I suppose one of the saving graces of Valentine’s Day is that it has not yet turned into an excuse for licence, such as New Year or Independence Day. Young men are not out on motorbikes executing their beloved (but too often fatal) wheelies. Instead young men are busy proving they are as callow as their fathers, or even grandfathers. Remember, the current crop of young men are the progeny of those who wore platform shoes and bell bottoms, while peering at the world out of birds’ nests of hair. And the current crop of grandfathers idealized the Hollywood star Ronald Coleman, who favoured pencil moustaches, such as those worn by the late Ustads Amanat Ali Khan and Mehdi Hassan.

I find it interesting that these fathers and grandfathers were eager enough to wear bell bottoms or grow pencil moustaches, but never dared to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This was probably because the fathers of the girls who would have received cards still wore old-fashioned hobnailed boots and had waxed handlebarred moustaches. Even if the girls of that generation (now grandmothers) had preferred men to wear Ronald Coleman moustaches, they did not dare defy those boots. And while the girls of today are as good as their grandmothers, their fathers have probably not got over giving up their bell bottoms, or having had haircuts. And the young men of today are daring enough to give cards and chocolates because they know they won’t get both barrels of an old-fashioned blunderbuss filled with nails.

Instead of those fathers of yore, we have chaps who use hair dye on their dwindling locks, and will be wearing shorts come summer. Yet these are the people who are responsible for talking to the Taliban. If only they had a pair of good old-fashioned boots among them. But they probably don’t. They wear sneakers. A previous generation didn’t know what jeans were, instead of adopting it as a uniform. Once upon a time, young men were too busy countering those fathers with boots (not shoes) to bother about giving cards to any girl. Al Capone carried out the Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, and the Taliban carried out another in Karachi. It seems that getting the government to talk to them isn’t enough for the Taliban. They want the right to strike at will, while the drones hold off. Still, that’s better than demanding drones while getting a guarantees they won’t be used.

And the PCB underwent a massacre first, with Zaka Ashraf, recently returned as PCB chief, turfed out again, to make way for Najam Sethi. Zaka Ashraf had to his credit the revamp of the ICC to give India the same status as Australia and England. However, India has shown that it is unique. Look, the son-in-law of the Indian Board chief has been reported as involved in match fixing. And that chief will take over as head of the ICC this summer. Well, in the Subcontinent’s culture, the jawai has a special position, but does it allow him to consort so closely with Bombay bookies? Or rather, Mumbai matchfixers? I couldn’t help but notice that no previous ICC chief ever had a son-in-law with such rare gifts.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Indian captain, M.S. Dhoni, was also implicated, along with Suresh Raina. These are the guys who weren’t caught when Sreesanth was thrown out of the game in September. So the Indian cricket chief (who will be the world chief), and captain, have been bought out. So what can Sethi do? Bet, I suppose. Well, it makes one wonder whether India is being lionized because of the revenue coming, or because of the betting. The only thing to do is to get the Chinese hooked on cricket, because they are even bigger gamblers than Indians. And there are rumours about Misbahul Haq. I know he is probably the last contemporary of Lord Frederick Beauclerk, the English nobleman, cricketer and gambler at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, still in the game, but if he is a gambler, then so is the rest of the team. I think Pak-China dosti was supposed to be more substantial than a shared penchant for gambling, but I don’t think a game with as much gambling as in Lord Frederick’s time has a right to look down at Salman Butt or Muhammad Asif.

Do you think the Americans and Taliban could be persuaded to settle matters with a bet? The problem is that both are fundamentalists, who look down on betting. Americans, at least the ones fighting the War on Terror, are Evangelists, which is a fundamentalist type of Christianity, while the Taliban are, well, the Taliban, and both look askance at gambling. Indeed, the decline of betting on sports in the UK, the rise of Evangelism there, and the spread of the Empire all took place at roughly the same time in the 19th century. So the prejudice against a little sporting flutter on cricket is basically a fundamentalist thing. And it is also worth noting that the clashes of the Afghans and the British, the Afghans and the Soviets, and now the Afghans and the Americans, have all been intra-fundamentalist. In Pakistan, the anti-fundamentalists make a mistake by thinking that the USA contains friends. Only American fundamentalists are concerned about us. And their aims are not just fundamentalist, but Evangelical. They see Valentine’s Day as another saints’ day.