January 15, 2014

England's reusable scapegoat

Everyone is clamouring for Pietersen's blood but does he even need to bother anymore?

"Some day, if you play your cards right, you just might turn into a proper sacrificial lamb" © AFP

Generally speaking, the Old Testament hasn't much to teach us about cricket. Yet as England continue to wander in a dry, harsh and unforgiving land in search of victory, it seems that certain members of that benighted tribe of outcasts have been taking advice from a passage in Leviticus:

… Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats - one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. The goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness…

It's a simple idea. If you've done something you're not too proud of, perhaps pretending you hadn't hit a ball with your bat when really you had, eating too many shellfish fairy cakes or losing five Test matches in a row, then simply find yourself a tame quadruped, stick a piece of paper inscribed with the words "Sorry about all that" on its horns, and point it in the general direction of the countryside. Hey presto, all is forgiven.

Still, as splendid as this tradition is, these days people are less likely to be impressed by goat-based rituals of atonement than they were in Biblical times. A higher order of mammal altogether is required. Step forward Kevin Peter Pietersen.

That's the great thing about having a talented foreigner in your team. Not only can he win matches for you, but when the time comes to turf him out, no one really minds because he isn't English anyway. KP has been particularly valuable because he's a reusable scapegoat, an economy that the profligate men of the Bible clearly hadn't considered.

The ritual is already well underway. Journalists are clamouring for blood, Andy Flower has been spotted picking up his sacrificial robes from the dry cleaners, and Alastair Cook has refused to speculate on the identity of the tall South African-born goat they've got in mind.

But Kevin should not despair. He may not enjoy playing the role of the shunned ruminant, but he should remember that the scapegoat generally fared better than your average Biblical goat, not to mention your average Biblical sheep, ram, bull or fatted calf.

And this particular version of the old Bible story is likely to turn out rather well for the goat when he falls in with some other goats, travels to India to play in the Indian Goat League, becomes one of the richest goats on the planet and tweets photographs of himself sitting in a stretch limousine eating fresh grass out of a solid gold manger to his adoring fans, while Flower and Cook sit huddled in their ECB bunker, contemplating their 27th consecutive Test defeat and considering whether to abandon little Joe Root on a mountain top in the hope that it might bring them good luck.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here