Smith starved of runs

ROBIN SMITH, who missed England's first game against New Zealand because of a groin injury, has some serious catching up to do if he is to have any chance of winning a wager he made with Gary Kirsten on England's recent tour to South Africa. Smith, always keen for that little extra to concentrate the mind, bet Kirsten a slap-up meal for whoever scored more World Cup runs.

Imagine the sinking feeling in Smith's already well-churned stomach when he waltzed into Karachi's swish airport to find that Kirsten had scored 188 against the UAE. His only comment after immediately declaring himself fit for today's match, also against the UAE - "Gutted!"

DIPLOMACY has not really been anyone's strong point in this tournament. Richie Richardson, the West Indies captain, is especially snappy, miffed perhaps that his team is not being taken seriously as a contender. "Who will win the World Cup?" he was asked. "Kenya," came the reply. "Who'll open the batting?" "Maybe Walsh or Ambrose."

THE authorities in Ahmedabad, where England played New Zealand last week, kept journalists out of certain practice sessions on the basis that they could be "likely assassins". Something that has probably crossed Ray Illingworth's mind too.

THOSE all-rounders such as Wasim Akram, Steve Waugh and Brian McMillan who might have thought that they could be the men of the tournament start at something of a disadvantage to Kenya's vice-captain, Asif Karim. Aside from representing his country at cricket since 1980, the versatile slow left-armer has also played Davis Cup tennis for Kenya. "My tennis international was against Egypt in 1988, but I only had 24 hours' notice because our No1, Paul Wekesa, was barred from playing," recalled the 32-year-old. "I lost both singles and the doubles."

Karim has also recently taken up golf. He managed a hole-in-one on his first outing.

RELIEF at last for all those starting to feel despondent about the alcohol- free path England appear to be treading in their group matches. First there was Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, the only dry state in India, and now Pakistan, which is notorious for its purge on tipplers.

Not so in Peshawar, where trading is a way of life and legality, moral or otherwise, is rarely grappled with. At the Pearl Continental hotel, where gentlemen are required to hand over their firearms at reception, Murree beer is available, providing one confesses to being an alcoholic and signs the appropriate document.

EARLIER this month, England's nominated umpire, David Shepherd, was on the field at Lord's modelling the new black coat and trousers that the officials are to wear during the tournament. Snow lay all around, and Shepherd was glad of what little protection the garb afforded. On Friday he was found in Cuttack, where the temperature was touching 30C, surveying the outfield and yearning for the reflective qualities of the traditional white. "I don't think we'll be wearing those coats much," the ample ump whispered through the perspiration.