Of the many peculiarly British habits - chasing cheese down a hill, putting pickle in sandwiches, avoiding eye contact - one of the most enduring is the pantomime season.

Every Christmas, marginal celebrities scramble over each other to don their tights at a 400-seat theatre in a weather-beaten provincial town straight from a Morrissey lyric book, and every Christmas the British public continues to suffer and, sometimes, enjoy it.

What explains this attraction to pantomimes which, like turkey and The Towering Inferno, are considered perfectly fine at Marlboro Lights 100S Christmas but not at any other time of the year? Maybe it is the chance to see Les Dennis play an ugly stepsister. More likely, though, is that it gives the great British public the chance to have a good boo and hiss at a villain.

Kevin Pietersen can attest to the British love of a villain. It is tough to think of an England cricketer who has been booed and hissed at with so much obvious relish as Pietersen. Douglas Jardine won more admirers than enemies in the UK for Bodyline; Geoff Boycott retained the backing of the majority of fans; Tony Greig's Test career was too brief for him to graduate to full villainy honours.

You have to go all of the way back to WG Grace to catch a true England villain. With a talent as big as his ego, that bumptious beard of his hid the sins of a cricketer whose gamesmanship was legendary - hiding the coin to win tosses, stuffing his pockets with ill-gotten gains from gambling on matches, kidnapping Australians, causing riots for not walking. He was the ultimate sporting rotter, and yet, a century on, it is hard to find a cricketer who has done more to increase the sport's appeal.

In the long line of cricketing villainy - and we are not talking about the real bad eggs like West Indies' Leslie Hylton, hanged for murdering his wife in 1955, or England's Chris Lewis, sentenced in 2009 to 13 years in jail for Cigarettes For Sale Online smuggling cocaine into the UK - Pietersen is, to steal his phrase, a bit of a Ned Flanders. A good cricketing villain needs to be a ball-tampering, match-fixing, ball-chucking, curfew-breaking, non-walking, opposition-pushing, batsmen-Mankading, team-mate-attacking, board-bashing, drug-taking, umpire-abusing son of Marlboro Red Cigarettes a gun.

Pietersen musters a tick in barely two of those boxes. From England's Ted Pooley ending up behind bars for a bout of fisticuffs when he should have been playing in the first-ever Test match in Melbourne in 1877 right through to Shoaib Akhtar's list of misdemeanours (drug abuse, throwing a bottle into the crowd, smacking team-mate Mohammad Asif with a bat, chucking, having warty genitals - just the usual stuff), Pietersen can't compete. Among cricket's Goldfingers, Travis Bickles and Walter Whites he is merely a choirboy having a crafty cigarette round the back of Cheap Newport Cigarettes the Lord's bike sheds. Even the saintly Sachin Tendulkar received a suspended Buy Cheap Cigarettes Online ban after TV cameras caught him excavating the seam in a Test match in 2001.



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