By now you will have admired for long enough the photo above of Fantasy Bob striding confidently to certain doom with all the insouciance of one of the 500 going into the Valley of Death. To relieve the boredom you may be wondering 'That looks a damn fine bit of willow in the man's left hand. I wish I knew more about that bat.'
Well, let me tell you about it. It's a Gray Nicholls Nitro 4 star (ie not top of the range so the willow has some blemishes). It was purchased last year at the Sports Warehouse in Leith - a purchase made necessary when FB's previous timber was cracked badly by a yorker in the nets from Carlton batting icon Keith Murray (see match reports and judge for yourself). It cost a fortune. Litigation is still in progress to attribute responsibility for this gross act of vandalism.
LH is printed on the top of the handle. More than one junior has innocently said to Fantasy Bob, 'But you're not left handed.................'.
Fantasy Bob has used a long handle for many years - the original reasoning - uncertainly reconstructed from a fading memory trace - was that this would allow a more upright stance. Who knows whether that was important? An equally valid and more likely reason for the original purpose was more opportunistic in that a fine Gray Nicholls Scoop (remember them) was on sale half price at the right moment. Half price when money was worth something. It just happened to be a long handle. Now that Scoop was a real bat, a Rolls Royce, and lasted many seasons.
But technology moves on and bats these days are very different in shape than in the days of Scoops. The Nitro is completely excellent - and Keith Murray should be thanked for making its purchase necessary. FB's is light (2.8) but looks and plays heavy. Its shape is distinctive with a very high spine. It has an astonishing middle. Just what FB needs. As the GN blurb says:
Designed and developed in conjunction with some of the World’s finest players (not Fantasy Bob obviously), the Nitro has made a big impact on the international scene. Unique shoulder and toe contouring gives the Nitro an impressive look and feel. Its steep spine running from splice to toe allows an imposing profile full of power. A natural bow gives every player the control they strive.
Er..................The control they strive? ................you'd think they would have a proof reader.
On looking at the Gray Nicholls website, Fantasy Bob made the world shattering discovery that the Nitro is now endorsed by Mark Ramprakash. Well, new readers will not be aware of Fantasy Bob's relationship with the great batsman and ballroom dancing star. You are about to find out. Carlton readers will be sick to death of hearing of it. They'll want to find better things to do with their time than read what comes next.
In 2009, Fantasy Bob played in a charity 6 a side tournament in aid of WaterAid at the Oval. His team - got together by his chums at Scottish Water - was assigned the great Ramps as pro for the day. And a pleasanter chap you could not hope to meet. Unfortunately the day was severely curtailed by heavy rain (ironically appropriate for WaterAid you might think) so FB's team got only one game in the middle of that wondrous stadium. And what a game. Asked to open, FB went well for once, using the Nitro to positive effect. At the end of the 5 over innings the giant Oval scoreboard read Fantasy Bob 24 - Ramprakash 10. Really, on my life. (Witnesses can be brought to attest to this seeming impossibility).
Although no photo exists of the scoreboard there is a photo of FB and Ramps - more flattering, it has to be acknowledged, of Ramps than of FB.
But the point of this seemingly endless witter is that last year Ramps' bat was the Powerbow. FB knows this for a fact, since he had an earnest conversation with the star about it and his approach to customisation.
This year Ramps is endorsing the Nitro.
There can be no other reason than that he saw what the Nitro can do in the hands of a master like FB and he liked what he saw.
So, do you think there could be a career for Fantasy Bob at Gray Nicholls?
Carlton colleagues will stifle a yawn at this point and observe with appropriate langour that it has not taken long in the life of this blog for that bloody photo to be used yet again......................