Is Ian Bell 'too English' to ever really succeed in Test cricket? Is Matt Prior a better player because he's given up eating sausage and chips and sunday roast? Is Steve Harmison a victim of Durham's insular community, and is Chris Tremlett just a big Southern jesse?
These might be at best tangential explanations of their failings. They probably wouldn't gain much traction in any lengthy debate. Every man is to a greater or lesser degree a product of his environment, and it's unlikely that a selection meeting involving Geoff Miller will offer the world an answer to a 'nature versus nurture' conundrum that has defied both science and philosophy.
The cricket correspondent of the Times, Michael Atherton, posed some similar questions in a piece this week, though: Is Monty Panesar too Indian to succeed for England in Test cricket? Is Ajmal Shazad in the squad because he's given up eating his mum's curries and chapatis? Has Samit Patel made that same dietary commitment, and if not, should he? Is Owais Shah not deferential enough and Ravi Bopara less mentally tough than other batsmen? Is Adil Rashid a 'slow learner' [and, by the way, is 'slow learner' now some kind of euphemism]?
It's a tortuous path to negotiate, this question of 'British Asian' cricketers, and Atherton has, to his credit, been unafraid to go into print with some of the arguments that are heard in dressing rooms and board rooms. Yet being set down in the paper somehow exposes them as bogus, from another age. Athers scrabbles for a foothold, but crashes to earth around the time he suggests that Monty's 'full blown Indian' wedding is somehow indicative of his dilemma.
Atherton asks if South Africa's outstanding batsman in India, Hashim Amla, has succeeded because he is 'better, or mentally stronger' than British Asian players. That's a bit like trying to compare apples and oranges, but within Amla's stats lie a different, and more revealing argument. He debuted in November 2004, and his average did not hit 40 until his 31st match, almost exactly four years later in November 2008. After two years and nine tests it was 22.47; after three years and 18 matches it was 32.56. After 41 tests it was 40.75, and it is only after his success in India that it has risen above 47. In short, Amla, had he been England-qualified, would have been in and out of the side like Bopara and Shah. Only South Africa's selection policy has allowed him to flower so late. Perhaps there is a lesson there - one of how some talent develops rather than how positive discrimination works.
In the Guardian, Mike Selvey made a far more acute point than Atherton's. 'Of the 30 or so batsmen to have played U19 tests between 1999 and 2006, only three - Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara - have reached the test team at all'.
That is the real question, and the answer lies in 'British' rather than 'Asian'. It's that question that we need to address.
NB: One thing did Athers no favours - the lack of quotes in his piece. Surely he knows the players involved well enough to pick up the phone and ask them the question?