END GAME

TED CORBETT

NOVEMBER 28: We go into central Lahore to find an office where we can get 800 sheets of photocopying done cheaper than the rate at our hotel. Luckily we discover a tiny office at the back of the Court House where for three hours we sip their tea, eat their grapes, are royally entertained by their gossip and chatter and generally enjoy ourselves as one sometimes does on a tour like this one. At one point a slightly potty man comes in for his morning chat and shouts at me that the British must return since conditions in Pakistan are far better when they rule. I forget to ask him how he feels about world cricket now that International Cricket Council take over the administration from MCC but no doubt I will be back and get his opinion next time. And, since you ask, the copying is cheaper. Less than 20 pounds sterling compared with the 150 pounds at the five star hotel.

November 29: A young man with a special interest in their preparation goes round the world taking pictures of pitches. He shows me one of the Gaddafi Stadium wicket and suggests that there will be turn from the first day since it is full of cracks. Of course Lahore is the focal point of what Rudyard Kipling calls The Great Game — not Test cricket but international spying in the 19th century as Russia and Britain try to maintain control of northern India. So I decide that a distant and cautious attitude is best. Let's wait and see how the pitch behaves on days four and five. It is good to be back in Lahore, one of the great crossroad cities of the world, where new ideas, fashions and ideals turn it into a place of culture. In past visits I once see Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The people are sophisticated, the women wear a modified form of Western dress and there are good hotels, restaurants and a man who likes alcohol can drink if he is discreet. Add that to Islamic hospitality, good behaviour and moderation, and Lahore becomes an ideal home.

November 30: Will my mind ever get itself round the concept of a six-day Test? Perhaps a seven-day Test with a rest day in the middle. Three back-to-back six or seven-day Tests? Hang on a minute. Where will it all end? The cricket world is in bad shape already with chuckers appearing twice a match, over rates close to single figures, umpires being over-zealous in their application of the Laws, players dancing on the pitch and appeals for lbw when the ball not only pitches outside the leg stump but never gets close to hitting the same stump. Don't get me wrong. I am against too much regulation. Let the game develop naturally, I say. Any suggestions for getting more overs in a day will be very welcome and a note to the International Cricket Council will be gratefully received, I dare say.

December 1: Sylvester the cat and the Pink Panther, beloved of television cricket producers who need a little variety in their show, set off for a drink with David "Bumble" Lloyd, the commentator, but half way to his hotel their three-wheeler turns over in an underpass, scattering the two bizarrely dressed Barmy Army types across the road. Sylvester has cracked ribs and the Pink Panther suffers whiplash injuries but they are prepared to write the whole incident off as a laugh until their driver demands his 60-rupee fare. Why they don't just give him the money I am not able to understand since back in their own country they will not be able to buy a cup of tea for 60 rupees. An argument develops and soon a big crowd gather to watch an exchange of views between the driver and two weirdly dressed members of cricket`s best-known supporters group. Next day they are back at the Test with their costumes covered in plasters as a reminder of their escapade. Among the sights they are able to see — and no doubt marvel at — is that of the South African umpire Rudi Koertzen hopping on one foot at 111, 222, 333, 444 and 555. The umpire best remembered for this bit of superstitious nonsense is David Shepherd, now retired. "It is a tribute to him," says Koertzen. "He is my pal and I miss him."

December 2: Back home there is a problem in the administration of the Cricket Writers' Club. We celebrate our 60th anniversary this winter — the club is formed by the likes of Neville Cardus and E W Swanton during the 1945-6 tour of Australia — and we want to make it a big occasion with a dinner at Lord's. So we recruit Tim Race, the writer of such successes as `Cats' and `Evita' to make the main speech. However it happens no-one knows, but when the chairman Graham Morris bumps into Rice in Lahore he reminds him that the important date is in February and finds that Rice believes it is in April. A couple of angry emails fly backwards and forwards between those CWC officials in London and those out here who think things ought to be handled differently. Rice explains he is unable to make the February date because he will be with his cricket team in Argentina. Remember his song Don't Cry for Me Argentina? Now it seems we in the CWC will have to cry for him but to no avail.

December 3: When the Test comes to an end — "the final chapter in the book and we already know the ending," says Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, at breakfast ahead of England's dramatic collapse, I and Jo King, the Test Match Special and Channel 4 scorer are royally entertained by friends from the Pakistani Press Box. They not only show us round their offices but take us for a meal to the Press Club. No organisational problems at that club where, for 400 rupees a year a properly elected member has the services of a doctor every afternoon, a games room, a card room, breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper, access to the internet, a roof terrace with a table tennis table and a television lounge. There are 900 members and the club gives an annual dinner for their families. I make no comparison with my club since it is a completely different set of circumstances but they also look after, for instance, older members who may find themselves in trouble, and insure the club and the members against life's many ills. All for the annual cost of a round of drinks in my country, or a tenth of the money I spend on a steak in my five star hotel across the road from the club. They also show me a game I never witness before. It is played like billiards with a plastic ring to direct black and white and one queen red counter into tiny holes. It looks mighty difficult to me and unique to this part of the world.

December 4: Of course some silly old men never learn and I end the tour with a broken toe after hopping off the platform in the Gaddafi Stadium press box rather than climbing down the short staircase a few feet away. There are 50 Indian reporters coming to Pakistan for the next series and I will be interested to know how they survive. Let this be a warning; you should be careful. Anyway when I land in Mumbai next March I will expect a full report of their adventures in the land of the rising dust where tales of illness, coughing, colds and stomach cramps are a daily event. Not that I would dream of criticising the country of countless acts of kindness and hospitality. It's been a pleasure to be here but I am glad to read that the government is making a serious effort to reduce pollution by banning `tuc-tucs' and plastic bags. By the time I return I expect a pristine Pakistan, flowing with milk and honey, as well as the milk of human kindness.