Sunday, 31 July 2011

Getting ahead

Fantasy Bob is on a totally undeserved holiday far from the eyes of the paparazzi who continually hound him.  However in case you are lonely in his absence he has fed the bowling machine with some highlights trawled from YouTube.

As Fantasy Bob has posted before there are 11 ways for a batsman to get out in cricket.  But within each method there is an infinity of form, where fortune turns her smiling face into a scowl and mocks you as you make your way from the middle.  FB has had his fair share of these with the ball cannoning between bat, pad, and lots of other things before gently nudging a bail off.  Or being run out without facing following an imaginative call from person instantly nominating himself as a former friend at the opposite end.  He has not so far been caught after blasting the ball against a close fielder’s foot for it to lob up into the hands of another fielder.  Nor has been caught as the ball lodged in the pocket of a fielder.  No doubt this has yet to come.

And because he is of the generation that preceded the wearing of helmets, he has not been dismissed in this bizarre fashion.  Alas KP.

Back at the crease soon.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Is it crowded in here?

Fantasy Bob is on a totally undeserved holiday far from the eyes of the paparazzi who continually hound him.  However in case you are lonely in his absence he has fed the bowling machine with some highlights trawled from YouTube.

Fantasy Bob has had to put up with a fair share of cramped dressing rooms.  With cricket bags evolving yearly into gargantuan monsters, in many changing facilities there is either room for the players or the bags.  It is an unequal struggle, the bags always win.

But this is not new, as this classic film clip shows even in the 1930s some teams found difficulties in the cramped conditions.

Back at the crease soon.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Holiday Reading

Mrs FB was quite firm.  She pointed out that she had foregone summer holidays for a number of years to allow son and heir to disport himself on the cricket field.  The fact that Fantasy Bob had also indulged himself in this area had been noticed, but was not a relevant consideration. 

She further pointed out that in previous years son and heir had been engaged in a number of prestigious representative matches for which she felt her sacrifice was justified.  This year, she went on in the pointing out mode, son and heir’s priorities have been on rugby and an intensive summer conditioning and training programme to the exclusion of all else.  She pointed out that therefore there has been no elite cricket.  Although FB could see where all this pointing out was pointing to, heroism was required and he steeled himself to interrupt the flow.  ‘What do you mean no elite cricket?’ he counter pointed out. ‘The All Star Carlton 4th XI is……'  This point got no further before it was deemed not worthy of a response.  It has struck FB before that Mrs FB has a strange view of the world and how its priorities should be ordered.

As a result of all this pointing out, FB is committing the most grievous sin open to cricketers by taking a holiday during the cricket season and is unavailable for selection for the next 2 matches.  He hangs his head in shame, notwithstanding that teh team is more likely to be victorious in his absence.  Nor is there the almost acceptable excuse that he is attending the second Test match at Trent Bridge.  Indeed he will struggle to keep himself informed of progress in that important struggle.  Some readers know that FB is a sailor of modest ability, so he is chartering a yacht out of Stockholm to test Swedish waters.  Mrs FB deemed that a week before the mast is just what she needs to replenish her batteries.  Son and heir will continue his weight training programme on board by hauling up the anchor – 20 reps, rest and another 20.  It will be the most hauled up anchor in the Baltic.

Sweden is not particularly fertile territory for the cricketer although the first Volvo estate was specially designed in the 1960s with a view to transporting assorted cricket bags and juniors to  away matches.  However there is a Swedish Cricket Federation, which affiliated to the ICC in 1997, a national league and a national side which has recently been competing in the ICC European League.

There is also a game called brännboll played at an amateur level throughout Sweden.  It has some of the characteristics of baseball or rounders with the benefits of what seems to FB a complicated scoring system.  As in baseball or rounders the fielding side try to retrieve the ball before the batter gets to the bases.  But its main feature is that there is no bowler or pitcher – the batsman bowls to himself, tossing the ball up and smacking it where he will before steaming round the bases.  This feature has much to commend it and FB thinks the East of Scotland Cricket League might experiment with allowing batters to bowl against themselves in this manner.  FB is confident that even he could score off his own bowling. 

Brannboll in progress - the annual world championships
Another version of the game is olbrannboll (beer-brannball), where beercases are used a bases so the batters can refresh themselves as they wait to run.  Drinking is not mandatory in this form, but in vinbrannboll (wine-brannball) it is and batsmen must take a glass of wine when they complete a run.  For some reason this game is popular with students.

FB will return shortly but for the next few days he has left some gentle deliveries in the bowling machine so readers can keep their forward defensive in trim.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Sex on the beach

Apparently we are now within 1 year of the start of the London Olympics 2012.  Those grand lasses of the synchronised swimming community formed together in the pool in a figure 1 to tell us so.   It's always the synchronised swimmers that get these photo-calls.  Prepare for media saturation.  For everything for the next year could have an Olympic angle - except cricket of course for as FB has lamented previously cricket does not feature in the Olympics.  Shocking.

What is the attraction in this?
 For example,  Fantasy Bob read a piece in a so called serious newspaper not so long ago which reviewed that issue of compelling national importance as to whether beach volleyball’s appeal is primarily of a sporting or a sexual nature.   Beach volleyball in 2012 is scheduled to take place in that noted seaside location Horse Guards Parade, home of that other beach sport Trooping the Colour.  Tickets are among the most sought after across the whole range of Olympic events.  It is suggested, unkindly, that this reflects a predilection for young ladies jumping around in skimpy swimwear as much as the thrill of competitive action.  How could anyone reach such a conclusion?  The article was illustrated by a picture of 2 of the lithest long legged sun tanned nymphets clad in the scantiest of scanties, as should all high minded discussions of sporting excellence.  Assisted by these lovelies, the article’s author reached a firm conclusion between sport and sex.  Apparently it requires stamina, flexibility, positional sense and quickness of reflex.  And so does beach volleyball.

So now that the serious sporting purpose of beach volleyball has been confirmed, Fantasy Bob thinks it is time that the same question is turned on a proper sport.  Is cricket a sport or a sexual attraction? 

FB acknowledges that the breathless hush that goes round the close when he runs up to bowl may no longer have that undercurrent of sexual frisson among any ladies on the boundary.  Instead there is a solicitous concern that emergency medical treatment might soon be required and a hope that should mouth to mouth resuscitation be necessary, some else will step up to the plate.

Oh dear
 Sex has rarely been used to sell or promote cricket.  The attempt by Surrey CC earlier this season to sex up its offering by using walk-on girls was abandoned under a torrent of criticism from feminists, venerable crusties and people with common sense and good taste.  The dancing girls who shake their booties during the IPL have hardly added to the impact of the game – apart from a series of tawdry revelations about what some players get up to off the field.  Cricket equipment is not marketed with illustrations of nubile beauties draped across the gear in suggestive poses.  Cricketers have been mercifully absent from the Ryan Giggs treatment, some antique but still celebrated incidents involving Ian Botham and beauty queens apart.  There have only been occasional efforts to strip cricketers, oil up their pecs and get them to give that smouldering look that will sell…….well what.... Australian underpants.  Misguided.
But is it time to bow to the MTV generation saturated with sexualised imagery and pep cricket up?  There are many opportunities

-          polishing the ball must be done in the groin region only
-          boxes will be worn outside the trousers and may be individually designed or coloured.  Animal heads, Viking helmets, space rockets may well be popular designs.
-          young ladies can be given practical guidance on how to apply a grip to a bat handle……………..

Enough! This speaks for itself.  

Let beach volleyball be beach volleyball with beach volleyball values. Heavy breathing is not needed in cricket, unless of course you’ve just had the enthusiastic running of a junior at the other end turn an easy single into a scrambled two.  Let it stay that way.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A sweater story

Fantasy Bob invites your attention to the photograph above.  It is of MS Dhoni leading his team onto the field at Lords during the recent Test.  FB is uncertain why the Indian team need to advertise a large desert in North Africa, but that is their business.

But one feature stands out.  While several of the team are wearing the modern fleece type sweater, Harbhajan Singh - second right - sports a more traditional cable knit sleeveless job.  The reasons are undisclosed, as is the complicated legal process through which he probably went to get special permission from the kit sponsor for his distinctive sartorial choice. 
Hollywood icon
and cricket sweater fan
Good for Harbhajan's respect for traditional attire.  For the cable knit cricket sweater is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  Once it defined cricket clothing and indeed it was a fashion item in itself particularly in countries that did not actually play cricket.  Nowadays it may still be a fashion item but only for the most preppy of preppy folk but it is rarely seen on the cricket field.  Increasingly it is described as a vintage cricket sweater.  For the fleece has taken its place. 

At one time FB's collection of cable knits was a source of pride.  He would take the field of play protected against the chilling Edinburgh winds festooned in 5 sweaters.  In order a sleeveless Bukta cable knit; a M&S white sports sweater with navy trim purchased in Oxford in 1977; an  unbranded acrylic cable knit with no colour trim;  a woollen cable knit made specially for him by his mother in law with navy blue colour trim; and finally a G&M acrylic cable knit with red and blue colour trim. the last was XL specially to go over the top of all the others. 

The preppy look
FBs first over generally involved successive delayering as one by one, ball by ball, the layers were transferred to the umpire who generally made some inappropriate remark after layer 3.  Occasionally such was the chill in the wind that no layers were taken off at all.
Nowadays though FB can survive with just one Canterbury sleeveless sweater with Carlton badge, a shirt and a base layer.  It is a credit to the design of the sweater and its wind proofing that it is 100% more effective in preventing the wind chill that was all the layering up of years ago.  It almost gives FB faith in the modern world. 

Almost he still carries his mother in laws hand knitted article in his bag.  Just to be on the safe side.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Welcome back KP

Just when you needed him most........
MS Dhoni was quick to call Fantasy Bob after England's victory in the first Test.

'Listen FB,' he said, 'the boys are among your worldwide readership of 3 but they're all pretty disappointed in you.  We read your preview - what a load of rubbish.  You said Broad was useless and shouldn't play.  You said Pietersen wasn't worth the effort.  You said it would be a draw.  You said a lot of other crap that I can't remember.  But the boys believed you and look what happened.' 

The battery on FB's phone gave out at that point.  Just as he was asking himself what happened.............

India seemed underprepared and under motivated.  They lacked urgency.  Their fielding was of a standard pretty similar to that in the FB's All Star Carlton 4th XI, which is to say not quite up to Test Match standard.    Duncan Fletcher has already called in Trevor Penney to assist him make the necessary improvements to this part of their game.  This looks a good move.  India were hugely handicapped by the injury to Zaheer Khan just at the time when he was most needed - England were a bit on the back foot when he hobbled off.  He had the ball talking in perfect conditions.  FB has often expressed concern over 4 man bowling attacks and the implications of an injury.  But here there is doubt as to whether Khan was fully fit going into the match. Crazy.

His absence reduced the threat and Pietersen in particular was able to capitalise with a splendid innings.  He said he was taking LBW out of the equation by stepping a foot or so outside off stump and a yard down the wicket.  Pretty near back to his original technique after periods of doubt.  FB wishes he was brave enough to try this himself but he would probably fall over in the attempt.  But England need KP at his best like this - as do all cricket watchers.  In this mood he is as good as it gets.  It is worth noting how his innings showed great control, discipline and acceleration - 50 off 134 balls, 100 off 216, 150 off 301 and 200 off 326.  Whoosh!

Length matters
Then England bowled well as a unit and, above all, the penny dropped for Broad.  None of that short rubbish - he pitched up and looked a different prospect from the earlier part of the summer.  He was unlucky not get 5 wickets in the India's first innings.

India's batting lacked resilience in depth.  Only Dravid turned up as he deservedly got his name on the honours board.  But there was no fairy tale for Sachin, just a viral infection.

Khan's absence was evident in the second innings too.  Ishant fired India into a fine position at 62 for 5 but lacked support to press the advantage home and Matt Prior and Broad took the game away.  What is it with Prior - 3 centuries at Lords?  He'll need his own honours board shortly.

A real spearhead
Even then on the 4th evening, while things looked favourable for England it was possible that India could survive with an outside chance of a victory.  They needed their big guns to fire.  That was why the early dismissal of Dravid was critical - out to a very uncharacteristically loose shot.  As was Laxman.  Fletcher likely to be writing furious notes to himself about mental focus.   Sachin looked a shadow of himself - let's hope that the short interval to the next Test is enough for him to get shot of the virus which affected him here.  England's bowling effort was excellent in the second innings and Anderson showed himself truly to be the spearhead to give a bit more work to the honours board painter who will putting in for overtime.

Despite MS Dhoni's censure there were some things that FB got right.  The match was played at Lords.  But the 4 man attack is a risk, India were underprepared and a performance from Pietersen makes all the difference for England.  So FB does not feel wholly disgraced.

So on to Nottingham without drawing breath.  Three days is not a long enough space between Test matches. Momentum is firmly with England, but catching practice will be on the cards for the next few days.  A large number of catches went down - England were lucky that this time they weren't made to pay for these lapses.  They may not be so lucky again.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Catch me if you can

Fantasy Bob has had a hard weekend.  He is still traumatised by the events during his All Star Carlton 4th XI match on Saturday when catch after catch hit the grass.  When the fifth one went down off his own bowling he began to take it personally.  Eye contact became hard to maintain throughout the team.

For in lower league cricket catching is capricious - players will be selected year after year on the memory of them once leaping like a salmon to pluck the speeding ball from the air.  The fact that they have not held even the simplest dolly since that magical day matters not a jot.  They are invariably put at slip or backward point expecting the miracle to work again.  The odds of this happening are less favourable than winning the Euromillions.

FB cannot recall shelling anything in his early career - he was confident and secure close to the wicket or under the steepler.  He would dive and leap, sprint twenty yards this way and that, clutch with left hand or right hand and with that sense of joy come up with the ball.  Sadly the passage of time makes a mockery of these faded glories and now he takes care to place himself  in the place least in the field for a catch to be offered.  The most recent occasion a catch came his way he managed to take it without touching it with his hands at all, caressing the ball to his chest with both elbows.  A skill all players should practcise.

Once he was a compulsive diver.  Nowadays any dive in the field takes meticulous pre-planning so that only a ball travelling at a pedestrian pace can be intercepted by the trouser-staining leap onto the grass.  In reality the dive needs to be commenced before the ball is bowled which somewhat reduces the likelihood of its effectiveness.  Many a small child on the boundary observing this ritual has been heard asking its parent in a worried voice 'Daddy, why does that man keep falling down?'

It is unclear why a brain so sophisticated as FB's cannot compute that it is as quick to take 3 steps to the left to stop the ball as it is to go the whole business of stimulating knees and hips into gravity defying action.  Perhaps there is strategy here - having dived and missed, FB is excused the ordeal of having to chase the ball to the boundary - for nowadays there is only one winner in that contest.  Further, the team will clap and utter the ritual phrases of condescending support 'Great effort - unlucky.' in a manner similar to visiting a demented elderly relative and suggesting that sitting all day with other demented oldsters 'Must be nice for you dear.' It is very heart warming.

It is a sad thing to monitor your own decline but FB is sure that it teaches character.  All you young shavers tuning into the blogosphere may chuckle smugly, but you will find as all have before that youth and strong throwing arms are wasted on the young.   The day is coming when you will crank up the shoulder, swing your arm with the action which once had the ball slamming into the gloves 80 yards distant and you will look up to see the ball gently fall to the turf nearer you than the wicket.

But perhaps it is the keenness of eye that goes first.  Whereas last year you had no difficulty picking the ball out of the dark background trees as it hurtled towards you you, will find that this year you stand immobile and mystified until either it hits you or there is a shout from a colleague which makes you realise that the missile is headed your way.   Even though you've no idea where the ball is, it is better just launch into a dive anyway to look convincing.  'Daddy that man's just fallen over again.............'

But then top players have the keenest possible eyes, their reflexes are electric, they only play in the bright sunlight, they practice hours every day and they still shell them like peas.  The 2000th Test match at play just now at Lords has seem some fine examples from both sides.  As they and FB's team mates found on Saturday there is no doubt that dropping is contagious.  Once one player does it others follow.  In the World Cup England couldn't hold a catch - and Pakistan dropped Tendulkar 4 times in their semi-final.  At any level of cricket no one means to drop it - hard though it is for bowlers who always take it personally to believe this.

On his way to 333
There have been some momentous drops in top cricket where the consequences of one person's slight misjudgement is severe for the team, the nation and the history of the world.  No doubt there are many historical catastrophes that could have been averted if certain catches had been taken, for example a dropped catch in a match between Serbia and Croatia is thought to have caused such seething resentment that it lead to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the outbreak of the First World War.  But confining oursleves to cricket here are FB's most significant dropped catches.  None of them were off his bowling

  • In 1990 at Lords, Indian keeper Kiran More dropped Graham Gooch on 36 - 297 runs later Gooch was finally out for what is still the highest innings ever played at Lords.
I did it for you................
  • In 1994 Durham's Chris Scott dropped Brian Lara playing for Warwicks on 18.  Lara went on to score 501*.
  • In 2002 West Indian skipper Carl Hooper was dropped on 0 by Indian keeper Deep Dasgupta.  He went on to score 233.
  • In the Oval Test of the 2005 Ashes Kevin Pietersen was dropped on 0, by Gilchrist/Hayden, on 15 by Shane Warne and on 60 by Shaun Tait.  He scored 158 and won the man of the match award.  England drew the match and won the series. (FB thanks anonymous for the correction to the first edition.)
Outside the Test arena the most famous drop is probably when Herschelle Gibbs over celebrated catching Steve Waugh during the 1999 World Cup.  Gibbs was deemed not to have the ball under control before he tried to throw it over his head in that arrogant South African kind of way.  In one of those moments of sympathy for his fellow professionals which made him the stuff of legend, Waugh is reported to have said 'You've just dropped the world cup, mate.'  Apparently Waugh now disputes that he said anything so hurtful - but it is unlikely that he said anything on the lines of  'Jolly bad luck old chap'.  There are lots of similar stories of Waugh congratulating fielders for dropping him.  And the same sentiment was said to have been uttered to Warney by KP in 2005 - 'You've just dropped the Ashes.' 

Cruel beasts these professional sportsmen. FB's team mates would never dream of suggesting to the opposition that they had just dropped 4th place in Div 7 of the East of Scotland League - that would be an insult too far.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Summertime Blues

Just to show that Fantasy Bob is no better than any other list spouting blogger and to note the fact that the summer seems to have decided to pitch up in Scotland in 2011, here is another list.  This time it's the First XI of songs mentioning summer.  For some reason, none of them is Scottish.  They are not in batting order.

All Summer Long - The Beach Boys
All Summer Long - Kid Rock
Summer Loving - Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta
Summertime Blues - Eddie Cochran
In the Summertime - Mungo Jerry
Summer in the City - The Lovin' Spoonful
Summer of 69 - Bryan Adams
Here Comes Summer - Jerry Keller
Cruel Summer - Bananarama
Lazy Crazy Days of Summer - Nat King Cole
Summertime - George Gershwin

In the words of Eddie Cochran -

Sometimes FB wonders what he's a gonna do, 'cos there ain't no cure for playin' round a straight one.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Blue Saturday

Journalists commonly have it that 18 January is the most depressing day in the year.  Apparently it is when the euphoria of Christmas wanes, January salary day is far away and things are pretty grey.

Back too soon
- fan attacking Neil Lennon
Fantasy Bob has never found 18 January particularly lowering of the spirits.  Perhaps he has not been euphoric enough at Christmas time.  But 18 January is a happy day indeed compared with 23 July 2011.  For 23 July truly is the most depressing day of the year.  It marks the start of the Scottish football season.  When the bile of the blue side and the green side of Glasgow spreads itself across our national consciousness once again.  When the national media obsession with the mediocre comes back from its holidays.

Every year football seems to come back earlier and the early start has not even been welcomed by many in the game this year.  There is some cock eyed thought that it will make Scottish clubs more competitive in Europe. Perhaps they should try better players. 
Now it sounds as though FB is on a high horse - he might well be.  But he also feels a sense of loss.  He used to enjoy football matches.  For many years he attended the majority of Aberdeen's home matches and from Edinburgh used to take in a few of their games in the central belt.  But nothing would persuade him to go to a football match these days.  For the behaviour and attitude of the crowd has changed.  The torrents of abuse against players and other fans that now define the afternoon are not what FB recalls from the south terracing at Pittodrie.  What is it that makes the fans so angry (apart from the fact that generally they are watching inferior rubbish for which they have paid through the nose).  Do Scottish people really hate everything and themselves so much?  How many times is it possible to say the f-word in a single sentence?  Where has this rage come from?

FB has no idea.  But he remembers many years ago being the crowd for an Aberdeen Hearts match - never the most friendly of rivals, but there was a vocal fan a couple of rows behind who kept up a wail of critcism of the Hearts players.  However there was not an f-word to be heard.  Instead the players were lambasted for being chocolates. ''re useless, ye're a chocolate.'  'That's a foul - ya big Malteser.' 'Smith, ye're a chocolate - ye're a Mars Bar.'

Now that's abuse.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Mash up bowling

Fantasy Bob has discovered that the juniors enjoy a form of entertainment available through the computer-machine-thing called mash up.  This involves the joining of different songs and videos together to form one piece.  There are millions of these things in all genres and FB invites you to spend the time you have available from rained-off cricket matches exploring what is available on YouTube.  Many are rubbish but some are very fine.  Here are a few of FB's favourites - the first is a blend of The Beatles and Bob Marley, the second of Pink Floyd and The Bee Gees and a bit more up to date with the Ting Tings, the Knack and Tony Basil (with a bit of the Beach Boys right at the end) and finally The Beatles again with LCD Soundsystem and the Kinks.

Of course classical musicians have been doing this kind of thing for ever - exploiting the basic harmonic structures to place one tune on top of another  - try the final movement of Mozart's Jupiter symphony for example.

But what about cricket?  Where is the mash up in cricket?  FB thinks that modern bowling is touched with the features of mash-up.  Most fast bowlers now have a slower delivery - some have several different slower deliveries.  Jade Dernbach for instance is reported to have one for every day of the week, or for every tattoo on his arm.  To be effective the slower ball is overlaid on the bowler's usual action - it is not the run up or the speed of the arm that is different it is how the ball comes out - the grip on the ball is looser or release is earlier or later.  The lethal slower ball looks like it is overpitched, the batsman might even fear it is a beamer but it dips and may even spin.  The batsman might duck, or he plays early.  He is done for.

Stephenson -
in the mash up stride
The first great exponent of the mash up ball was Franklyn Stephenson. Stephenson had a long career with Nottinghamshire and Sussex and may well be the greatest West Indian player never to have played Test cricket.  He was banned for playing with a rebel tour to South Africa in 1982.  In 1988, his first season with Notts, he did the double - 1000 runs and 100 wickets only the second player to do so in the reduced country cricket season.  The other player to have achieved it is Richard Hadlee.  Stephenson's conventional delivery was on the fast side of fast medium, but he perfected the disguised slower ball for use in one day cricket.

 The most celebrated mash up ball in Test cricket might well be that which Steve Harmison bowled to Michael Clarke at Edgbaston in the 2005 Ashes.  But mash up balls come from other bowlers too - Shahid Afridi at one time had a change up ball which, after a series of slow leg breaks, would whizz in at over 70mph. Ouch.

But what of Fantasy Bob's slower ball - mystifyingly these days his slower ball and his effort ball are indistinguishable.  Needless to say both are equally ineffective.  He is reported to be working on an even slower ball.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

England v India - the big one

 And so, with much flourish and trumpeting, it is back to red ball cricket for England as they meet India today at Lords in the first of their four match world-domination-and-mastery-of-the-universe decider.  Red ball cricket - actually more important is that it is white trouser cricket.  Better even would be cream trouser, for the cream trouser on a gentleman has a natural warm feel, unlike the shock white things that Adidas have inflicted on England.  But at least they're in the white zone and not red and black or any colour, but Fantasy Bob digresses.

This is the 2000th Test in Test match history.  It is the 100th meeting between England and India.  It is the unofficial world championship and it presents an opportunity for Sachin Tendulkar to score his 100th international hundred.  There has been some marketing genius at work here and possibly taking artificial stimulants - just one of these would have been enough to sell the seats - 4 is riches too many.

England need to win the series by 2 matches to knock India off the top of the rankings.  England have not won 2 tests in a home series against India since 1974.  Can they do it?  Here is FB's in depth analysis masquerading as a load of old twaddle (or is it the other way round).

This is an arm wrestle between 2 Zimbabwean coaches which must be one for the record books.  Has Fletcher still got it?  How will his relationship with the Indians develop - he joins them at the top - his sojourn with England started with them lower down the pecking order. 

Two very strong batting line ups face each other.  India can be expected to feel the loss of Sehwag - so called Zen master of modern cricket, but they still have Ghambir, Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman, any of whom would walk into FB's All Star Carlton 4th XI.  Dhoni might also get a game too if the side were short. 

FB's one question is - are they practised enough in English conditions?  One warm up match at Somerset doesn't seem enough - and they didn't look all that convincing there.  It is commercial demands that structure international cricket of course and restrict familiarisation times but it may be that this is an indication that conditions are no longer such a signficant factor in cricket - with hermetically sealed wickets, super drained outfields and so on your globe trotting cricketer might find things pretty much the same anywhere he goes.  And he also goes there more often than in the old days so he may know what to expect anyway. It's the same force that has blessed every community with Macdonalds.  Something is lost?

Englands' batting is formidable on its day but FB is worried that it may have gone a bit off the boil. Strauss has lots of pressure on him - if only because he now has to fend off Cook's pretensions to the captaincy.  If he doesn't deliver with the bat he is in trouble, even if the team isn't.  Bell looked out of sorts during the ODI series - England must hope that this was a reaction to the red and black uniform more than anything.  KP is again just that one innings away from being the KP everyone imagines.  FB wonders how much longer KP can be picked on his potential rather than what he delivers.

England's bowling looks to be their area of relative strength and commentators are recalling how many times Anderson has got Tendulkar out in Tests (5 times).  But it is Tremlett who has made most progress this summer. The relative potency of the bowling attacks may be exemplified by comparing the strike rates of Swann and Harbhajan - Swann takes a wicket every 47 balls in England - Harbhajan every 71.  The UDRS system has helped Swann whose tally of LBW dismissals is among the highest on record - but LBW will not be subject to UDRS in this series.

England have a choice to make between Broad and Bresnan.  FB's money is on Bresnan - and Flower's pre match interviews seemed to suggest as much in indicating a bit of frustration at Broad - 'He's not an enforcer' he said, suggesting that Broad had stepped outside his assigned role in the team.

Can't have that these days - even in FB's All Star 4th XI roles are strictly defined and relentlessly drilled.  FB's own role as bowler of intimidating long hops - intimidating because they induce in the batsman a fear of hernia caused by the excessive backlift,vigorous wind up and frenetic bat speed as he attempts to plant the ball over the boundary, the road and the houses beyond.  Such fear is a potent attacking weapon.

Anyway it's Bresnan for FB and Broad must remain a mystery to himself for another few weeks.  FB still wonders about the 4 ball attack - he thinks its limitations were shown against Sri Lanka - particularly at Lords.

And will Tendulkar get his centuries of centuries at Lords?  It would be a fairy tale - he is not on the honours board at Lords - nor is Dravid nor is Laxman (indeed Laxman has not scored a century against England anywhere).  The big soft sentimental interior of FB would like nothing more to see him do it.  But Sachin's average at Lords is poor - 21.28 with a highest score of 37.  FB fears he will not make it this time.

Dravid learns his trade in Scotland
The match?  Lords is not a happy hunting ground for India - they have 1 victory in 15 visits and Lords has become something of a fortess for England in recent years.  FB can't see England losing, but he can see the 4 man attack run out of steam against that fine Scottish international player also known as the wall and his colleagues.  FB sniffs a draw - although he thinks that England will shade the series but not by the margin necessary for world domination.  But then what does FB know?

And why is red ball or cream trouser cricket so important?  Here is a fine article by Gideon Haigh which explains why.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Fit and proper

The Parliamentary Committee
warms up for its grilling of FB
There have been questions raised in Parliament as to whether Fantasy Bob, the patriarchical head of the vast media empire behind the Witterings Blog, is a fit and proper person for ........well, anything really.  There have been claims that his vast media empire has exerted undue influence on its 3 strong world wide audience.  They are alleged to have regularly travelled vast distances (often as far as across the road) to court his support.  Politicians are said to have gone in fear of his views in case he criticised them for playing across the line.  The outcome of elections has been said to have hung on his views of the cricketing credentials of candidates.  He must now face the backlash.

Fantasy Bob has offered to be grilled by a committee of the House of Commons to explain why he considers he is a fit and proper person.  In his defence he will point out that

  • he has no library books overdue,
  • he always puts his recycling bins out on the correct day,
  • he was an active member of the Boys Brigade between ages 11 and 17,
  • the only financial relationship he has had with the police is when he handed in a £5 note he found in Union Street Aberdeen at the age of 8,
  • he regularly offers his seat on the bus to the few people who look even older than he does,
  • he always brings extra sandwiches to home matches,
  • he has always treated Ms Poonam Pandey with gentlemanly courtesy.
Fantasy Bob also stresses he is not responsible for anything - both his batting and bowling happens by chance or is teh product of one of his 55,000 underlings.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Fantasy Bob is disturbed to hear that 2 paintings by Nicolas Poussin in the National Gallery in London have been vandalised.

Adoration of the Golden Claf by Nicolas Poussin
 Reports coming to FB do not reveal the reason for this act of vandalism - as if there could ever be a reason that would make sense?  However FB notes that one of the paintings was Poussin's Adoration of the Golden Calf.  Art historians have not previously considered that cricket featured significantly in the works of Poussain.  In their defence historians say that the fact that he was French and worked in the 17th Century suggest that he had little familiarity with the game.   This is pretty thin reasoning particularly when confronted with the Adoration of the Golden Calf.  Conventional suggestions suggest that this painting depicts the well known Biblical scene when Moses finds the Israelites wildly worshipping the golden calf in his absence.

But to anyone with cricketing knowledge, such as FB, the meaning is clear.  Moses returns from net practice to find the Israelites CC enthusing wildly about T20 and the IPL.  Drink has been taken and Dilshan scoops practised. Moses is beside himself with rage, having just received from the Lord the rules for the coming Test series in Jericho.  T20, he points out, is a false idol.  Extra net practice is prescribed as a punishment.

FB therefore deduces that the defacer of this fine painting is a misguided fan of T20 for whom the potency of Poussin's message suddenly turned the balance of his mind.

For those who wish to see more of Poussin's cricket inspired works there is a fine series in the National Gallery of Scotland depicting the sacraments of a Test series.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Open - a postview

While Fantasy Bob was focussed on watching Scotland beat Northants in the CB40 to finish the week with 2 wins (hooray!) he had half an eye on events at Sandwich in the Open Championship.

Fantasy Bob missed the news bulletin which reported the passing of the law that provides that all winners of major golf tournaments henceforth have to be from Northern Ireland.  But the rest of the field was fully aware of that law, none moreso than Mickelson who, as soon as he accidentally joined the lead on the last day, was reminded of the law and recognised that he had to start missing short puts.  With rival Ulsterman Rory McIlroy doing the decent thing and deferring to his older compatriot (exactly twice his age), things could not have been simpler for Darren Clarke.  So well done to him.  Clarke had a great stroke of good fortune when he seemed to top a shot out of the rough on the 9th hole. As FB's shots in similar circumstances do, it was heading for a bunker but leapt from an up slope onto the green.  Despite all FB's assiduous practice of topping shots he has never managed to make them find the green like that.  More practice required obviously.  But FB recognises the great achievement of Henrik Stenson who took 11 shots to complete the 14th hole yesterday.  He blasted 2 balls out of bounds off the tee. Now that's FB's type of golf.

'No golfer wearing orange
head to foot will be granted rights
 to win anything' (Unwritten rule 1)
Young American Ricky Fowler, who for a short time seemed a significant challenger, failed to note the significance of the rule that no one clad head to foot in bright orange has ever won anything, other than gazes of sympathy or amazement.  He also fell foul of the rule that only players whose hats fit them can win. He therefore had no chance. In older more conventional days he would have been denied access to the course.

Darren Clarke is reported to spend £25,000 per year on cigars.  He may well be honoured by Fidel Castro for his contribution to the success of the Cuban economy.  FB imagines that his win makes Clarke an overriding favourite for the Sportsperson of the Year award - assuming golf still counts as a sport and assuming TomWatson (MP and not the 5 times Open champion) doesn't inch it by getting all the Murdoch senior management put in jail.

It never rains on the golf course
FB greatly enjoyed the Open weather on Saturday as it made extreme demands of the players.  It reminded him of some of the calmer days on his own home course.  He has also played cricket in similar conditions several times.  No point in the highly paid cosseted players moaning about it - that level of challenge is as it should be - winning the Open is meant to be difficult and a test of character skill and waterproofing. Same for the spectators who also had to suffer a bit.  Nevertheless no doubt someone is developing the all weather roofed floodlit golf course right now.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A guide to weather for cricketers

Rain stopped play on its way
 Weather is interesting stuff and in Scotland there is lots of it, all the time.  As a sailor of modest ability, Fantasy Bob has had to study weather and can confirm that knowing how and why it happens is as interesting as it actually happening.  It is all pretty scientific, but at the end it is mixed up with a good bit of guess work.   A bit like umpiring.

Carlton cricketers have a simple but infallible forecasting system. It is not necessary to hang a bit of seaweed outside the pavilion, far less query the senior players about how their rheumatic knees feel - if they can't see Arthur's Seat it's raining, if they can see Arthur's Seat it is just about to rain. 

But if this is too simple for your inquiring scientific mind then you need to know that weather has all got to do with heat and air pressure.  Warm air rises, lowering air pressure.  Cold air sinks increasing air pressure.  Warm air carries moisture; cold air doesn't.  The sea retains heat, the land doesn't.  Knowing this you can work it out for yourself whether rain will stop play tomorrow.  All these factors come together in the Atlantic as the tropical and the polar air masses collide.  Depressions are formed on the pressure differential and the weather as it passes over the UK reflects the life of the depression.  The basic pattern is that the warm front brings rain, then after a bit the cold front brings rain.  Sometimes they get mixed up as an occluded front which brings rain.

Progress of weather fronts
 The Life of the Depression is therefore not an obscure 6 hour long film by Ingmar Bergman but a truly wonderful natural phenomenon bringing a predictable weather pattern that all cricketers should understand.   It is summed up in many of the old folk sayings about the weather eg
Red sky at night, batsman's delight.
Red sky in the morning, seam bowler's warning.
There is a lot to understand here so to make it easy, FB thought it would be helpful to define commonly used weather terms for cricketers:

  • High pressure - 3 overs to go 12 runs wanted only juniors left to bat
  • Low pressure - bloody pavilion showers not working again
  • Warm front - feeling from team mates when you return having blasted the winning boundary
  • Cold front - feeling after your umpiring spell has lead to 2 LBWs including the skipper
  • Isobar - place to go when you face cold front
  • Occluded front - pay attention - as everyone knows this has no cricketing sense but is a complex frontal system that occurs when a cold front overtakes a warm front.
  • Cyclonic - need to think about transport to Saturday's away fixture
  • Anti cyclonic - no cycle racks at away ground
  • Dew point - point at which Graeme Swann becomes stroppy and blames someone else for his crap bowling
  • Wind backing - someone in the slip cordon had curry last night
  • Wind veering - close fielders are now being spread
  • Fog - the feeling when batting against leg spin bowling
  • Freezing Fog - facing leg spin bowling in the first match of the season
  • AnaBatic and KataBatic - Eastern European twins recently employed by club as bar staff and with whom all the second eleven are in love
  • Jet Stream - the path of a short pitched delivery as it comes towards your unhelmented head
  • Leeward - anxious about facing Brett Lee
  • Maximum Temperature - a phenomenon unknown during the cricket season in Scotland
  • Ozone - that part of the pavilion reserved for those who have got out for a duck

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Skipper resigns

Skipper no more
Fantasy Bob is sure his faithful trio of readers have been shocked by events in the Murdoch Cricketing Empire.

After a week of national turmoil, the flame haired skipper of NOTW CC has tendered her resignation.  A week ago NOTW CC withdrew from its remaining fixtures following accusations of ball tampering.  The skipper remained in place in a coaching role.

Allegations against the club have since widened and now include making inappropriate payments to umpires of the Metropolitan Umpires Association to secure that they would overlook previous suggestions of ball tampering made by rival club Guardian CC.  Payments are said also to have been made to secure advance notice of LBW decisions which were then used by the team to titivate their match reports.  The club's position worsened when it was revealed that not only have Test cricketers such as Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan been bowled at with illegal actions, so have ordinary cricketers including members of the 7/7 Victims CC.

The Committee of NOTW CC tried hard to defend their captain saying that her leadership on the field remained exceptional.  Most cricketers agreed that it was exceptional, but for all the wrong reasons.  Eventually however the Committee recognised that once a club's captain is nationally derided as a witch, the innings has to close.

NOTW CC was at the top of the National Sunday League, regularly scoring over 1.5 million runs.  Their batting relied heavily on the scoop shot.  Discussions are underway as to whether these runs will be divided between the remaining clubs in the league or whether a new club will be admitted to the league.  A senior judge has been appointed to examine the league rules closely to ensure that they can protect against future risks of similar lack of sportsmanship in member clubs.

The East of Scotland Cricket Association is monitoring developments carefully.  However it is not thought that there is any connection between this resignation and recent resignations from captaincy positions by Kevin Pietersen, Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara, Graeme Smith, Daniel Vettori, or Shahid Afridi.   The world of cricket can relax in the knowledge that Fantasy Bob remains in his position as skipper of the Carlton 4th XI - the go ahead Edinburgh club issued a statement confirming that his leadership in the field remains non-existent.  FB has yet to branded as a witch.

Friday, 15 July 2011


Lost tosses
There must be a place where they all collect.  Where none of them feel rejected any more.  Where they can put their shattered lives together again.  Where they can gather strength from one another and face the world.  Where is this place?  Where do all the lost tosses go?

The won tosses are carefully packed up and kept in pockets or pouches in the skipper's kitbag.  They are brought out and celebrated.  But the lost tosses are discarded, forgotten, thrown away.  Once a toss is lost, can it ever be found?

Biologists have long been fascinated by the life cycle of the toss, but they have yet to come up with the full explanation.  Perhaps they swim back to the burn they were born in and having got there match up and in a miracle of rebirth begin their long journey all over again.  Whole again they find their way to a cricket ground and the cycle begins again.  This is one of the more plausible theories.

But astronomers have an alternative view from their observations of the heavenly bodies.  Perhaps they escape the earth's atmosphere and circle in orbit as space dust occasionally observed from space craft but unrecognised.  It is one of the failures of NASA not to have captured one and brought it back to earth for scientific examination.
Perhaps like the lost boys in Peter Pan they end up in Neverland where they play from dawn till dusk always wistful for the parents they have left behind and always fearful of Captain Hook.  Evidence for this theory has been hard to find.

It is clear though that lost tosses are not handed into the lost property department.  FB has been there several times, looking amongst other things for the hope and inspiration he has lost at various times.  He has failed to see a lost toss in amongst the pile of umbrellas and gloves.

So where do all the lost tosses go?

Thursday, 14 July 2011


Hammer of the Scots
There must be an inquiry.  It was a strategic failure of a kind not seen since Flodden in 1513.  To arrange for uninterrupted sunshine for Scotland's match against Sri Lanka yesterday may have made commercial sense, but sporting sense?  Is it possible that misbehaviour in News International could have been at the root of it.  Where was Rebecca Brooks when the sun came out?  The public must be given the full facts. 

A damp day with a biting wind off the North Sea might have slowed Malinga down a bit, his dodgy knees would have creaked, he would have been dispirited - but put the sun on his back and he was a destructive force.  It was a privilege to watch him destroy the Flower of Scotland.  Uncomfortable and a reminder of how steep is the hill that the associates have to climb - but a rare privilege none the less.

Scotland's batsmen can comfort their bruised egos and toes by recognising that they are not the first to have suffered from his precision bombing of their toes.  Although Malinga's appearances will be more restricted than in the past as he limits the amount of cricket he plays, they are unlikely to be the last.  If Test players from the top nations struggle to deal with Malinga's low trajectory, swing and extreme pace when they have faced him several times, what are the prospects for players facing him for the first time? 

Fantasy Bob is grateful every day for many blessings.  To those he now adds that he has never had to go out to bat against Lasith Malinga.  With any luck he never will.

Now about that inquiry............

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Roamin' in the Gloamin'

Berrington gives it some
Fantasy Bob is still recovering from the vibrant Scottish victory over Ireland yesterday in a run fest of epic proportions.  Chasing 321 to win they got off to a flying start but got bogged down a bit until Richie Berrington made every one sit up (including the Irish bowlers who seemed to go to sleep in the sun) with 56 in 23 balls (his 50 in 20 balls is only 3 balls shy of the fastest ODI 50 ever).  although he holed out 9 short of the total, Scotland went on to a 5 wicket victory.  Great stuff.  Let's do the same to Sri Lanka.

But FB will divert from the pleasure of that duel in the sun to have a bit of a rant.  He infers that the ICC (oh no, FB you are thinking, not more about those feckers) have never heard of Sir Harry Lauder.

Lauder's tartan music hall persona may have been responsible for some of the caricature images of Scotland and Scotspersons that, even now, prove difficult to shake off a century after the height of his fame.     But in 1911 he could command a $1,000 a night on his USA tours.  In 1912 he was top of the bill at Britain`s first ever Royal Command Variety performance, in front of King George V.  He was, at one time, the highest-paid performer in the world, and was the first British artist to sell a million records.

These days he would be described as a singer song-writer and in his day he was the equivalent of who? Robbie Williams?  Elton John?    Keep Right on to the End of The Road, written after he received the news that his son had fallen in the First World War remains an inspirational anthem - 'though your heart be weary, still journey on.........................'

Why, you are thinking, is FB ranting on about Lauder?  Because one of his most famous and enduring songs is Roamin' in the Gloamin' whose lyric celebrates the long Scottish evening when, at the height of the summer, cricket is possible until well after 9 o'clock.  As a poet of course Lauder uses the language of love to describe the pleasures of an evening cricket match but FB thinks it is clear, even to the most mutton headed administrator, that when he sings ' roamin' in the gloamin' wi' a lassie by my side' he is describing the feeling of enthusiasm he has in going out to bat with his Gray-Nicolls in his hand in the long slow Scottish evening near the River Clyde.

But this sentiment has fallen on the deaf ears of the ICC who deem that cricket matches must finish by 7pm.  Except day night matches of course where floodlights come into consideration and which are obviously not cricket matches.

This little known rule may well have some merit in countries which go from night to day at the flick of a switch but Scotland - as in so many things - has a superior arrangement as the dimmer switch is turned slowly through the summer. 

The ICC's rule was one of the reasons behind the abandonment of the first of the tri-series matches in Edinburgh this week, despite the fact that at 2.30 when the match was called off the sun was shining brightly and continued to do so throughout the evening.  A reduced overs contest was clearly possible.  FB is not naive enough to expect highly skilled and professional players with AA eyesight and reflexes like quicksilver to match the many great feats that he has accomplished in evening cricket, but at least they could have a go.  But no, the ICC rules prevail and spectators have to be sent home.  They are as usual the last factor to be fitted into the equation - if they are fitted in at all.

This Friday evening FB's Carlton club will play the final of the Masterton trophy - the local T20 tournament -with local rivals Grange starting at 6.00pm -  Roamin' in the Gloamin'.  All are welcome.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


On the face of it there is little more tedious than any story about the Beckhams.  And Fantasy Bob is ashamed to besmirch these pages not only with reference to these pouting pointless celebrities but also make reference to football.

Not Harpo Beckham
But the news that the newest Beckham is to be named Harper has stirred Fantasy Bob's desultory disinterest.  For this can only be in tribute to one of FB's own sporting heroes.  Not the flamboyant West Indian cricketer Roger Harper, one the great fielders in cricket history, nor yet recently retired Australian umpire Daryl Harper.  Nor is the name a mispelling of Harpo Marx.

Joey - true great
These are all worthy candidates but they have not inspired Beckham.  The name is obviously in honour of Joseph Montgomery Harper, better known as Joey under which name he is the all time leading goalscorer of Aberdeen FC.  During 2 spells with the club in the 1970s Joey scored 205 goals and FB may well have seen the majority of them, so empty were his young years that he was a regular attender at Aberdeen's home games.  In doing so Joey developed a unique rapport with the Dons' long suffering fans and contributed to important years of Aberdeen's rise to the eventual glory of winning the European Cup Winner's Cup by beating Real Madrid in 1983, though he had retired a couple of years previously. 

Joey could only be described as rotund in appearance but he was supreme in the penalty box, he had a deft touch and knew exactly where to put himself.  In short he was a natural goal scorer of a type not seen in the much sullied and dishonoured game nowadays.  He had a brief flirtation with the Scottish national side and was unfortunate enough to be part of the 1978 World Cup campaign in Argentina, but taht should not tarnish his memory. FB firmly believes that the tired football gag 'Jesus saves, but Joey nets the rebound.' was first written about this hero.

Beckham's recognition of the great contribution to the game by Joey will give a warm glow to Aberdonians of FB's generation wherever they are in the world.  It may even bring a new respect for the much tattooed and over eulogised man himself.  It is unlikely however that Mrs Beckham will ever enter their affections.

Come on Joey give us a goal.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Thoughts on the Tri-Series

And bowling from the Deep End is....
Scotland welcomes the Sri Lankan cricketers to Edinburgh for the tri-series with Scotland and Ireland this week.  Scots are a truly hospitable race and have spared no expense to make our guests feel welcome even going to the extent of arranging monsoon weather over the last few days.

Here is a picture of FB's own Carlton club's ground last Saturday.  The club is now investigating how cricket can effectively be played on water-skis.  Even in FB's extensive experience of rain, the last week has been exceptional.

At one time a touring team would have a couple of 2 or 3 day matches in Scotland at some point in their tour.  Frequently these were exhibition matches as much as anything, but they were looked on by home supporters as festivals of the best in cricket.  Seeing the local amateurs test themselves against the best in the world was always interesting.  Things have moved on - the rhythm of touring teams is now different - no longer a 4 month trudge around every county ground, they are here today and gone faster than Akhtar can bowl as the media mandated treadmill of international cricket spirits them from one place to another.  Maybe this isn't as great as it seems.

Scotland's matches against top sides are now in the ODI format and are essential experience for their development process.  But quite simply they don't get enough games like this.   The associates are never going to get close to beating the top sides unless they play them - the performance gap seemed to narrow for a couple of years but is widening again.  Scotland manages one or two games a year at this level.  Ireland has had a couple of games against Pakistan this year so is getting a bit more.   But it is still crumbs at the table.

The weather may be in Scotland and Ireland's favour this week, but in the natural order of things they will do well to get close to Sri Lanka.  Watching the ability of professinal sides to control a game is endlessly fascinating - how can the associates develop these advanced skills? Weather permitting it is Ireland who have first crack at them on Monday keen to build on their world cup successes and prove the ICC were right to revise their views on letting associates participate in 2015.

Of more interest is the tussle between Scotland and Ireland on Tuesday - recent years have seen the Irish dominate after a period of Scottish supremacy.  Scotland are rebuilding, trying to find a blend of players that could take them to the next world cup.  Ireland have an maturing squad and will also be looking to bring players forward for their next world cup campaign.  Ireland are probably stronger on paper and will have learned a lot from their CWC 2011 campaign.   Then the series will finish on Wednesay as Scotland roll the Sri Lankan's over in a 10 wicket victory.

FB will be there cheering the Scots on in both their tussles.  He looks forward to seeing his his Carlton colleagues including skipper Gordon Drummond make their mark.  They will do well if they remember FB's coaching tips to them.  It seems to be working for Drummo who has been on fire with the bat with 3 tons in his last 3 innings.  Everyone hopes that the weather does not have a hollow victory, but FB is looking out his Idiots' Guide to Duckworth Lewis just in case.  Come on Scotland.

Programme from Bradman's last game in Britain
But to return to touring sides of long ago.  It is a trivia answer well worth knowing that Sir Donald Bradman's last innings in  Britain was in FB's own home city of Aberdeen.  This was the last match of the 1948 Tour.  It took place on 17-18 Septembeer (very late for cricket in Scotland) and Australia beat Scotland (who batted first) by an innings and 87 runs.  Bradman scored 123.  After the match the Australian party zoomed up the North Deeside Road to Balmoral to say goodbye to the Royals and ( to judge from the video on this link) the corgis.

Will Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene be off to Balmoral later this week?  Unlikely.  Just one measure of how things have changed.

Come on Scotland.