Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ladies' Privilege

Birthday Boy
Happy Birthday to Superman - born on 29 February.

But cricketers who have yet to find the marital bliss that Fantasy Bob enjoys with Mrs FB must take care today – for 29 February is Ladies Privilege, the day on which, by tradition, women can propose marriage to the man of their fancy (or, presumably in these less strict times, anybody else’s fancy). Even though FB is spoken for, he is likely to receive several such proposals. They will come via the internet from various seductresses who introduce themselves on the following lines
Hot Russian Princess
‘Hello to you Mr Fantasy Bob, I think you must be very hot, I am Natasha, I am very hot Russian princess just longing to make hot date with you.’
FB views these messages with some uncertainty. Why Natasha is so fixated on temperature mystifies him. Might she be questioning the effectiveness of his central heating? Is this the same point Mrs FB is trying to make when donning her thermal bedsocks and flannel nightgown?

FB presumes that Natasha, and her fellow Russian princesses, think that Scotland is still subject to the edict said to be promulgated in Scotland in 1288 which ordained that a man who refused a leap year marriage proposal must pay a sizeable forfeit to the lady in question. Money and silk gowns are the compensations mentioned in the history books. Nowadays Russian princesses are not so demanding – they simply require the numbers of FB’s bank account.

Hot Norwegian Princess
FB suspects that the 1288 edict is just so much legend – it is after all attributed to Margaret Maid of Norway, notwithstanding the fact that in 1288 she was only 5 years old, and in Norway. In FB’s experience 5 year olds may well make edicts, but they generally are on the subject of the immediate delivery of toys or food and do not touch on the proprieties of marriage.  It is possible that things were different in the 1280s, for there was uncertainty over the Scottish succession and Margaret was identified as Queen. She died at the age of 7 on her way to Scotland.  Historians say that she had been sending e-mails and texts to various Scottish noblemen (the Guardians of Scotland) telling them that she was ‘hot Norwegian princess longing to make hot date with them’……………Long and complicated Scottish history then follows leading to the wars of independence.

But enough of that. Suffice it to say that 1288 was not a great year for cricket. Nor is 29 February a great day for cricket.

As FB reports above, the one eminent cricketer to be born on 29 February was Superman – who could bowl bat and field all at the same time. However Wisden does not acknowledge his contribution to the game.

Alf Gover
Surrey and England
1555 First Class wickets at 23.63
The most significant cricketer who does feature in Wisden is Alf Gover, born 29 February1908, who played 4 Test matches before and after the second world war, a small return for such a high quality player. After a long playing career he had renewed cricketing fame as a coach – and many notable players came through the Alf Gover Cricket School including Andy Roberts and Ian Bishop.

He also covered the 1954-55 Ashes tour as a journalist. After the first test, in which Frank Tyson had been hit for 160 runs taking only one wicket as England fell to an innings defeat, he advised Tyson to shorten his run-up. This proved to be a turning point in the series. Tyson's pace was too much for the Australians and he took 28 wickets at 20.82 in the series which England won 3-1. Old timers still say Tyson was the fastest ever. Alf Gover died in 2001.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The science of batting

Trott - FB'd by Akhtar  September 2010 
Seeking some inspiration to assist his return to active service in the form of winter nets, Fantasy Bob cast around this internet thing for some advice.  He was after some hints that would banish his life long weakness against the inswinging yorker.  Actually such is FB's skill that any ball pitched up on his leg stump will look like the most devastating  toe crusher from Malinga or Waqar Younis.

Surely these days there would be an app which would help?  There seems to be an app for just about everything else.  Perhaps if batting apps must be a thing of the future, help could be found from the range of instructional stuff of varying quality on YouTube.

But nothing quite met his needs, for FB required something deeper.  Then he came across some research materials approaching batting from a scientific, biomechanical, sporty-physics, jargony, earnest kind of manner.  Could this be the key?  A bit of science would help, surely. He began to read............

'Cricket batting is an example of a dynamic interceptive action, placed by Whiting in his second, most complex, category of ball skills – encompassing task constraints where a ball has to be received and sent away within the same movement.'   FB thinks this means that you have to hit a moving ball.  Presumably the less complex category of ball skills is hitting a non-moving ball - but if this is what Professor Whiting thinks, then he hasn't witnessed FB's repeated disasters on the golf course.

 'Batting in cricket requires players to select the most appropriate shot from a wide repertoire of attacking and defensive strokes.'  The reference to a wide repertoire of shots must be interpreted carefully in FB's case.  FB recognises that the selection of the shot is a critical factor.  Having selected his shot many years ago, FB will seek to apply it to all deliveries.  

'Successful interception of the cricket ball by the batsman requires the cricket bat to be manoeuvred into the right place at the right time, so that the ball can be struck with the required force to send it in an appropriate direction (Savelsbergh and Bootsma).' FB is grateful to Professors Savelsbergh and Bootsma for this insight which has previously escaped him.  He has regularly manoeuvred the cricket bat into the right place at the wrong time, which is only marginally worse than manoeuvring the bat into the wrong place at the right time.  He is sure he has also managed to manoeuvre the bat into the wrong place at the wrong time - which takes considerable skill and imagination.  

'To achieve this goal, research described in many chapters of this text suggest that skilled batsmen require a combination of unobtrusive footwork, co-ordinated limb movements and precision gripping to deal effectively with the severe task constraints encountered when batting.'  FB accepts that the reference to skilled batsmen here may make the succeeding text of no relevance to him.  He does however think he has an advanced, possibly unique, understanding of the many severe task constraints encountered when  batting.  He might not previously have called them severe task constraints and so is glad to know their proper technical name.  They include the nagging worry that he might not have locked the back door on leaving home, the team might not have brought enough goodies for tea and he might have to sacrifice his empire biscuit to the opposing skipper, that that lunge forward to the preceding delivery may well have done something to his hamstring, or if not that it has ripped the seam of his trousers and his arse is hanging out in very decorative fashion.........  These and many more are severe task constraints - added to which the bowler is about to launch that inswinging yorker in his direction again.............

FB fears that is researches have left him no wiser.  However he has long contemplated leaving his body to medical science once his innings is over.  He is now determined to leave his forward defensive stroke to science so they may ease the future suffering of mankind.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Mad Bad and Dangerous to Bowl At

George Gordon Lord Byron
Fantasy Bob has held this to himself. It would be wrong of him to try to impress with claims to famous ancestry. But on the day that in 1812 the great Romantic poet Lord Byron made his maiden speech to the House of Lords (in defence of Luddites in Nottinghamshire) he thinks readers may wish to know that somewhere in FB's genetic mix is a link with this very Byron. It is very remote and beyond FB's capability to describe. A cousin of a cousin of a something or other.  Perhaps one chromosome has come down.

at Aberdeen Grammar School
Although Byron was born in London, his mother was from the north-east of Scotland and, following the type of family disruption that was all too common among the aristocracy, he spend his formative years in Aberdeen.  He received his first education at Aberdeen Grammar School, an institution which also faced the challenge of educating FB not so many years after Byron had left. After FB Lord Byron is the school's most famous alumnus and there is a fine statue of him in the school grounds. 

FB's world wide readership may struggle to see any of this genetic inheritance in FB. No romantic poetry has flowed from his pen,  ladies have not thrown themselves at him nor yet has he been venerated as the hero of the Greek struggle for national liberty. FB does however attribute his fondness for a biscuit to his Byronic inheritance.

Nevertheless a not so well known Byronic characteristic may be evident in FB. For Lord Byron was a cricketer and played at Lords. Not the present Lords admittedly, but Thomas Lord's Ground which was at Dorset Square about a mile south of the present ground. 

In 1801 Byron went from Aberdeen Grammar School to Harrow (an educational institution of considerably less cachet which has no statue of him outside it). In 1805 the chaps at Eton challenged Harrow to a test of cricketing skills and on 2 August 1805 (just a few months before the battle of Trafalgar) the match took place. Despite his lameness, caused by a malformation in his foot, Byron blagged his way onto the Harrow team. He was allowed to bat with a runner. Harrow suffered an innings defeat - but without Byron the defeat might have been worse for he reported in a letter,
'We have played the Eton and were most confoundedly beat; however it was some comfort to me that I got 11 notches in the first innings and 7 in the second, which was more than any of our side except Brockman and Ipswich could contrive to hit.
'After the match we dined together and were extremely friendly, not a single discordant note was uttered by either party. To be sure we were most of us rather drunk and went to the Haymarket Theatre, where we kicked up a row as you may suppose, with so many Harrovians and Etonians met at one place.'
Lord Byron would therefore fit well into the Carlton family. 

Lady Caroline Lamb
The Eton and Harrow match occurred sporadically in the immediately subsequent years but became part of the social and cricketing calendar from the 1850s on. There is no record of Byron's further cricketing achievements. His poetry writing and extravagantly colourful lifestyle probably got in way of net practice. In 1812 the publication of the first 2 cantos of his narrative poem The Childe Harold made him an overnight sensation - as he wrote, 'I awoke one morning and found myself famous.'

His athletic efforts from then on are dominated by swimming feats - the Hellespont, the mouth of the Tagus and from the Lido to the Rialto in Venice in particular. And to the bedding of ladies, the most celebrated of which was Lady Caroline Lamb. It was she who coined the phrase that will always be associated with this ex-cricketer, when she said that Byron was 'Mad Bad and Dangerous to Bowl At'.  There then is the genetic thing coming out - because that's Just like Fantasy Bob.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Indoor nets

Torture chamber
Friends and relations - not that he has many of the former and most of the latter have disowned him - have been a bit worried about Fantasy Bob in recent weeks.  His shuffling gait is even more shuffling.  His haunted look even more haunted.  His exhausted sigh wholly and totally exhausted. Oh that this too too solid flesh would..........whatever, it's just too too solid.

To the medically and psychiatrically qualified, these symptoms can only mean one thing.  FB has been attending indoor nets.  They offer a cruel reminder of the passing of time.  The lights that seemed so bright just last year seem that bit dimmer - surely the staff can clean the shades at least once a year.  That bouncing run up of old barely bouncing and to describe it as a run is probably contrary to the Trades Description legislation.  Fielding practice seems guaranteed to produce only a couple of broken fingers rather than hone those keenly honed reflexes and panther like silken movements in the covers.  It is all hugely enjoyable.  Thank the Lord for Radox.

FB has been road testing his new bat for the last couple of weeks.  An imposition on his precarious finances made necessary by the wanton destruction of his previous timber by a youthful bowler at the end of last season.  The new blade, a replacement long handle Gray Nicoll Nitro, arrived at Christmas time and has been subject to several extended innings in front of the wardrobe mirror prior to its formal inauguration.  Everything looked good.

However FB is sad to report that he has been sent what is obviously a defective instrument. For his 2 sessions at the nets have produced a range of red marks down the inside edge but none anywhere near the middle of the blade.  He will therefore have to consider parcelling this bat up and sending it back to the makers with a request that they replace it with a bat that works.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Velodrome

Fantasy Bob is pleased to read that Britain’s cyclists have pronounced themselves happy with their new Velodrome, specially constructed for the coming London Olympics at outrageous expense. They are expecting it to deliver record breaking performances.

Apparently one characteristic of the track is that the finish line is further down the home straight than other tracks – FB knows nothing about cycling but he might have thought records would be more likely to broken if the finish line was brought nearer the start line.

FB is endlessly confused by the myriad of strange events that form the cycling competition. It wasn’t like that when he got his Cycling Proficiency Certificate. Even so, FB understands that the Olympic committee is giving consideration to additional events based on simulating real cycling experiences, most particularly an event which has cyclists speeding down pavements knocking over pedestrians here and there. Mrs FB attests that the practice track for this event has been situated on her walking route between home and office – as a result of which she is a medal prospect for the complimentary event of dodging cyclists. Her vigorously brandished umbrella and suggestions where the cyclists can put their 24 gear shifts would also gain her additional style points.

However Edinburgh Council’s imaginative plans for a pothole dodging race have been abandoned when it was found that there is not enough track between the potholes to make a viable track.

But FB has also noted how science is coming to the aid of the cyclists, as nothing is left to chance in the pursuit of completely useless medals. A significant factor is the weather – notwithstanding the fact that the events are all indoors. The arena is apparently kept at a constant temperature of 28 degrees – that is quite a bit cooler than the conditions found throughout the cricket season at Carlton’s Grange Loan HQ. But other factors are important too – humidity and air pressure. Together they affect the density of the air as the boffin investigating all this says ‘The higher the air density, the harder it is to push through the air.’  Doh - isn't science wonderful?  This means that low pressure is what these lycra-wrapped peddlers are hoping for during the summer. Summer low pressure is associated with rain and squalls. So if the cycling records tumble, it’ll be another bad summer for cricketers.

In the spirit of scientific enquiry, under the supervision of go-ahead club Carlton's top sports scientists Fantasy Bob took part in some of the highly secret tests to determine the implications for cricketers. He and Sir Chris Hoy were tested under a range of conditions. While it was a strain to be assessed against Edinburgh’s finest elite competitor, Hoy came through pretty well.

FB recently gained exclusive access to the report and shares them here with his worldwide readership.

Weather Factor
Sir Chris Hoy
Fantasy Bob
High temperature
Super fast – expect records to tumble
Low temperature
Not so fast but gold medals assured
Low Pressure
Low air density – whoosh!
High Pressure
Not so fast but still a winner
Low Humidity
Greased lightning
High Humidity
Fast but a bit more sweaty

Friday, 24 February 2012


Once cricketers have exhausted the nostalgic recollection of batsmen or bowlers long gone and matches well and truly over; once their wistful reminiscences have dwelt on items of equipment and clothing and generalised to what was fashionable when they were young and eager; once they have relived their dancing days in reviving the dance-hall, or disco, or club hits of their day, there is only one true subject for nostalgia - food.  For food brings memories of home and origin and the route to a man's nostalgia lies through his stomach.

Bread and Mucky Fat - 35p
Fantasy Bob is stimulated to these philosophical posturings by a recent piece in the Guardian's food blog about the mucky fat butty.  Apparently this splendidly named item was a delicacy of the English north-west and is occasionally seen still in the area.  While the author of this piece rather delicately reported that this delicacy is basically bread spread with lard, but rather than sound off in a Guardian-type way about the perils of eating such food, she then reviewed some other very local food products of days gone by.

But FB sticks on the mucky fat butty - the mucky fat in question would not be the highly processed lard which is still available as a cooking medium but dripping with bits of whatever meat it came from in it (hence mucky).  Nowadays cricketers have long eschewed dripping, lard and fat for healthier alternatives including olive oil, virgin, first pressing, extra virgin, blah blah, grapeseed oil, walnut oil - in fact any oil full of noncholesterolunsaturatedomega3 and all that stuff.  But for the nostalgia hound, fat is the boys.  When FB was growing up he had a balanced diet - fruit and vegetables were always part of any meal.  But the fat content of his diet was exponential compared to today.  Lard and cooking fat were used as a cooking medium and in home-baking.  Butter was that bit too expensive for the thrifty Scot - who felt that butter based baking was a bit too rich in any case.

Here are the 5 top fat products that children of his generation in Aberdeen will find loom large in their nostalgia fantasies:

Mealie puddings - (known elsewhere as white puddings) - oatmeal, onion and suet/lard packed in a sausage skin.  Often served as a main course with Chips - home made and cooked in dripping/lard

Fried Bread - a slice of white pan loaf soaked in hot dripping

Herrings - tossed in oatmeal and fried in dripping - much of the greasiness was actually hugely healthy fish oil so FB is cheating putting that in but it is a very nostalgic item given the disappearance of

Potted Heid (or Hough) - low quality meat, lard based gravy pressed into small tubs - used as a sandwich spread

Rowies - don't be fooled these can kill
Rowies - now this is the daddy of them all.  Otherwise known as a buttery, or an Aberdeen Roll (or Croissant ha, ha) - this is a roll made with such a high proportion of lard that it slides around the plate.  It was said to be invented for the trawlerman to take on his voyages as a source of energy and sustenance.  It is highly salted and so could keep for days.  Don't be fooled by the Marks and Spencers alternative which is made with vegetable oil and is very tame.  A traditional rowie has 300 calories and 30g of saturated fat.  It's for grown ups.

All these would slow any team down if they were to be found on the cricket tea table.

Too much for FB
But fat in the diet has vanished in other areas as well as sunny Aberdeen.

FB's late father in law who was born in Poland used to attack with relish on a daily basis a delicacy called griebenschmaltz liberally spread on a slice of bread.   Greibenschmaltz is German for mucky fat (just about) - the version that FB's father in law extolled was in fact rendered goose fat, but there are duck and pork based versions too.

Now FB would just about take on a mealie pudding or a rowie, but he never quite met his father in law's griebenschmaltz challenge.  He was a continual source of disappointment as a son-in-law.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Carlton Affair

 leaves after delivering his letter
Senior figures at Edinburgh's go-ahead cricket club Carlton have released the text of a letter they received this week.

 It is understood to have been sent via his lawyer by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has been helping police with their enquiries over allegations of sex rings in France.
Dear Go-ahead Carlton Cricket Club,
I am tres tres sorry that this messy petite business in France has been dubbed the Carlton affair and may have inadvertantly caused the great name of your go-ahead club to be questioned by unscrupulous media hacks.  It is, how you say, a cock-up - an unfortunate phrase in the circumstances.  Some hotel here named itself in honour of your club hoping to emulate your go-aheadness (epic fail IMHO).
I acknowledge that I have had no association with your go-ahead club and have never played for you - not even for Fantasy Bob's All Star 4th XI which surely needs a little vroom-vroom such as I could give it. Nor have I been to any orgies in your well appointed Grange Loan ground, although if you are planning to organise any in future I would be happy to offer advice as to how to ensure they go with a swing.
I also would like to make clear that when I said a person would find it difficult to tell the difference between a naked cricketer and any other naked person, I had never seen Fantasy Bob emerging from the shower after a long afternoon bowling up the hill against the wind.  
With best wishes for the coming season
PS please send autographed photo of your ever popular skipper Fraggle Watts, the girls here keep asking after him.
On hearing of the letter, Carlton's Doughty (but nameless) Groundsman expressed his disappointment that Mr Strauss-Kahn had been overlooked for the position of social convenor at the club.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


 Aberdeen -
typical street scene
Fantasy Bob doesn't know his ash from his elbow.

FB hesitates to make further reference to his growing up in that sub-tropical paradise in the North East of Scotland known more widely as Aberdeen. But he must. While he was well and thoroughly schooled in the ways of the Church of Scotland, he cannot remember too much fuss being made of Lent and Ash Wednesday. Pancakes were always welcome on Pancake Day but that was that.

Maybe it was because in that sub-tropical paradise there was already enough privation so the thought of giving anything up for 40 days was a bit too much to ask.  After all, it was not as if Aberdonians had samba'd their way up to Mardi Gras in scanty spangled bikinis to give themselves something to recover from. And giving up something might have targetted biscuits, from which no Aberdonian can be parted. The population was sufficiently devout without additional devotion.


So ash has other significances in FB's tiny mind. Most particularly is the fact that cricket stumps are typically made from the wood. The reference books suggest that ash is used because it is has excellent properties of resilience and flexibility.

But this is very prosaic - too prosaic for FB.  FB thinks is it more likely that
ash was selected for stumps for a far deeper reason - one in which the symbolic position of the batsman is to the fore. Regrettably with modern education being what it is, the true lore has been lost. In Norse mythology it wasYggdrasil, the world ash tree, which held up the entire world and nurtured it and the first man, Ask, was formed from an ash tree. The ash exudes a sugary substance 2 which, by traditional accounts, was fermented to create the Norse Mead of Inspiration.

What could be more symbolic of the batsman's lonely vigil than to be guarding the tree of creation? Regrettably even on the rare occasions that FB has successfully defended the World Ash Tree he has found precious little by way of Mead of Inspiration at the crease.

Pieces of the World Ash Tree
More fitting to FB's case is that the reference books say that ash wood makes excellent firewood. And that is what the stumps behind him, carefully honed from Yggdrasil as they are, frequently become as he misses another straight one. Firewood.

FB doesn't know his ash from his elbow.  Perhaps FB should have done more to seek forgiveness during all those many Lents so long ago............................

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Reach for the Sky

When Fantasy Bob was growing up - a phrase which implies that he may now have grown up, which is open to doubt. But certainly when FB was younger than he is now, the BBC seemed to have a library totalling 3 films which is used to show with commendable regularity on high days and holidays. One of those was Reach for the Sky, which starred Kenneth More and told the tale of air ace Sir Douglas Bader CBE, DSO & Bar,DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL and his determined response to losing his legs in a flying accident before the 2nd World War. The film showed how he mastered walking with artificial legs to the extent that he returned to active and heroic service in 1939.

The BBC's film library was all like that - full of stuff showing typical British pluck, indomitable spirit and stiff upper lipness and a distinct absence of bad language even under the most adverse of situation.
FB mentions this because 21 February is the birthday of Douglas Bader, who was born in 1910 and died in 1982.  Reach for the Sky may be accurate in many ways, it may be fictional in others (in particular the amiable and polite Kenneth More was nothing like the headstrong Bader in real life who used bad language with the enthusiasm of a contemporary comedian).  What the film does not show is Bader's cricket career.

As a schoolboy and young officer, Bader was an outstanding sportsman.  Although his preference seems to have been rugby, and he may well have been capped had his accident not ensued, he was a talented cricketer.  He played for the RAF in their match against the Army at the Oval in 1931, which had first class status, and so makes it to Wisden.  He scored 65 and 1.

Bader also played cricket in a German prisoner of war camp - despite his disability.  He had been shot down over France in 1941.  It is not known whether such close up experience of cricket had a significant impact on German morale.  FB would like to think cricket's contribution to the defeat of Nazism was important.  Bader certainly would have supported this - as a prisoner he was determined to make life difficult for his captors and was a serial escapee to the extent that the camp officers threatened to take his legs away.  Instead he was confined to the escape-proof Colditz - where there was no cricket pitch.  No wonder he wanted to escape.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Movie News

Fantasy Bob brings you news of a new cinematic release that will interest all cricketers. 

Akmal is convinced that his father has left a final catch behind for him hidden somewhere. He begins searching - he stands up - every ball could have that secret - the snick that fits his mysterious idea of a lbw. His journey annoys the hell out of every batsman but takes him to a greater understanding of the observable world around him through endless DRS replays.

Akmal is appealing at a cinema near you now.....................extremely loud and incredibly close.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Fantasy Bob has obtained the following spoiler for the new series of the ever popular dramality show......................coming to your screen soon.

When hunk Merv Eastfield comes to town he has only one burning ambition and nothing can stop him. 

He has had it with line and length, he wants to set up the glitziest nail bar in all of Essex. He knows what he wants and he wants it now. 

But Easty lacks one thing. Moolah. Readies. Dosh. (In fact, he lacks 2 things, moolah and brains, but that it another issue.)  

So he is easy meat - and there is a lot of meat about, mostly in short skirts and high heels.  When local bad boy Swedish Keenaria swings by he seems to have the answer to Easty's prayers.  And bottle blondes come Easty's way offering themselves for manicures - all he has to do is slip a few fake suntans their way.   He just drops it short.  Puts it a bit wide.  No one gets hurt.

Easty's mates think it's just banter, but when they see that plastic bag full of bling on the bed they 'fink summink must be well dodgy'.  Before Easty and Swedish can react the Old Bill arrive.

Is there a culture of denial in Essex?  Everyone denies it.  

This series will run for four months. 

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Essex - the First XI

Saturday, 18 February 2012


Fantasy Bob would like to apologise for any impression that he may give that he feels any emotion that could be described as schadenfreude at the troubles faced by Rangers FC.  He recognises that many cricketers in many different walks of life, and for different reasons, will have that smug feeling of warmness at these events.

Schadenfreude is an emotion unworthy of FB (although he quite enjoys it now and then).  No person from Aberdeen, FB's home town, would feel anything remotely near schadenfreude at the possibility that Rangers might be wiped off the map.

FB has noted the news about the £24m that Rangers' administrators cannot trace and confirms that he does not have it - but then nor do Rangers.  He has noted the suggestions that other clubs cannot do without Rangers - but he is confident that go-ahead Edinburgh club Carlton will do perfectly well.    He has noted that Mr Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, visited Scotland yesterday presumably to retrieve the UK stockpile of Union Jacks which is held at Ibrox........

Instead FB will confine his emotional outburst to sincere congratulations to Scotland batsmen Richie Berrington on his maiden first Class century and Simon Smith's maiden half century in the match against UAE.

See that Freude - it's much better without the Schaden.

PS - Fantasy Bob would like to apologise for any impression that he may give that he does not feel any emotion that could be described as schadenfreude at the reported demise of the Sun newspaper.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Cricket on Ice

Cricket on ice may well sound like what is to be expected during early season games in Scotland – and indeed mid and late season games in a number of exposed Scottish grounds that Fantasy Bob remembers with a fond shiver.

But Fantasy Bob is confident that his world wide readership, effortlessly familiar as they are with up-market destinations around the world, will associate cricket on ice with the annual cricket festival that has taken place at this time of year in St Moritz in Switzerland since 1988. FB guesses that on this account St Moritz is also the home of cricket on ice, although an event describing itself as The Ice Cricket World Championship has been held annually in the Estonian city of Tallinn since 2004.

In St Moritz yesterday, today and tomorrow a mat is laid along the ice on the frozen lake and stumps set to allow teams to compete over 20 or 25 overs per side in a round robin format. Just like the real thing - except that there are no grass stains on players’ trousers. 

St Moritz is among the most expensive ski resorts in the world and arguably can be regarded as the home of the Alpine tourist industry.  In 1864 a confident St Moritz hotelier made a wager with British summer guests: that they should return in winter and if it was not to their liking, he would pay for the cost of their journey from London and back. If they found St Moritz attractive in winter, he would invite them to stay as his guests for as long as they wished.  They are still there………… The first tourist office in Switzerland was established that year in the town and St. Moritz developed rapidly in the late nineteenth century. St Moritz’s Kulm Hotel installed the first electric light in Switzerland in 1878. The first European Ice-Skating Championships were held at St. Moritz in 1882 and first golf tournament in the Alps held in 1889.  And so on and so forth..........

St Moritz enjoys over 300 days sun per year – which is about 299 more days than the West of Scotland get on a good year. It therefore lays on lots of distractions to amuse its well-heeled clientele who seem to tire of endless trips round exclusive boutiques. Besides cricket, St Moritz also has horse racing on ice (the white turf) and a polo competition on ice. It is also the home of the Cresta Run the oldest and last remaining natural bob sleigh run. The 1722 meter long structure opened in 1904 and is regarded as the world biggest ice sculpture - for it is built every winter from ground up with only snow and water.

Regrettably, with the price of a beer in St Moritz approximately equivalent to the cost of a new Gray Nicolls Scoop, and significant uncertainty as to the availability of empire biscuits in St Moritz, it is unlikely that FB will have the chance to show his skills to the crowds who flock to watch cricket on the ice. They don’t know what they’re missing…or maybe they are all too well aware.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Meigle Knights

Fantasy Bob is sure that the hearts and minds of his world wide readership are with Scotland's cricketers as they meet the challenge of the UAE in their ICC Championship match that gets underway in Sharjah today.

Sir Drummo
Scotland have played 2 matches in the round-robin tournament. While they are unbeaten, they have had 2 draws which puts them a bit behind table toppers Ireland who scraped a second win last week against Kenya after being bowled out for 75 in the first innings. So come on Scotland.

Travelling from the dead of Scotland's winter to the Middle East for a global cricket tournament seems to FB a trek of the sort that once was enshrined in the legends of Arthur - although there is no evidence that the Knights of the Round Table were all that keen on cricket, preferring jousting and similar activities. However Scottish skipper Gordon Drummond may well have a connection with Arthurian lore and be a worthy successor to the Gawains and Lancelots. He could be Sir Drummo.................

Drummo was born and bred in the Perthshire town of Meigle. But there are other reasons to celebrate Meigle. For one thing, it contains the home and the burial place of long past British Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Campbell-Bannerman was the first holder of the office to be called Prime Minister (previously known as the First Lord of the Treasury) and he led a liberal administration which introduced, among other things, free school meals and pensions for the over 70s. While Bannerman had no reported interest in cricket, he had to resign through ill health before he could consider legislation for free cricket coaching for all children.  But FB digresses - he was building up Drummo as an Arthurian hero...................

Meigle 2
And here is the point, Meigle is also celebrated for its fine collection of Pictish carved stones. Perhaps the finest of these is known, with scant regard for poetry, as Meigle 2. It is 2.5m high and probably once stood beside the entrance to the churchyard. The stone features a wheel-headed cross with raised bosses, resembling the rivet heads of metalwork, and interlaced images of beasts on the shaft.  On the reverse is a hunting scene and what appears to be beasts tearing at a figure.

There is a local tradition that Meigle 2 marked the grave of Vanora - and there is a mound in the churchyard that bears that name to this day. Vanora will be better known to FB's readers as Queen Guinevere, wife of King Arthur, who, according to one set of stories about her, was abducted by King Mordred and held captive on Berry Hill, near Meigle. When she returned to her husband, he sentenced her to death by being torn apart by wild beasts. The scene on the stone is believed to depict this tragic event.  Carving the scene on a stone was the best they could do in those days, there being no phone cameras available at the time to capture the image and post it on Facebook.

So, come on goodly knight Sir Drummo.  Excalibur to the fore.  Come on Scotland.
Meigle Churchyard - Vanora's Mound


Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Would she recognise Fantasy Bob?
It looks like it's Adele's year.

Fantasy Bob has little idea who Adele is, or what club she plays for.  He is unsure as to her bowling action.  If she came and sat down beside him on the bus, there is as much chance of her recognising FB as of FB recognising her.  More, probably.

But FB does not wish to demean her achievements.  He understands that Adele has dominated this year's Grammy and Brit awards, sweeping up armfuls of trophies just like FB at the end of the season.  Good for her.

It looks like it is Adele's year alright, for FB can share with his worldwide readership his exclusive access to the winners of the forthcoming prestigious ICC awards:
  • Cricketer of the Year: Adele
  • Test player of the year: Adele 
  • ODI player of the year: Adele
  • ICC Emerging player of the year: Adele
  • Best T20 performance of the year: Adele
  • Spirit of Cricket award: Adele
  • ICC Associate player of the year: Adele
  • Umpire of the year: Adele
  • Women's Cricketer of the Year: Stuart Broad

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

St Valentine

Cricketers this morning will rise expectantly and wait for the post to be delivered with keener than usual anticipation.   On other days the pile of junk mail is leavened only by credit card statements and council tax demands.  Not the kind of material to excite the cricketer.  Once again that kit that was ordered many months ago has failed to be delivered despite several increasingly acrimonious communications with the dispatch company which appears to be located on another planet.

But on 14 February the cricketer is expectant - there will be anonymous tributes from secret admirers that will quicken the pulse and give them a warm feeling in the googlies. There may even be some heart shaped chocolates and other tokens, although Fantasy Bob laments that the heart shaped empire biscuit remains a business opportunity for some enterprising baker to grasp.  And the thing about those anonymous messages is that it is clear exactly who they are from.

No goat's blood please
There is a suggestion that all this St Valentine stuff was thought up by the early Christians to replace the pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia which really got the Ancient Romans going at this time of the year.  Its rituals included the sacrificing of a goat. The priests would then strip the goat's hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. This was meant to assist fertility.

FB tried this one year with Mrs FB.  It has to be said that she did not take kindly to the gentle slap of blood-soaked goat's hide as she came down for breakfast, failing to interpret it as a gesture of his undying love.  Additional jewellery had to be purchased to compensate and FB has not ventured outwith the conventional territory of heart and rose decorated cards and champagne ever since.

Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the first in literature to make formal reference to Valentine tributes passing between admirers. Cricketers will also know Chaucer for the Canterbury Tales contains one of the first uses of the word cricke - meaning a stick - the word from which cricket is thought by some to derive. Having made that bright start however the rest of the Canterbury Tales is pretty light on cricketing interest and occasionally lapses into 15th Century bawdiness of a sort that is inappropriate to share with the younger members of FB's All Star Fourth XI.
on his way to crease

But what got Chaucer going on the Valentine thing?  Who was this Saint Valentine? Your guess is as good as anyones.  Soaked with goat's blood as they were, the Romans evidently had a thing about the name Valentine for they martyred 14 of them.  So there are alternative candidates for whose day it is that inspires all this anonymous card sending.

Fourteen Valentines - that's enough martyrs for a full cricket team, 12th man scorer and umpire. Readers may think it unlikely that a same named team could be possible, but there is a documented instance of 2 teams turning out to play each other in Bradford in which all 22 players were named Patel.   FB has been unable to establish whether they got 22 Valentine cards, or just one.

That scorecard - next fixture v Valentines XI

Monday, 13 February 2012

Whole lotta shakin' goin' on

The non-handshake that shook the world
Fantasy Bob woke up yesterday to discover that World War 3 has broken out over a handshake that wasn't.  The circumstances are all too tedious for Fantasy Bob to relate, and involve that rare circumstance of footballers behaving badly.  But it did get him thinking about handshakes.

The world record for the longest handshake is held jointly by Alastair Galpin and Don Purdon from New Zealand and Nepalese brothers Rohit and Santosh Timilsina and stands at 33 hours and 3 minutes. And in 1977 Joseph Lazarow Mayor of New Jersey shook more than 11,000 hands in a day to set a world record.  Either of these records is considerably more shaking than was achieved by Luis Suarez on Saturday.
Suarez's badge -  lost in the post

But Suarez is not the only one who appears to have reservations about the handshake - Donald Trump, that ever popular and ego-driven despoiler of Scotland's national beauty, has said 'I think the handshake is barbaric... Shaking hands, you catch the flu, you catch this, you catch all sorts of things.' He joins a long list of celebrity germophobes now elongated by Luis Suarez.

There is also a movement - in the USA, where else - seeking to outlaw handshakes and a nifty badge is available to warn people that you are not a shaker. Perhaps Luis Suarez had joined this movement on Suaturday morning and was waiting for his membership badge to come through.

But cricketers could not join this movement for cricketers are compulsive handshakers.  Any quiet moment in a match can be filled by a handshake.  In his role as skipper of the All Star Carlton 4th XI each match day sees FB get pretty close to Mayor Lazaroz's record. He has to shake hands with the opposition skipper before the toss during the toss and after the toss. Achievements on the field are met with celebratory handshakes and the touching of gloves by batting partners that now seems to be part of the rules is now recognised as a form of handshake - apparently named the dap.  It is also a matter of regret that the handshake is being replaced at some points by high fives or even high tens - FB has written to the ICC inviting them to review this development with the suggestion that they put a stop to it.

Cricketers in Scotland
handshaking as nature intended 
And then there is the all round handshaking at the end of the match. No wonder FB feels tired at the end of a match. Luis Suarez is not the kind of person to inspire sympathy, but perhaps as well as being concerned over germs he was concerned about his fitness and didn't want to tire himself out by too much shaking.

FB thinks he does a pretty good handshake - it may well be the best part of his game. But he is concerned about how he measures up to the formula prescribed by the handshake expert.  In this he may not be alone for research suggests that as many as two in three people (70 per cent) have a crisis of confidence when it comes to performing the act of a human handshake.  So Professor Geoffrey Beattie, head of psychological sciences at University of Manchester, has devised an equation taking into account 12 key measures to define a positive handshake:

PH = √ (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + π{(42)(42)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(42 )(42)}2
Some handshakes
are more historic even than Suarez
Chairman Mao and President Nixon

To be honest, this is what FB has always thought.  So FB is working hard to develop his hand-shake on the lines of this formula and he recommends that Luis Suarez does the same.

In the meantime - here is a version of the Jerry Lee Lewis Classic Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin'  On recorded in 1973 by Vinegar Joe which rejoices in having Elkie Brooks as vocalist. Come on over baby....................

Sunday, 12 February 2012


The air-waves have been ablaze these past few weeks with news of the bi-centenary of Charles Dickens.  So much so that the centenary of the celebrated American painter Jackson Pollock, who was born in January 2012, has gone without much notice.

'Why oh why', readers are thinking, 'is Fantasy Bob tormenting us?  Surely FB means Shaun Pollock - but he's never a hundred years old...............We're confused.'

FB has to come clean.  There is no relation between the 2 Pollocks.  While Wisden doesn't reveal much about Jackson Pollock's bowling action, they do confirm that at the height of his career he was considered to be the most significant American painter of his time.  Perhaps Pollock's significance may have waned in the years since his death in 1956 but in the years up to then he was a pioneer of what became known as action painting, where the physical activity of getting paint on to the surface was important to the work.  In his case his most important works were accomplished by dripping paint onto the canvas which lay flat on the floor.  Highly intricate patterns would be formed through the overlapping drip patterns of a variety of outswingers and inswingers, although critics are still divided as to whether he deployed the doosra at all.

Action painting
Action bowling

It is hard to believe that Jackson Pollock was not a savant about how cricket would develop.  This can be clearly seen in looking at these 2 great works which show how he drew inspiration from yet to be developed cricket technology - and his yet to be born namesake.
Jackson Pollock

Shaun Pollock

Saturday, 11 February 2012

D&L 2

KP celebrating
the new statistical method
The Duckworth Lewis method of calculating target scores in weather interrupted matches is firmly established at all levels of cricket and highly popular with statisticians and anorak wearers the world over.  Even Fantasy Bob has celebrated its virtues and its little known origins in popular entertainment. However yesterday saw the unveiling in the UAE of a new addition to the statistical armoury - the Duckscored and Useless method.

Under this method a team batting first who is hopeless, abject, pathetic, or has other important things to do rather than scratch around at the crease all afternoon, can nominate a score which they think would be a worthy reflection of their innate talents as the target for the team batting second.  This is known as the Lions' total.

FB is confident that the launch of this new approach will be deemed a triumphant success and the executive authorities of the East of Scotland Cricket Association and lesser authorities will be scrutinising the method closely to establish whether it is appropriate for their own use.  FB recommends that the following considerations be taken into account in devising the rules for application of the new method in Scottish leagues:
  • A team deciding not to bat at all shall forfeit 50 runs from what would otherwise be considered to be the Lions' total.  Where watching football is suspected by the umpires as part or all of the reason that forfeit shall be doubled.
  • Any team containing FB which is required to set a Lions' total shall be credited 50 runs above what would otherwise be the Lion's total - not because FB is a bit of a ringer with the bat (which he is) but to compensate them for his advancing ineptitude in the field and the ease batters now find in smacking his pies to the boundary.
  • A team which is deemed to provide an unsatisfactory tea shall forfeit 25 runs from what would otherwise be considered to be the Lion's total.  The rules shall clearly provide that FB will be the sole arbiter of the adequacy  of the tea provided.  A team not providing empire biscuits shall forfeit an additional 10 runs for every empire biscuit that FB thinks he might have fancied that afternoon, subject to a maximum of 12.
  • Any disagreement as to the Lion's total may be settled by reference to the Court of Session.  Legal aid may be available.  

Friday, 10 February 2012


Bent arm suspicion
Fearing further uncontrollable hysteria in the English press, the ICC have been quick to issue a statement clearing the bowling action of Saeed Redknapp.  

They have said that a court case earlier this week had established that Saeed's action is well within the ICC range of tolerance.  The case followed allegations that Saeed had sought to hide 189,000 deliveries from the umpiring authorities during the recent Test series.

The ICC have stated that while Saeed does bowl with a bend in his arm, it does not straighten at the point of delivery more than about eight degrees on average. There is no relation between this action and the presence of bank accounts in Monaco.  There had been confusion when Saeed referred to a 23.5 degree angle in an interview this week but this is now thought to refer either to the average angle of his wallet as it leaves his pocket - or the temperature in Abu Dhabi.

The ICC's statement leaves Redknapp free to prepare for the forthcoming ODI series with England.  Meanwhile Harry Ajmal has emerged as a favourite for the suddenly vacant England football manager's post.  In a radical innovation he will be selected for the post through acclamation on Twitter.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Artist

It sounds like it should be something that Dr Samuel Johnston might have said to Boswell while he looked up from his dictionary-making, 'Sir, I do believe that there is no misery known to man that could not be made passably better by a spot of tap-dancing.'

Fantasy Bob is pretty sure that Johnson did not make such an utterance, if only because he would not have known what tap-dancing was.  He could have looked for enlightenment in the dictionary he was compiling but he would do so without success. 'Sir, I cannot find this word tap-dancing - what incompetent wrote this wretched tome?' Thus frustrated he would throw the volume to the floor.  Boswell knew better than to point out that the author of the dictionary was the man himself.

Johnson was fully aware of cricket which did feature in his dictionary.  He reports to Boswell that it was played when he was at Oxford in 1728 - and he may well have played it himself.  But Johnson was frustrated in his search for an understanding of tap-dancing because in the 18th Century it did not exist, certainly not at Oxford.  It probably began in the mid 1800s when minstrel shows gained popularity in America, from where it made its way to vaudeville, Broadway and Hollywood.

Beaten 3-0?
The triumph of hope over experience - 
But Fantasy Bob was put in mind of the non-existent quote by Johnson upon a recent, and these days all too rare, visit to the cinema where the film The Artist finishes with a big tap dancing number. And very fine it is too.  It completely redeems the film in which there was no engagement with cricketing issues and sends the audience into the street with a smile on their face.  'There is no misery known to man that could not be made passably better by a spot of tap dancing.'

There has been remorse and self examination following England's humiliation by Pakistan.  There will, the world are promised, be lessons learned and strategies devised.  There will be analysis and discussion and no doubt graphs will be prepared.  But what the world really wanted was some tap dancing.  Regrettably grass is not a good surface for the art, so even had the England team made the effort they could have gone unappreciated.  But FB would like to see Test matches finish with a big production number and a happy line of tap dancing.  If the England batsmen had got to grips with tap-dancing they might even have learned something about moving their feet which could have helped them in their hour of need.  FB is sure that a meticulous coach as Andy Flower will have noted this.

And if you want to know what real tap dancing is - try this link of the Nicholas Brothers from 1943. (Look at the descent of the staircase at about 2.30 in and let your eyes water).  No spin bowler would have chance.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


There are those in the population who are can't help making patterns from any set of numbers on the page - and from time to time Fantasy Bob suffers from this affliction.  This often derided section of the community had a rare excitement at lunch on the fourth day of the recently completed Test in Dubai. The thought that England had not done too badly and were only 2 wickets down with 235 to get to pull off the win might well have stirred some pulses among the optimistic. But numerophiles will have noticed something far more interesting. For at that point the batsmen, Pietersen and Cook, both had career averages of 48.93 and the bowlers, Ajmal and Rehman, both had career averages of 26.93. The probability of this happening is in the region of the works of Shakespeare being typed by that proverbial squadron of monkeys. But it is fascinating - at least to Fantasy Bob.  Coincidence - or is it? Astrologers would also note that a full moon was on the rise.
Pietersen b Ajmal 

Having come together at this precise point in the space time continuum, the figures strayed apart again so that Pietersen having scored another 17 runs before being bowled by Ajmal ended up with his career average now at 48.69 and Cook who got another 8 runs now stands at 48.60.  Ajmal and Rehman also drifted apart. Ajmal took 3 for 51 in the final sessions and Rehman 1 for 56 to leave their averages on 26.70 and 27.37 respectively.

It is conceivable that these players will criss-cross again as their Test careers continue. What is the probability of them ending their careers with exactly the same average?  Had KP scored 13 fewer runs after lunch they would have remained on exactly the same average. He obviously had not considered this issue as he batted on after Cook's dismissal.  This is something the England management must get right in future - they need to take the coincidence out of these coincidences.  All coincidences should be carefully planned.

In the list of top 100 Test averages, there are several occasions of identical averages - more than FB expected.  Interestingly enough no England players are involved in any of the groupings, which should be an incentive to Cook and Pietersen.

There appear to be 6 groups of identical batting averages, but a closer examination finds this is a product of the rounding convention used.  Figures are reported to 2 decimal places, but have not been not rounded.  Where this convention is used, only one instance of identical averages is left.  And, numerophiles can go weak at the knees again, this involves 3 batsmen, Gary Kirsten, Misbah-ul-Haq and Justin Langer who all average 45.27.  Since Misbah is still playing - and after his triumphant victory over England may well add significantly to his 31 Tests it seems he is only temporarily parked.  So the trio is just one of those coincidences.

Bert Vogler
Forgetting the rounding up issue for the moment, Graeme Smith and AB deVilliers are both on 49.42 - so there may be a chance that they end up the same at the end of their careers.  something to watch - will they do better than Cook and Pietersen.  There is a strange symmetry between the 2 pairs.  But that may just be coincidence.

Similarly on the bowling front, there are only 3 pairs in the top 100. Again no English player is involved.  Once the figures are rounded however, there is only one pair left - J V Saunders and AE Vogler.  Both these bowlers average 22.73.  Saunders played 14 Tests for Australia between 1902 and 1908, taking 79  wickets and Vogler 15 Tests for S Africa between 1906  and 1911 taking 64 wickets.  Although their careers overlapped, they never played against each other in Tests.  However their moustaches remained the identical lengths throughout their careers. But that might just be coincidence.