| BATTING FOR INDIA: Tory MP Jo Johnson with his brother, London mayor Boris Johnson (left)
India: rhetoric vs reality
Collapsing bridges are bad enough but Indians in the UK have been hanging their heads in shame after the Commonwealth Olympic committee general secretary Lalit Bhanot, a less bright version of Pakistans Ijaz Butt, suggested Westerners want a certain level of hygiene which may differ from my standards or anyone elses.
After possibly the most stupid comment of the decade, the BBC very nearly killed off the Games by publishing disgusting photographs of filthy toilets in the athletes village.
While all were putting their boot into India, only one Englishman stood up for India Jo Johnson, erstwhile Delhi correspondent of The Financial Times and now a rising star in the Tory party as MP for Orpington.
He did acknowledge that the fiasco does expose a fairly major gulf between the rhetoric of Indias emergence as a world power and the reality of a country that still struggles to deliver major infrastructure projects. It has been a very useful wake up call to the Indian elite to bridge that gap between the rhetoric and the reality.
Johnson, who accompanied David Cameron to India, had no doubts, though, that the England team should travel to Delhi and make sure the Games are a success.
In the bigger scheme of things they have to remember that Delhi has a record of holding magnificent events that are really famous in world history think back to the great Delhi Durbars of the colonial period and the Asian Games of 1982, he told BBC Radio 4. There is every chance that the Games will still be a success. We should make sure we dont contribute to their failure.
Britain will sympathise with a country that is hosting this massive infrastructure project, continued Johnson. I think we have to cut India a bit of slack.
If the England team didnt attend, he feared it would be something of a setback to India-UK relations. The Commonwealth is no longer led by Britain per se (but) we have a special responsibility for making sure that it remains a relevant and vibrant organisation.
Come the mango season, Suresh Kalmadi and friends should send Johnson a box of the finest Alphonsos with an attached note, Thank you for saving our necks.
Johnsons intervention has not surprised his friend Suhel Seth Jo is a passionate Indophile who genuinely believes in a renewed Indo-British partnership.
| MISSION PAKISTAN: Cover of the Granta issue that is devoted to Pakistan
England won the one day series against Pakistan 3-2 but the Pakistanis scored amazing victories by 23 runs at The Oval and by 38 runs at Lords.
After The Oval result, it was alleged in The Sun that a ringleader in the Pakistani team had previously agreed with a Delhi bookie via a notorious Dubai-based match fixer that his batsmen would adopt a certain scoring pattern in that game.
I can now disclose the same unnamed Delhi bookie also phoned me before the Lords encounter and tipped me off in an anonymous call: Watch Abdul Razzaq bat in his last 10 balls. His scorecard will read: 4 4 6 4 2 4 4 4 4 4.
I am amazed that is exactly what happened.
Seriously though, given that everyone is picking on the Pakistanis or Pakis as they are called in the rougher end of town it is uplifting to discover that Granta, the literary magazine, has devoted an entire issue to the remarkable arts and culture of Pakistan.
Pakistan is one of the most dynamic places in the world today, says Granta without irony.
The issue includes a short story, The Sins of the Mother, about an eloping Baluch couple who risk everything by fleeing from their tribe. It has been taken from The Wandering Falcon, a haunting and unforgettable collection of interlinked stories by Jamil Ahmad which will be published next year by Penguin.
The author is a 79-year old retired official who has served long years in the tribal areas.
I commissioned the book, Meru Gokhale, London-based senior editor with Penguin India, tells me. The manuscript came to me from a friend in Pakistan. There is so much fabulous writing coming out of Pakistan now.
Having hugely enjoyed Mohammed Hanifs A Case of Exploding Mangoes, I agree with Meru that some great books are being written in Pakistan despite the country going through hell or possibly because of it.
Toil & trouble
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has sent a pre-action letter to Ijaz Butt, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, warning him that legal proceedings will be commenced against him without further notice unless he submitted a full and unreserved apology.
Andrew Strausss team, unused to the Pakistani sense of humour, were enraged by Butts dig at the way England lost five wickets for 17 at The Oval.
There is loud and clear talk in the bookies circle that some English players were paid enormous amounts of money to lose the match, Butt told NDTV. No wonder there was total collapse of the English side.
I assume the ECB, if it comes to it, will sue Butt in the English courts in order to secure punitive damages. If Butt refuses to attend, he will never again be allowed to enter England. I cannot also see how the ECB can sue Butt without also taking legal action against NDTV, which carried the interview.
Butts defence that he was merely repeating chit-chat among bookies quite apart from making people wonder how he knew what the bookies were saying is not a defence under English law. And under UK media law, NDTV also could not get away by arguing it was merely broadcasting Butts interview, not necessarily agreeing with his allegations.
My guess is nothing will happen because Butt will find a weasel form of words that the ECB can seize on as an apology.
From Washington, I hear from Sheena Bhattessa, a cast member of a British play, The Great Game: Afghanistan, is now touring America.
Produced by the Tricycle Theatre in north London, The Great Game is a series of interconnecting playlets, by 12 writers, that set todays Afghanistan war into historical context stretching back a century and a half.
The US reviews have been uniformly good a cultural happening that should not be missed, said one.
Lots of policymakers are coming and its great to be playing these plays where the decisions about Afghan policy are being made, says Nicholas Kent, the Tricycles artistic director.
We have been getting standing ovations, Sheena tells me.
The season has ended on a high for pace bowler-cum-scientist Isa Guha, who led her county Berkshire to victory against Kent in the final of the ECB Womens Twenty20 Cup.
And last week Isa her parents migrated from Calcutta to the UK accompanied England captain Charlotte Edwards and batswoman Lydia Greenway when the England womens cricket team was named Sports Team of the Year.
This was at the Women in Public Life Awards ceremony that is designed to highlight and reward the achievements of women in business, the arts and politics.
I hope that our achievements inspire even more women and girls across the country to get involved in cricket, said Charlotte.
The England women lavish almost as much attention on their looks as the even prettier Indian men.