England’s surprise selection of unheralded fast bowler Darren Pattinson for their unsuccessful 2nd Test of the summer versus South Africa has been characterized by one observer as “numb-skulled”.  In the considered opinion of “Peep Show”‘s David Mitchell, however, it was a simple matter of mistaken identity.  From Saturday’s Guardian :

The England cricket team’s newest member, Darren Pattinson, must have been thrilled when, just last week, he got the phone call it felt like he’d been waiting all his life for: “The sofa you ordered is now in stock – when would you like it delivered?” And the day kept getting better when someone else rang up and asked him to play for the national side. Pausing only to ask “Which country and which sport?” and to rearrange delivery of the sofa – the fifth day of the Test should be safe, he thought – he rushed out of the house eager to meet his team-mates, who were some interesting people from another country.

Poor man, it’s not his fault. If, say, the Sri Lankan selectors rang me up and asked if I fancied turning my arm over, I’d be sorely tempted – but I think I’d probably check it wasn’t an administrative error. And that’s what Pattinson’s selection smacks of. Is his mobile number just one digit different from Matthew Hoggard’s? It must be something like that. In a way they’re lucky they got someone who, it turned out, had played a bit of cricket.

And I think we should go easy on that sort of cock-up. It happens to us all: I was once filming a comedy show which also required a child actor, and the director had, rather shamefacedly, to admit to the producer and me that he’d got the kids’ names mixed up after the auditions and booked the crap one by mistake. But of course we were far too nice to say that to the child, and we just coped. So I think it reflects very well on the England selectors and team that they similarly took the mistake politely in their stride.

No – no blame can be attached to anyone over this unfortunate episode unless you listen to those conspiracy theorists who would have us believe that Pattinson was picked deliberately. This is almost unthinkable as it implies a confluence of cynicism and incompetence unprecedented even in the grisly annals of England selection policy. To act by the letter rather than the spirit of the national eligibility rules is understandable where brilliant players are concerned, but to do so for a roof-tiler who’s a keen cricketer in his spare time seems very unlikely. To overlook tried and tested bowlers for a newcomer who’s only played 11 first-class games would make sense if he were a 19-year-old hope for the future, but when it happens to someone who’s 29, then it’s definitely just an admin screw-up which we can all have a good laugh about.