Jonty busy sharing the magic around

WORLD CUP DIARY
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Pakistan is submitting eagerly to the cult of Jonty Rhodes, the world's leading diving-stop specialist. He is the star of the "Share the Magic" posters Sellotaped on to any spare bit of wall by the sponsors, and fans hog the courtesy phones at the team hotel trying to give him flowers. He even appeals to political activists.

During South Africa's match against England in Rawalpindi a lot of noise was coming from spectators waving banners calling for the "liberation" of Kashmir. Kashmir has been disputed territory since partition in 1947, and the tournament organisers had infuriated Pakistani sensitivities by including Kashmir in their laser map of India.

So it wasn't surprising that armed police began to move in. But once they got close enough to hear exactly what the crowd was chanting, they relaxed. Fervent supporters of one of the world's most fraught territorial issues were united as they shouted: "Jon-ty! Jon-ty! Jon-ty!"

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The security forces were busier in Karachi for Pakistan's game against South Africa. The city that played host to six murders a week in 1995 (44 deaths in February) has not had too many public get-togethers in recent years, and no one was taking any chances. Spectators were obliged to enter the stadium empty-handed: binoculars, placards, banners, sandwiches and musical instruments were banned. Even face-paint was treated as a threat to security: various children were told to remove the Pakistan flag from their faces.

It paid off, though there was one false alarm when a loud explosion made the stadium tremble. It turned out to be a gas canister for balloon blowing-up. Five children were injured, and a man fell off the roof of an enclosure and broke his leg. In the Karachi scheme of things, in other words, it was nothing at all.

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Any England fans who have cast envious glances at India's opening bowler Javagal Srinath will be relieved to know that his emergence as a classy seamer is not an accident. He is the product of one of several new cricket academies in India: he studied under Dennis Lillee in Madras.

Another such academy has been established in Gwalior, scene of India's emphatic win over the West Indies last week. The academy prepares its select band of promising cricketers by extensively analysing their technique and mental approach to the game.

But the college is also keen to promote character: trainees are expected to show "aggressiveness, cool mind, no fear, fighting spirit, discipline, conviction, sincerity, and nobleness". This is, of course, almost exactly the psychological profile of the typical English cricketer. Sincerity? Nobleness? It's not cricket, surely.

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When the man of the match award in South Africa's victory over Pakistan went to Hansie Cronje, it was partly for his match-winning innings but mainly for his "cool head" as a captain.

When Pakistan got off to a flying start (50 off 11 overs), Cronje had the nerve to put himself on to bowl and put a short fielder on the off side. Saeed Anwar promptly drilled the ball to the short extra (McMillan) and two balls later the skipper trapped Ijaz Ahmed leg-before. Bewildered Pakistani journalists asked Cronje how come he seemed to suffer no nerves. He smiled. "Oh, there are always butterflies," he admitted. "It's just nice at the moment that they're flying in formation."

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The rumour mill was working at full throttle with the non-selection of Javed Miandad for the shock defeat in Karachi. Apparently he had refused to bat at No 6, there'd been a row, and he'd been dropped.

No one dared tell the crowd. They had been cheering him at midnight the previous evening as he formally unveiled a giant 50ft, 12-ton World Cup bat at a ceremony on one of Karachi's roundabouts (way after curfew for the team, naturally). And at the fall of every wicket they cried for "Ja- ved! Ja-ved!" But he never appeared and when Wasim Akram walked out to bat they began to get the gist, and booed their captain.

Asked about his absence, Wasim was breezy: Javed had picked up a little injury that morning, he said. But what about the curfew? Well, said Wasim, maybe he knew he was going to be injured and therefore the curfew didn't matter. This was by any standards a superb answer. Karachi has faith that Javed is capable of pretty much anything, but foretelling his own injury?

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