The cake-and-eat-it brigade has a new leader. Step forward Kevin Peter Pietersen, whose flaunting of his membership yesterday in Mohali left a particularly nasty taste which deserves action from the match referee, Ranjun Madugalle.
Remember him a week ago in the first Test when he laughingly admitted that he had "got away" with a clear return catch to Anil Kumble and said "I consider myself lucky to have been able to score 87", after a howler from the third umpire when he was 31.
A cake-and-eat-it member invariably denies any accusation of cheating with the specious defence that umpiring errors are an acceptable part of the game which even themselves out. Sometimes, they say, they go against you, so why give yourself up when you know you are out if, by trying to mislead the umpire by brazenly standing your ground, you might get away with it?
As Pietersen did in Multan. Maybe he forgot the other cliche: what goes around comes around, as happened yesterday when umpire Darrell Hair saw him off. The batsman tried to sweep an offspinner which was too short.
The ball missed the bat and struck him well above the right wrist on the forearm, from where it ballooned to Rahul Dravid at slip.
Hair's eyes failed to notice the six-inch gap between the business end of the glove (out) and the lower forearm (not out). Pietersen's reaction was predictable. He stood in understandable disappointment, but that should have been the end of it. Instead, he took off his helmet, patted his arm more than once and then stalked off past Hair shaking his head, as well as patting the arm again and mouthing a few words which should never be broadcast before the 9pm watershed.
Forget Multan for the moment. It was an open and shut case of verbal and visual dissent of the sort the ICC is hot on urging match officials to stamp out by stern action. What would have been bad enough in isolation, was made even worse by his escape in the first Test. It is no good saying that a tense match situation creates a few waves of red mist, and that a three-match series can be affected by a rotten decision.
Had he been given out at 31 last week, it is likely India would have won the game. Had he been given in yesterday, it is likely that England's overall lead at close of play would have been over a hundred instead of 74. So what?
Ashley Giles was asked about his own philosophy on batsmen standing their ground or walking and said; "I don't really mind. Decisions can go for and against, but you must accept the rough with the smooth, which 'KP' clearly didn't do. He can't have it both ways."
Straightforward? Not quite, because he added, "I prefer to leave it to the umpire, but what would my dressing room think if with a couple of runs needed to win a series, I knew I was out and walked? In those circumstances, I would stand firm."
Namely the team ethos seems to be that you don't try to cheat at certain times, but do so in a tight situation.
Much verbiage has been written and spoken about walking or not. Giles is right when he says that some players are selective about their honesty.
"They go when it is obvious in an unimportant situation but will take everyone on when it matters more.
Agreed, but the bottom line is that the stinker decisions must be swallowed with grace. Not, as with Pietersen, a laughing acceptance of an umpiring clanger which goes your way, but an ill-tempered outburst when the balancing "roughie" comes along.
Not the least important side issue of the Pietersen incident was another instance of the mess ICC has created with the referral use of technology to the third umpire. Andrew Strauss and Pietersen were both out to attempted sweep shots. The left hander swept down on to his foot, the ball thence rolling up his pad to lob to the wicket-keeper.
The umpires conferred and then referred, as they are entitled to do, and the right decision was reached. They are not allowed to refer a Pietersen-type dismissal, and so a wrong decision was made. Surely they should either be able to refer anything they want. Or, if it is believed that would lead to more batsmen standing their ground, do one of two things.
Either adopt the Duncan Fletcher idea of allowing each side to challenge three decisions per innings and impose a run penalty if a player challenges and is ruled out. Or, revert to line decisions only (run-outs, stumpings and possible boundary rope infringements by fielders) until television technology is closer to becoming foolproof.
The fourth day in Mohali belonged entirely to India. They scored 189 runs from 42 overs when they were under considerable pressure to avoid a first innings deficit of a hundred or so. Their last five wickets produced more runs than the first five, thanks to run-a-ball innings from Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh.
England scraped 112 from 51 overs (77 fewer runs from nine more overs), and that is why India are so dangerous. The marginal decisions went 5-1 to England in the first Test, with the balance far from redressed by the decision against Pietersen. That he received the ultimate leveller within seven days is one of the peculiar charms of sport.