Saturday, 18 February 2017

Make Cricket Great Again

There has been widespread welcome for the appointment of Joe Root as captain of England. 
POTUS calling Yorkshire

Fantasy Bob's worldwide monitoring system eavesdropped a call to Joe from the recently elected President of the United States of America.  (FB would like to make clear this was wholly accidental and accomplished without the assistance of any Russian hackers.)

..Hello tha's through to Joe Root but I can't take t'call reet now - am at t'nets - please leave message after t'tone.

Hi Joe, Donald J Trump here, just wanted to say hi and welcome you to the band of world leaders following your election - we top order bats gotta stick together - lotta BAD stuff in the world - lotta BAD bowling - lotta BAD wickets. We gonna Make Cricket Great Again.

Hey - your election victory - yeh - I hear it was almost as big as mine - you know I got more college votes than anyone ever - anyone says anything else its FAKE NEWS.  You gonna find out about that FAKE NEWS soon Joe - failing mainstream scorers will tell LIES - invent FAKE BALLS - FAKE LBWS - say you got out for 0, when you know you made 250 easy, 300 maybe - like I've never made anything less. I bat bigly - every time. The CNN say I got no idea where my off stump is - FAKE NEWS - I got an executive order - says my off stump is where I say it is. 

Joe, thought we should get together sometime - you got some deals with the Australians soon - I can tell you about them - they're a bunch of losers - and I mean LOSERS - with a capital SAD - and can you believe that part of Obama's failure was some deal that they think they can send all kinda BAD guys over here - guys with real bad bowling actions - I gotta stop them - I got an executive order keeps bent arms in their own countries - did you see my bowling action - straightest arm you ever seen - arm so straight it comes round the other side.

Hey - I guess you might need some new gear - I'm thinking I need to bring out a brand new line in cricket bats - the Donald J Trump Hitters - all made in the USA.   Hit every ball for six home runs. No more FAKE BALLS.  They gonna Make Cricket Great Again. 

And Ivanka's getting together a cool line in sweaters.  It's so UNFAIR that Aldi refuse to stock her merchandise.  She's such a great girl.  Even though she's my daughter I'd give her a 10.  Bat her well up the order - know what I mean.

Hey your Mother Therese doll said I need to come over sometime, fix her Brexit for her - see if it needs a wall or something which I think is a great thing.  I like her bowling action.  

Well Joe that'll do for now - got some TV shows to watch to catch some more fake news.  Hope we can get a few throwdowns soon.  We gotta keep on top of those BAD guys - we're gonna Make Cricket Great Again.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Let Us Now Praise Famous Doughty Groundsmen

To paraphrase the Wisdom of Sirach, 'Let us now praise famous doughty groundsmen,  and the wickets they begat us.............'

Fantasy Bob's dwindling handful of readers, distracted these days as they must be by continual reports of the world going to hell in a handcart and 200 becoming the par score in T20, may not have noticed a momentous announcement this week from the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton.

It marked the end of an era with the retirement of the club's World Famous Doughty Groundsman. The announcement rightly noted the long years of doughty service with the scarifier that the WFDG had put in which have ensured that the Grange Loan wicket is as fine a playing surface as can be found anywhere.

Fantasy Bob adds his praise - the WFDG's support for the lower teams in the club was exemplary.  He prepared the wickets for FB's own lower league tussles with as much attention to detail as for the club's higher teams.  Never one to suffer fools gladly, or silently, he suffered FB's foolishnesses with saintly equanimity.

He might inwardly have groaned as FB spurned yet another fine batting service to bowl first in his obsessive pursuit of league points; he might have wondered to himself what was the point; but he stayed silent...........almost.

Yes, the WFDG has been an inspirational figure at Grange Loan and beyond -

Inspiring Rabbie Burns to a celebration of his work

Inspiring Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood

Inspiring Doughy Groundsmen the world over to seek his advice 

Inspiring not quite Henry Raeburn but another celebrated Edinburgh portraitist

Inspiring a world famous charity appeal

FB offers his thanks to the WFDG for his inspirational role and all his work and is glad to note that he will not be a stranger at Grange Loan.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Gift Tae Gie Us

Robert Burns
- could he play leg spin?
Recent discoveries suggest that Fantasy Bob and Robert Burns had much in common. 
This  effort was discarded by Burns (though he later used bits in other poems) but it confirms he and FB shared a weakness against leg spin bowling.

Oh thou! whatever title suit thee,
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie!
The Batsmen true can ne'er refute thee,
Thou Hellish sinner.
In the Devil's sway we'll put thee,
Reviled leg spinner.

When auld lang syne Benaud and Warnie,
Were clearly baith the chiels o' Hornie,
Made English batsmen grope forlornly,  
It turned sae vilely.
But there’s no mortal human born, he
Beats Bill O’Reilly.

An' noo despite his monstrous patter,
Could Fant'sy Bob be cried a batter?
Forbye he gies the ba' a clatter,
Wi' michty fleg, he
Finds his vain pretensions shatter,
Against a leggie.

Ye'd hae tae see it tae believe it,
He disnae ken tae play or leave it,
He'll aye end up just trying tae heave it,
Then mak' tae thump it,
Gie it the charge and so maun grieve it,
Oh Bob!  Thou'rt stumpit.

The coach says watch the ba's rotations,
Advice that gies Bob consternations,
An’ hours o' tortuous vexations,
Thru' sleepness night.
Hoo can Bob mak sic observations,
Battin' wi' e'e shut tight?

Leg spin - it's Satan's bowling action,
For darkness marks its malefaction,
Tormenting batters tae distraction,
Oor nerves are shoogly.
Then will the De'il sense petrifaction,
An' bowl the googly.

Oh wad some power the gift tae gie us,
Tae play leg spin as naethin' devious,
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
Stop melancholy.
And dream some day that ithers see us,
Bat just like Kohli.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Call Centre

It was not through choice that Fantasy Bob recently spent a number of hours that might have been better spent perusing the pages of Wisden in telephone discussion with residents of Mumbai.  Nor was he engaged in research as to the thoughts of those locals into the prospects of England's coming ODI tussles with India.  That might well have been a more purposeful conversation than that in which he found himself immersed. There was no cricketing purpose attached to his actions.  However bit by bit there came to be a familiar cricketing feel as the conversation left him floundering at apparently simple deliveries.

FB's decision to change broadband provider may in the course of time prove to have been inspired - on a par with the one occasion on which he opted to bat having won the toss.  But the first viewing of the replays on Hawkeye suggest the contrary.   Indeed there were a few loose ends which it would appear could only be addressed by phoning the new provider's call centre
Hey - who wants to speak with Fantasy Bob?
He navigates a seemingly endless series of menus and waits an eternity for a human being to become available.  He imagines the scene at the other end of the line in the distant sub-continent, ' Hey guys - looks like it's Fantasy Bob on the line - who wants to speak to him?'  'Not me,' the crew answer with one voice.'  OK,' says the boss, 'I'll play some completely dreadful musak, that should get him to hang up.'

FB's ears are bleeding but he hangs on gamely until, finally, a human voice appears.  It asks in a friendly manner for his account number and then says 'I need to check your security question - where were you born?'
FB knew the answer to this one - he boldly stepped to the crease.
'That is incorrect.'
'What do you mean incorrect?'
'It is not right.'  This answer didn't advance FB's understanding much.  He tried again.
'I assure you I was born in Aberdeen - you know, where Bradman played his last innings for Australia.'
'Aberdeen Australia - I am sorry it is not right.  We cannot proceed further.'
'No Aberdeen Scotland.'
'It is not right.'  The certainties that had structured FB's identity began to crumble.  It was an uncomfortable feeling.  For if he wasn't born in Aberdeen, where was he born, if indeed he had been born at all and who was he?  He tried to get on the front foot.
'Well, where was I born then?'
'I cannot say.  It is for you to tell me.'
'But I have.'
'Where were you born?'
'That is incorrect.'
'Do you have another security question?'
'Well, ask me it then.'
'I cannot until you tell me where you were born.'
'That is incorrect.'  A feeling familiar from the cricket field stole over FB.  There could be only one explanation.
'Tell me do you play cricket?'
'Yes sir.'
'And what is your bowling action?'
'Leg spin.'
Slowly, FB put the phone down - he knew he would never get bat on ball.  He would have to call again when the bowling had changed.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Memento Mori

The pundits of the press are convinced that 2016 has been the Grim Reaper’s most successful year ever as celebrity after celebrity has been taken from our midst. 

The cricketer must look soberly at these claims – 2016 may have been cruel but the Grim Reaper’s stats were better in 2015 as far as removing test cricketers from the crease of life.  He bagged 15 in that year.  It would after all be hard to top the year which seized Richie Benaud, Tom Graveney and Clive Rice. But in 2016 the Reaper had a good go – and strangely enough he dismissed exactly 11 cricketers who played at Test Level.  It is time to celebrate them.

top l-r - Carr, Maddocks, Warr, Nanan; middle Hanif, Gleeson, Crowe; bottom Ganteaume, Goddard, Higgs, Walker

 Not a bad side with a couple of true greats:

Trevor Goddard dismissed 25 November 2016 – S African skipper in the 1960s and one of the greatest all rounders ever – 41 Tests – 2516 runs at 34.46 and 123 wickets at 26.22. Goddard became an evangelist preacher after his retirement.

John Gleeson dismissed 8 October 2016 – Australian mystery spinner of the late1960s bowled leggies with an off spin grip 29 Tests 93 wickets at 36.20

Max Walker dismissed 28 September 2016 – Australian swing bowler of the 1970s - his unconventional bowling action – “right-arm over left earhole, legs crossed at the point of delivery” – earned him the nickname “Tangles” or “Tanglefoot” 34 Tests 138 wickets at 27.47.  

Len Maddocks dismissed 27 August 2016 - Australian wicket keeper who will always be remembered as the man Jim Laker trapped leg-before to complete his famous ten-for at Old Trafford in 1956, 7 Tests 19 dismissals.

Ken Higgs dismissed 7 September 2016 – fondly remembered for one of the biggest bottoms in cricket - so great a bowler for England that he has previously featured in Fantasy Bob’s blog  – 15 Tests – 71 wickets at 20.74

Hanif Mohammad dismissed 11 August 2016 – the original little master - played the longest innings in Test history - 970-minute 337 against West Indies in Bridgetown in 1957-58 - then followed it a year later with the highest first-class innings to that point, 499 – 55 Tests 3915 runs at 43.98

Donald Carr dismissed 12 June 2016 – more noted as Secretary of the MCC during the D’Oliviera controversy – a school boy wunderkind who played only 2 Tests, skippering on one occasion, but skippered Derbyshire with distinction.

J J Warr dismissed 9 May 2016 – played only 2 Tests in the 1950-51 tour of Australia and sadly retains the worst of any England Test player at 1-281.  He went on to skipper Middlesex and be President of the MCC.

Rangy Nanan dismissed 23 March 2016 - an off spinner from Trinidad at a time when W Indies were committed to a pace only attack he played only one Test taking 4 wickets.

Martin Crowe dismissed 3 March 2016 – a true great – elegance itself at the crease - and the only one of this select that FB has seen play – 77 Tests for New Zealand 5444 runs at 45.36

Andy Ganteaume dismissed 17 February 2016 – the man with the Test batting average of 112.  He had one Test innings – but couldn’t force his way into the W Indies batting line up of the time dominated the 3 Ws.  Timing is everything they say – he may have had it in the middle but not elsewhere.

Cricketers of FB’s vintage will also remember with affection Jack Bannister, dismissed 23 January 2016, who never played Test cricket but who, after a long and impressive career with Warwickshire (1198 wickets at 21.91), became a fixture of BBC’s cricket commentary team.

Jack Bannister

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Ghost of Christmas Past

There are those in the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton who refuse to believe that Fantasy Bob was every young.

But here is a picture which confounds their scepticism.  It is of young FB - he is the one at the front, by the way - at an important meeting in his early childhood.

Readers might wonder why there is not a look of enchanted and excited wonder on the young FB's features.

For he had entered Santa's Grotto in one of Aberdeen's more prestigious stores with an appropriate level of excitement and had sat on Santa's knee with that excitement still high.

'Have you been a good boy all year,'  Santa asked.

'Yes Santa.'  FB answered with his usual complete honesty.

'And do you know what you want from Santa?'

'Yes.  A Gray Nicolls Scoop.'

'Dinna be daft, loon - it hisnae been invinted yet fitiver it is.'  Santa's accent slipped nearer the Aberdonian belying his claim to be from the frozen north. 'Ony thing else?'

'A guide to how to play leg spin bowling.....' said FB on the verge of tears.

'Nae chance - it'd be wasted on you onywye.  Hae a couple o' tin sodjers playing' mak sure an' smile for the phottie.'

Is the look on FB' face of a dream broken - an illusion shattered?  Even at that young age the threat of leg spin bowling hung heavy over him.

His scepticism about the claims made on Santa's behalf may have begun on that day.  These deepened shortly afterwards when an older child told him  'Santa - he's really your Dad.'  FB looked wide eyed at this world shattering revelation.  He failed to comprehend it.  He should be proud of course but how could his Dad get round all the children in the world?  He only had an Austin 7.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Farewell Preston Mommsen

Fantasy Bob joins the rest of the cricketing world in wishing the now former Scotland skipper Preston Mommsen every success in his new career following his retirement from international cricket.

Preston has led the Scottish cause with distinction and success for the last couple of years. His recognition as Associate Cricketer of the Year 2014 was a towering achievement. His tussle earlier this year with powers that be in the ICC and their shameful ignoring of associate cricket made him the stuff of legend. (FB modestly suggests his own account of this incident on this link remains definitive.)

Only he can know the level of challenge that this role presented. FB is fairly sure that whatever stresses and difficulties there were in leading Scotland in the CWC and the World T20 Cup, they pale into insignificance compared to the challenge he faced previously when a member of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton. For it was there that he unwittingly assumed the task of improving FB’s non-existent batting prowess. As the unfortunate few who have misguidedly followed these witterings over the years will know, this is a challenge that over the years has defeated the cream of Carlton’s coaching elite.

Undaunted Preston accepted the challenge. At the next club night, he lobbed a few gentle throw downs and keenly watched his new charge’s less than balletic attempts to put bat on ball. 

His histrionics over, FB looked up expectantly, waiting for the magic hint, the secret to correct that small flaw in his technique that would unlock a succession of quick fire half centuries. 

He tried to jolly his stern faced new coach along, ‘That felt pretty good.... I hit at least one of those.... just about.’ Preston nodded in that inscrutable master batsman way. FB engaged again, ‘Well, maybe my stance is a bit too open.’ 

The coach nodded again. He carefully chose his words, ‘Well.... Bob.... what I suggest..... is that you try..... to open your eyes a bit.’  FB was perplexed. ‘What both of them?' he croaked incredulously. ' At the same time?’  

While FB never looked back (even with more than one eye open), and now watches the ball all the way down the wicket until he misses it, the grit that entered Preston's soul during these challenging served him well as he continued to grace the international stage and call out the closed eyes in the game's governing body.

Well done Preston.