England are generally impatient with promising young players. They bring them in, everyone who can voice an opinion takes it in turns to daub them in excrement and then it takes six years for the smell to wear off.
Let’s make a comparison. Sajid Mahmood and Mitchell Johnson were born within a couple of months of each other. Both were branded ‘once in a generation’ bowlers early in their career.
Sajid Mahmood was hastily picked for England, played a few matches and got his various slower balls carted to all parts. He played eight Tests, three on an Ashes tour and played his last Test in January 2007.
In contrast, Mitchell Johnson made his debut in November 2007 and has lasted the course.
Now we know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say that Mahmood’s whiff of excrement is from his bowling, while Mitchell Johnson is moulded out of solid magic by the hands of God.
That might be a little extreme and it might also have a little truth in it, but that’s not the point we’re making.
Our point is that Mahmood is currently among the most promising English fast bowlers around. He’s got all the attributes he always had (pace, bounce, swing, reverse swing) and might now have learnt when to use those skills – but he’s tainted. He’s tarnished by his previous, premature stab at international cricket.
The very name ‘Sajid Mahmood’ is a kind of cricketing shorthand meaning ‘the wheels have come off during a one-day international’. It’s unfair.
What would have happened to Mitchell Johnson had he been English? Australian readers might want to be particularly hilarious at this point.