings.

In the unlikely event of this relationship being maintained between the two countries, the president of the Indian Board, Jagmohan Dalmiya, would be licking his lips. His agenda for a long time has been to move cricket's seat of power from Lord's to Asia, preferably to his home town, Calcutta.

India generates a huge proportion of the game's global income and he believes they should call the shots. This was surely the main reason that Bangladesh was given full membership of the ICC - which automatically brings with it Test match status - during his reign as ICC chairman. Bangladesh might well give Dalmiya more votes, upon which he could rely if it came to a battle between "East" and "West".

Bangladesh would join India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who are on each other's doorstep. Zimbabwe would come to their party and in all likelihood South Africa too. This would leave England, Australia, New Zealand and perhaps West Indies in a corner, and it would be at least 6-4 to Dalmiya.

The only problem with this scenario, as far as he is concerned, is that if India and Pakistan resume hostilities over Kashmir, neither government would be prepared to let them flex their muscles on the cricket field. Dalmiya is not a man who is known readily to let obstacles stand in his way, but it may be beyond even him to come up with a political formula for peace in Kashmir.

You may be sure, though, that if he sees the chance to get his way and also to make things awkward for Perfidious Albion, wild horses would not stop him. He does have another problem: being Indian, he will find it harder to sell his ideas to Pakistan's cricket authorities than if he was perceived as a neutral.

This is why the storm signals, even if they are not being hoisted over the ICC building, are at least being given a dusting down. The other interesting aspect is that the new president of ICC, Ehsan Mani, is from Pakistan. Like Dalmiya, he is an extremely shrewd businessman. Once they danced to the same tune, but that was a few years ago. While Dalmiya must be delighted that another Asian is sitting on the throne, how much happier he would be if it had been a Sri Lankan. Asia will need careful watching.

England's one-day performances have been especially disappointing because of the players' inability to get to grips with some basic essentials of the job. For a long time the English authorities turned their noses up at the one-day game, though those days have long since passed. The coach, Duncan Fletcher, has stressed for a long time how important it is to play more one-day international cricket so the players become better versed in the arts.

Even including that splendid day at The Oval when South Africa were put to the sword - and then it was Marcus Trescothick and Vikram Solanki, the openers, who did the business - the middle-order batting has been abject, contriving to contribute handsomely to defeat by Zimbabwe at Trent Bridge and South Africa at Old Trafford. Even when the middle order had their brief chance at The Oval, they muffed it.

Why has the art of coming in and pushing the ball around for singles - as exemplified by Pakistan's coach, Javed Miandad, and Graham Thorpe - been ignored or forgotten? Does no one tell them what a good idea this is? I cannot believe they are not good enough to do it. But time and again we have seen England's innings run aground as soon as Trescothick leaves the stage.

Fletcher's praises have been sung to the rooftops. Yet his side is consistently failing in this most important aspect of the one-day game. Then there is Ashley Giles, who has clearly been ordered to amble in and bowl his left-arm spinners defensively from over the wicket, from where he poses no sort of threat either in terms of penetration or parsimony. He was allowed to bowl round the wicket on Thursday at Old Trafford and was sadly out of sorts. Is there no one else? And, indeed, what is he being told? I am sure no one will let on.

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