The suspicion that Samit Patel was the cricketer who ate all the pies appeared to be confirmed yesterday. In a blow for aspiring village green cricketers everywhere, he was unceremoniously dropped from England's one-day squad for the tour of the West Indies for what was officially described as his "failure, despite repeated warnings, to reach an acceptable standard of fitness for international cricket".
Patel, the Nottinghamshire batsman and left-arm spinner, broke into the side last summer and his rotund frame immediately set him apart from his colleagues. He looked as though he was basing his fitness on repeated viewings of the film Run Fat Boy Run, which he must have been watching with a vat of Coke and a mountain of popcorn.
If it made a refreshing change in an occupation where success in the ubiquitous beep test, which monitors overall fitness, is as important as hundreds and five-wicket hauls, it could not last. As he grazed in the outfield, there are those who swear they could see Patel searching for his feet between balls.
In announcing the hardline action yesterday, Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, said: "It was made clear by several people including Geoff Miller, the national selector. Samit was given a programme, he has had two fitness tests and the results of those have not been satisfactory."
Patel will stay with the England Lions team in New Zealand, where he had his second fitness test two days ago. The firmness of the England management's approach was evident from the fact that Graeme Swann, who would have been competing directly with Patel for a place in the one-day team, is leaving the squad after the fifth Test to have surgery on his troublesome right elbow.
Nor could Patel be saved by performance. He made 101 for the Lions in their Test against New Zealand A last week. Morris denied England were intent on breeding a team of automatons in thrall to gymnasium work-outs. The most celebrated of England's tubby cricketers was Colin Milburn, who was 18 stones and excited fans wherever he batted in the Sixties. More recently, Australia have fielded David Boon and Darren Lehmann, neither of whom spent much time studying diet sheets.
"The game has moved on enormously," said Morris. "Everyone recognises that Samit has got enormous talent, but we feel that to fulfil that talent and sustain success over a period of time, you need to be as fit as possible. We need that message to get through to all our players."