Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Fantasy Bob cannot be alone in finding misleading the name given to the hurricane that has so destructively blasted New York and its environs this week. Sandy is too benign a name and does not carry much threat - by comparison the storm which struck Scotland last year was appropriately named Hurricane Bawbag.  Sandy seems to be an even bigger bawbag.

But FB's problem with the name Sandy is that, growing up the north east of Scotland, every other boy that FB ever encountered was called Sandy.  Sandys were everywhere.  Roll call at school would run: Sandy - here; Sandy, here; Sandy; here; and so on till the end of the roll................................Sandy, here; Bob.............what kind of a name is that?

These days Alexander seems less popular as a name and those who are so blessed no longer call themselves Sandy. Somehow Sandy has become more common as a girl's name, so it can be used for Hurricanes.  Alexanders now call themselves Zander or Alex or Alec....or anything really other than Sandy.

There have been some celebrated sporting Sandys - the great Sandy Lyle most prominently.  But FB cannot bring to mind any cricketing Sandys.  However there are many cricketing Alexanders - and had they hailed from the north east of Scotland all of them would have been called Sandy.  So here is FB's Sandys XI:

Sandy Stewart - 133 Tests, 8463 runs, 277 dismissals

Sandy Bedser - 51 Tests 236 wickets

Sandy Loudon- selected for theTest squad to tour Pakistan in 2005 as second spinner in support of Ashley Giles. Played one ODI v Sri Lanka in June 2006. He retired in 2007 and was linked romantically with Pippa Middleton.  (Go Sandy!)

Sandy Hales - English T20 specialist and featured in England's highest ever run chase against West Indies scoring 99 before getting out with the game almost won.

Sandy Swann - played for Northamptonshire and Lancashire scoring 3,305 first-class runs. He is the older brother of Graeme Swann and is currently the cricket correspondent of the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph.

Sandy Hearne
 - played for Kent between 1884 and 1906 and was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in1894. He also played one Test match for England in South Africa in 1892-3.

Sandy Hurwood - played 2 Tests for Australia in 1930-31.  He was renowned for his odd bowling style - taking only a couple of steps before delivering the ball.

Sandy Coxon - a Yorkshire paceman who played 1Test in 1948.

Sandy Thompson - a regular in the dominant Middlesex side of the late 1940s but overshadowed by his more illustrious team-mates Denis Compton and Bill Edrich.

Sandy Bannerman - a member of the first Australian team in England in 1878, he also paid five other visits to England, coming over with the teams of 1880, 1882, 1884, 1888 and 1893. The most famous of all stonewalling batsmen; in 1891-92, he took seven hours and a half to score 91 in a match against England. The innings was spread over three days and he scored from only five of the 204 balls bowled to him by Attewell.

Sandy Tudor - Surrey and Essex played 10 Tests before his career was disrupted by injury.  against New Zealand in 1999 he hit 99 not out, the highest-ever score by an English nightwatchman cruelly deprived of his ton when Graham Thorpe hit the winning run.

The Sandys XI

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Pippa's Cricket Tea

'It’s a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that’s the right word) before the age of thirty, on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom.
So writes Pippa Middleton in introducing her literary masterpiece Celebrate which has recently been published to great acclaim. Fantasy Bob cannot disagree with her. He has found it hard to come to terms with global recognition himself, though none of that recognition is attributable to his bottom.

FB has fingered the volume in the bookshops and very handsome it is too. He has noted the extensive guidance on Halloween parties and Burns Suppers and all other festivities. However he is shocked that for some unaccountable reason Ms Middletons publishers saw fit to exclude from the book her wisdom on that most important festivity of all - the cricket tea. FB has resorted to underhand methods to obtain her discarded text from the waste basket and in a spirit of public service shares it with his readers.

I have found that cricketers enjoy eating things when they come in from the pitch for tea. It is therefore a jolly good idea to have some things ready. You can put them on a table.

Sandwiches are a super invention, invented by some super inventor a long time ago and my family remember having them on more than one occasion. It is a super idea to make them with bread. Two slices is usually enough for each sandwich. Just lay a slice of bread beside another. Put something like a bit of cheese or meat on one of them. You can get that from a shop lots of shops have this kind of stuff. Then - heres the tricky bit. Take the other slice of bread and put it on top of the other one. The effect is magical!  Its really awfully clever. And if you are very very clever you can cut them into triangles. Its great fun.

You can think of having cakes too. They are lots of super fun. And nowadays it is so easy to find them. There are shops that sell them. I have found that they generally taste better when you take them out of the box. If you are feeling very brave and clever you can get a big cake and cut it into a number of bits called slices. So more than one cricketer can have it. I think we all know cricketers who would take the whole cake if it was not cut into slices. So you may want to prepare a day in advance for this.

Cricketers at tea can be a solemn bunch. Sometimes they need livening up with a few party games. I have found that a few rounds of musical statues can prepare them for their session in the field.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Fantasy Bob has worn the patience of his readers thin many times by suggesting that prominent works of art are based on some aspect of cricket.  The first time he played this game, they reacted with interest or faint amusement.  But the grins soon turned to fixed stares as more and more works and pillars of 20th art were given the same treatment.  Eventually there was scepticism and a chorus of, 'Come on, you're just making this up.  Can you please tell us about empire biscuits instead?  They're far more interesting.'

So FB is concerned that he may have cried wolf and his worldwide readership in their handful will not be ready for his latest.  The would be a pity. For today is the birthday of Francis Bacon, born on 28 October 1909, who was one of the most significant British painters of the mid 20th Century.  But he is one painter who did produce a significant work with a cricketing theme.

Figure in Motion was painted in 1985 and given by Bacon to his doctor.  His doctor sold it in 2010 for the modest price of $14m.

It has many characteristics instantly recognisable as Bacon's, the single colour background and the distorted, agonised facial features.  It is unclear why Bacon chose this subject, which despite FB's efforts to look for evidence otherwise is wholly absent from the rest of his work being concerned with popes and crucifiction and meat for the most part.   There are suggestions that the picture is based on David Gower, but that seems to be for no other reason than that Gower was the England captain at the time that it was painted.

Not by Francis Bacon
Indeed Gower was worthy of a painting that year for he captained England to a comprehensive 3-1 series win against Australia, leading by example with 732 runs in the series including a majestic 215 in the 5th Test at Edgbaston (see here).

But if it is Gower, it's not a very good likeness.  Nor is there much evidence of a bat in the painting so it may be that the subject is properly a wicket-keeper.  But while he has pads on, and trousers, he doesn't seem to have much by way of a shirt.
This is no doubt some profound artistic statement by Bacon who no doubt harboured a frustrated urge to play the game.

When he died in 1992, that urge remained unfulfilled. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Ceefax No More

There has been lamentation among cricketers the length and breadth of these islands.  Ceefax is no more.

It is widely reported that former Prime Minister John Major used to check the cricket scores on Ceefax between meetings.  Fantasy Bob too - not the same TV obviously, and not the same meetings. But the same cricket.

FB suspects that John Major shared his complete absence of any understanding of how Ceefax worked. But when it first arrived it seemed to him a magical vision of the future.  A TV set became something more than a TV set, and the pressing of buttons on a remote control became a new skill for a future age.  Just as being unable to find the remote became a major source of stress among cricketers.

The only page numbers from Ceefax that FB remembers are the cricket numbers, 340 for the index and 342 for the Test match scorecard. There is no cricketing reason for these numbers to be have been chosen. But chosen they were and they gave instant access to the state of play.

And now what was the future is the past.  Digitised out of existence. 340 has no meaning any more - it is just another number.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Ancient Scorecards

This might look like a biscuit - and knowing Fantasy Bob's partiality to a biscuit, you could be forgiven for thinking so.

But it is no biscuit.  It is a fragment of a series of clay tablets which contain the world's oldest undeciphered writing system known as proto-Elamite.  It is 5000 years or so old and originates in what is now south west Iran.

Scholars have laboured for many years to decipher the script.  They guess that it forms records of agrarian activity of some sort and  has a mixture of numbers and letters.  A new project is underway from the University of Oxford to crowd source clues to assist the decoding.

Fantasy Bob wonders what the fuss is.  As should any cricketer worth his salt.  A cursory glance at the script above will confirm that it is an early form of cricket scorecard.  From the Ms so prominently visible we can tell that a number of maiden overs have been bowled.  We can also tell by the + that each bowler has bowled at least one wide. There are no-balls and dot balls and a few singles. By comparison with some Carlton 4th XI scorecards it is a model of clarity and the proto-Elamites must be commended.

The fact that cricket has not previously been associated with pre-history in the Fertile Crescent is just another riddle for the scholars to ponder on.

By comparison with this proto-Elamite version, what was previously regarded as the oldest cricket scorecard is a mere youngster.  The oldest surviving scorecard is said in most of the history books to record the match between London and Slindon on 2 June 1744, which Slindon won by 55 runs.   However there is a reference to a scorecard for a match between Ham Albion and Twickenham Cricket Club that took place on Tuesday 13 July 1841 which Ham Albion won by an innings and 87 runs.  So even there historical controversy reigns.  While FB has not seen these cards or facsimiles of them he suspects that by comparison  they contain little detail of the bowler's efforts concentrating only on runs scored and not even recording mode of dismissal.  So 18th century scorers had a lot to learn from the the proto-Elamite scorer community.

Monday, 22 October 2012


The Five Sisters as seen from Mars
There can be no profounder cause for celebration than that the small Highland community of Glenelg has twinned with Mars.

Except perhaps among Martian cricketers.  For Glenelg is without either a cricket field or practice facility.  Any Martian cricketer landing for a twinning visit will therefore find themselves at a loose end.  A love of epic scenery will help them - there is no finer view in Scotland than that of the Five Sisters of Kintail from the road above Glenelg.  It may be as the Martian cricketers tire of that view and feel that they have seen enough of Glenelg's impressive brochs - and to a Martian one broch looks pretty much like another they feel a certain anxiety.

By a minor miracle in this part of the world, they find they have a mobile signal and hastily they text the fixture secretary.  They ask whether they have the right date and where the opposition is.  An animated conversation follows.

'Right at which roundabout?  No we went left at the moon and took it from there.  We should have gone left.........'

A simple error, which many touring sides have made.  A failure to check the SatNav at a critical point. All roundabouts look the same until you've seen them before.  Particularly if you are from outerspace.

The cricketing Martians intended to arrive in Glenelg, near Adelaide, in South Australia.  This Glenelg was established in 1836 and is the oldest European settlement on mainland South Australia  and was named after Lord Glenelg, at the time Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.   It may not have the Five Sisters of Kintail; and in all probability is devoid of brochs; even the shark museum that used to be there has moved.  But it does have the Glenelg District Cricket Club, the Seahorses, who are a significant force in the South Australian Grade Cricket.

It is also the club that nurtured Ian and Greg Chappell amongst other Australian cricketers of note.  Overseas players have also played there including Monty Panesar. A worthy fixture for a touring Martian club.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

An Apple a Day

A selection of Scottish apple varieties
Fantasy Bob is pleased to advise the three members of his worldwide readership that today is Apple Day. 

Apparently this is an annual celebration, held on October 21 and was initiated by an organisation called Common Ground in 1990 and uses the apple as a symbol of physical, cultural and genetic diversity that is under threat in so many ways.

There are over 7500 varieties of apple, although you would not think so from the shelves of the supermarkets.  Things may be improving - not so long ago there was despair at the thought that there would be nothing but Golden Delicious to bring to the teacher every day, but a wider range of varieties is now available.  And a good thing too.

Here is FB's Apple XI - a side drawn from apple varieties - FB has lifted the descriptions from the website Orange Pippin.  While there are no cricketers called Granny Smith, far less Pink Lady, cricketers have obviously had some influence in the orchard.  FB imagines that the descriptions of each fruit qualities match those of the cricketers.

Bailey Sweet apple - Distinctly sweet and of very good quality, but not a very good keeper. Skin tender, clear bright yellow largely covered with deep red. Flesh tinged with yellow, firm, moderately juicy, decidedly sweet.  Trevor Bailey played 61 Tests for England between 1949 and 1959.

Cox's Orange Pippin apple - This is the benchmark for flavor in apples - from a good tree in a good year it can achieve exceptional flavor.  Tasmanian Jamie Cox may be one of the best players never to have made it to the Australian national team.  He has played in more  Pura Cup-Sheffield Shield games than anyone else and only Darren Lehmann has scored more than his 10,821 runs in the competition.

Brown's Apple  -  A traditional English cider variety, produces sharp juice.  There are many cricketing Browns - FB remembers Warwickshire and England seamer David Brown who played 26 Tests in the late 1960s.

Crawley Beauty apple - Primarily a culinary variety, cooks to a puree with a delicate apple flavour - but can be eaten fresh after storing. Good disease resistance and tolerates a wide range of soil types.  John Crawley played 37 Tests for England between 1994 and 2003

Davey apple - Highly coloured, bright red, distinctly flavoured, of Baldwin texture and keeping qualities. Good, brisk taste, hint of strawberry flavor, crisp and juicy.  Middlesex's Josh Davey is a member of Scotland's  squad currently touring South Africa.

Ellison's Orange apple  - One of the best offspring of Cox's Orange Pippin, with a distinct aniseed flavor.  Kent's all rounder Richard Ellison played 11 Tests for England in the mid 80s.

Foster's Seedling apple - A surprisingly good-looking Victorian cooking apple, which cooks to a very sharp puree.  Essex paceman Neil Foster played 29 times for England between 1983 and 1993.

Franklin apple - Well-coloured fruit. Tender, crisp flesh, mild flavor. Resembles shape of Delicious, but far superior in eating quality.  James Franklin has so far played 27 Tests for New Zealand and was in the T20 World Cup squad.

Hampshire apple - Fruits are large and uniformly round to oblate with 100% red blush with little striping. Skin is thin and tough, flesh creamy white, slow to discolour. Subacid, yet mildly sweet, sprightly, good aromatics. Has excellent storage life.  Jack Hampshire played only 8 Tests but he ran up 577 First Class matches for Yorkshire and Derbyshire before becoming a top flight umpire.  He retired in 2005.

Jonathan apple - A classic American variety, and widely regarded as one of the best flavoured with a good sweet/sharp balance. A precocious and productive tree in US apple-growing regions.  Jonathan Trott has played 34 Tests for England so far.

Milton apple - Medium sized, pale yellow covered fruit with deep cherry red flush. Fine grained white flesh. Juicy with sweet hint of raspberry flavors.  Arthur Milton was a double international in the 1950s, playing 6 Tests for England and was capped once at football.He played for Gloucestershire and Arsenal.

And this team requires a coach:

Newell's Late Orange apple - Flat-round, sometimes irregular shape. Good size, solid yellow-green fruit entirely covered with minute green or black dots. Firm, crisp, juicy, rich white flesh.  Mick Newell is coach of Nottinghamshire.

Cox's Orange Pippin

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Return

Rembrandt may have died in 1669, but 2 years before his death, he produced this moving painting depicting the Return of KP to the England Cricket Squad. It is generally held to be among the finest pictures he painted, joining his other celebrated cricketing works.

In this painting, which hitherto many art historians have erroneously titled the Return of the Prodigal Son, KP kneels before Alistair Cook as part of the process of reintegration. He has cast off all mobile phones.  Cook receives him with a tender gesture and expression of forgiveness as he imagines the double hundreds that will flow from the prodigal's bat in the coming series in India. To the right are Andy Flower and Hugh Morris. Between them in the middle background is Stuart Broad who appears to be composing a tweet to his faithful followers.

Cricketers wishing to see this masterpiece for themselves will find it in the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Royal Letters

The Duke of Rothesay
finishing off another letter to Carlton
The Attorney General has blocked the release of private letters sent by the Duke of Rothesay to go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton over a number of years. The UK’s senior law officer overturned a previous Court ruling to allow release of the letters under the Freedom of Information legislation saying that the letters formed part of the prince's preparations for kingship.

The Attorney General said that the 27 letters addressed to key personnel at the club including  the ever popular skipper Fraggle Watts, the  Doughty Groundsman and Fantasy Bob are particularly frank and if published would potentially have undermined the Duke's future role. He said it was vital that the Prince Charles maintained political neutrality, a cornerstone of the UK’s constitutional framework. Any suggestion the Duke of Rothesay was disagreeing with the Carlton skipper would be seriously damaging to his future role as  monarch.

Republican cricketers reacted angrily to the news accusing the heir to the throne of meddling behind the scenes at Grange Loan. In a statement they said, ‘Cricketers must have the right to know if the future King has advocated to Carlton the compulsory consumption of Empire Biscuits.  He needs to be made aware that  there is no empire left.’

A spokesperson for the go-ahead Edinburgh club acknowledged the Attorney General’s decision saying, ‘We are grateful for the close interest in Carlton’s affairs taken by The Duke of Rothesay. We have assured him that none of our cricketers is genetically modified. But we are still waiting for the free samples of Duchy Biscuits that he promised some time ago.’

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Cricketer's Guide to Modern Art

Modern art and cricket are uncertain bedfellows. Fantasy Bob has attempted to do his bit by introducing his world wide readership of 3 to the works of a wide range of artists, but still his readership is bemused.  They know what they like, but is reverse swing or the scoop art?

Fantasy Bob understands their plight – modern art can be confusing with, as John Lennon had it, Thisism and Thatism ism-ing all over the place. So to provide a little light in the darkness, Fantasy Bob has prepared this cricketer’s guide explaining the more significant movements in the modern art world.

Expressionism – Expressionist cricketers used vivid colours and abstracted forms to create spiritually or psychologically intense works focussing on depictions of war, alienation, the modern city and the use of strong and expressive language in response to umpiring decisions.

Abstract Expressionism – Cricketers in New York after World War II created a new style fitted to the post-war mood of anxiety and trauma. They were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes, embracing spatial ambiguity, colour fields, gestural abstraction and the use of strong, abstract and expressive language in response to umpiring decisions.

Constructivism - Constructivist cricketers emerged in Revolutionary Russia and celebrated 'art as machine,' emphasising space, construction, and industrial materials. While they occasionally constructed strong language in response to umpiring decisions, their works were more influenced by a fascination with the heavy roller.

Minimalism - Minimalist cricketers emerged in the 1960s in response to the excesses of Abstract Expressionism. Minimalism has inspired many lower league cricketers to eschew such excesses as scoring runs, taking wickets or doing anything meaningful in the field while still being able to make use of minimal but strong language in response to umpiring decisions.

Cubism – Cubism may well claim to be the most important 20th Century movement. Instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the cubist cricketer depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. However, on the whole cubist cricketers have found that playing pace bowling from a multitude of simultaneous viewpoints of square leg and deep mid off has not been particularly successful. It has caused, amongst other things, confusion in running between the wickets leading to the use of strong language from multiple viewpoints in response to umpiring decisions.

Dadaism - Dada emerged in the early 20th century and scorned bourgeois conventions to celebrate random chance, and the deliberate provocation of outrage. Its randomness has found its highest expression in the 21st Century in Fantasy Bob’s approach to captaincy of the All Star Carlton Fourth XI which regularly inspires outrage without making use strong language in response to umpiring decisions.

Fauvism – in the early 20th century these cricketers were labelled les fauves or wild beasts. They favoured vibrant colours and wide and sweeping gestural strokes across the canvas. Fauvist cricketers combined wide and sweeping gestures with their use of strong language in response to umpiring decisions  

Conceptual Art – this has nothing to do with cricket - it's just crap.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Chiefs at go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have been working hard for many months on a new marketing campaign to rebrand the club as a go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club.

However Fantasy Bob understands that there is now uncertainty in the club's next moves following the unveiling last week of the proposed new slogan for the club.

A prestigious marketing agency having consumed £30,000 proposed the slogan IncrediCarlton. 

Leading figures in the club made their views plain.  'Appalling.'  'Rubbish.' 'Sounds like something Fantasy Bob made up.'

The club may well abandon the rebranding and content itself with its current presentation as go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club.........................except that was really something that Fantasy Bob made up.

At the same time, Fantasy Bob also presented his proposal for a new slogan for the City to councillors - Go-aheadinburgh

Tricky stuff this marketing.

Incrediburgh? Painthetownredinburgh ? Wellfedinburgh ?
= Braindeadinburgh

Monday, 15 October 2012


Fantasy Bob is a fairly gullible sort.  He has responded to many players guesting in his All Stars XI who have told him on arriving in the changing room that they can bat a bit by inviting them to open the innings.  One ball later his credulousness is exposed.  He now understands that bat a bit means by comparison with my bowling in which I could not hit the wicket if it was 22 yards wide and 9 inches away, or my fielding in which I have never succeeded in taking a catch - even when we're throwing the ball back to the comparison with my high levels of accomplishment at these skills, I can bat a bit.

But his gullibility was stretched today when he heard for the first time of one of the fastest growing sports in the world.   A sport that may be a contended for the Olympics in not so many years time.  Chessboxing - which is a melange of chess and boxing.  This is a sport that would seem to have been made up by a wacky imagination such as Heston Blumenthal, but it is for real. Its proponents say in that it requires the competitors to excel at the physical and the cerebral it is a full test of their all round ability.

A full match consists of eleven rounds of alternating chess and boxing. A competitor may win the match by a knockout or referee's decision during a boxing round, by achieving a checkmate or other victory at chess eg the opponent's resignation.

FB wonders whether cricket has missed out on the development of such hybrids.  Cricket has on occasion been described as chess on grass, so cricket-chess would seem a natural in which the batsman and the bowler alternate an over with moves at the chess board.  But the batsman would be at a disadvantage trying to move the pieces with his gloves on, so maybe further thought is necessary.  Cricket-boxing might therefore be an alternative option.    There are those who suggest that it is already in development - as in this incident from last year's cricket world cup.  Lower league cricket can also find innovators keen to explore this new sport - but in FB's mind the suggestion that a square go with the umpire is a substitute for DRS in lower leagues needs to be resisted. 

FB will therefore pass on further hybridisation of cricket.  He feels that the game already tests his physical aptitude and his cerebral powers already.  Those who have seen him labour over a quick single will need no persuading of how demanding the physical test is for him.  Those who have seen him struggle to remember the names of the other ten players in his team know how the game also challenges his mental faculties.  Cricket must remain pure.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


As Fantasy Bob has noted from time to time on these pages, there are relatively few great works of art which are inspired by or represent cricket. A cricketer can walk the length of many of the greatest galleries in the world without so much as a representation of the cover drive the leg glace or the drama of the fielder chasing the ball to the boundary. Cricketers are inured to this and take solace in the many representations of Christian iconography, of ancient Greeks and Romans in noble action and of empty landscape after empty landscape. Even abstract art appears to ignore cricket - it would cost an abstract expressionist nothing simply to name his (or her) latest set of incomprehensible squiggles 'Batsman #1' or 'Bowler Yellow and Green'. No one would be any the wiser as to whether the squiggles were a representation, an emotional response or interpretation or memory of the said action. A sophisticated abstractist could even claim that the painting so titled was deliberately the opposite or a negation of the title. But no artist has taken this route. It is incomprehensible to FB why this should be so.

But then every now and then there is a work which is so obviously a cricketing work that it goes without saying. And indeed when it comes to the great work above it has gone without saying for a long time.

This is Abstraktes Bild by Gerhard Richter. It was painted in 1994. Until last week it was owned by Eric Clapton. Clapton must have needed to clear some clutter in his house and put it up for auction. It sold for the handsome price of £21m - making it the most expensive painting by a living artist. So much for austerity you might think.

It is a fine painting. FB's worldwide readership may struggle to see the cricketing reference. But when they learn that it is described as a masterpiece of calculated chaos, they will understand. it is a chillingly accurate representation of FB's mental state in coming in to bat.

Richter is rightly described as the world's greatest living painter.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Fresh bread smothered in bramble jelly comes pretty near as good as it can get.  Up there near an empire biscuit.  That's how good.

But cricketers should be warned.  Today is Old Michaelmas Day.  Brambles should not be picked after this date.  Satan was banished from heaven on this day - a series of inappropriate tweets and texts against his skipper the Almighty led to his downfall.  He fell into a bramble bush and cursed them as he fell.  Some accounts have it that he spat on them, some that his fiery breath polluted them, others that he urinated on them.  That's the devil for you, devilish. Whatever the truth is, cricketers wanting occupation this weekend in the absence of cricket to engage their attentions should not go bramble picking.

Bramble picking was an important ritual of FB's childhood.  Nature's free bounty was not to be scorned and roadside hedges were scavenged with care.  FB is confident that his parents ensured that the young FB was not exposed to the danger of devil polluted fruits.  These days he is in thrall to the Bramble smart phone.  So it may be that the Devil had the last laugh after all - as he mostly seems to do.

Cricketers should beware however, for the Devil certainly seems to have had his impact on this day in other ways. What else could explain the performance of Pakistan and India who on 11 October 1956, playing a Test against each other for the first time, played the slowest day in Test history? In a full day's play only 95 runs were scored for the loss of 12 wickets. Crowds may well have rioted, but they were all fast asleep.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


It has to be said that Fantasy Bob is not very good with heights.  He is not reduced to a quivering wreck like James Stewart in Hitchcock's Vertigo, but, all the same, if there is a tower to climb and look over the edge of, he would rather not.  Not that this was ever acceptable to son and heir who with great excitement insisted over many years on being escorted up the narrowest of staircases to look over the edge of whatever it was.  The fear of falling over was always with FB even as he stood braced against the central wall several feet away from the edge, with the same kind of feeling as he feels when a leg spin bowler starts his run up.  At an early stage Mrs FB declared that this was man's work.  And duty had to be done.  But all the same.  It was tough and contributed greatly to FB's present careworn appearance.

FB therefore finds it hard explain the psychology of Felix Baumgartner.  Baumgartner's reputation rests on jumping off skyscrapers but this week he is planning to go a bit higher by stepping out of a balloon 23 miles up and falling back to earth.  Mr Baumgartner is reckoned to be likely to break the sound barrier in this stunt and no one really knows if this is a good thing or not. It may change the configuration of Mr Baumgartner's internal organs in a manner he will come to regret. FB is very sorry he can't join him and wishes him well, even as his adventure has been postponed due to adverse weather conditions.

Felix Baumgartner about to jump
It is safe to assume Mr Baumgartner is not a cricketer.  If there is a skill involved in falling 23 miles, it does not seem transferable to the cricket field.  In fact falling any distance is not a skill of much use on the cricket field.  It is a game played predominantly in the horizontal dimension.  And, from FB's point of view, much the better for it.

However FB is sure he has been present when cricketers have broken the sound barrier.  While batting in his usual phlegmatic fashion and having nudged the ball behind the wicket FB has on occasion found his batting partner breathless behind him to be followed by the call of 'Yes'.  His only conclusion is that his partner must have beaten his call to the other end, breaking the sound barrier in the process, with no apparent damage to his internal organs.

A similar phenomenon has attended FB's more recent attempts to field in the slips where he has been put in the charitable thought that it would save him the embarrassment of a long chase to the boundary.  FB has on more than one occasion observed the ball arriving at him before it could possibly have been hit by the batsman.  This may imply that it has moved faster not only than the speed of sound but also of light. This is remarkable in its own right but in FB's experience renders it pretty difficult to catch.

FB hopes Mr Baumgartner's stunt will be able to gather data which will allow these phenomena to be examined.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Strictly West Indies

Fantasy Bob shares the general happiness at the victory on Sunday of the West Indies in the final of Strictly Come Dancing.

They commanded the dance floor in a way that has not been seen for 30 years since the original Gangnam Style days of Richards and Lloyd.  It was a fine team effort but inevitably one dancer stood out.

Prima ballerina Chris Gayle astounded audiences throughout the competition with his wide range of new steps (the Luke Wright  Cha-Cha proved an instant hit with fans) and reinterpretations of old steps (in particular the 'go fetch that from the stands' polka proved as popular as ever). Gayle had been reintegrated into the corps de ballet for the competition following many years of dancing to his own tunes.

While Gayle remains one of the superstars of world dance, the contribution of  choreographer Darren Sammy to the success should not be overlooked.  No praise is too high.  His achievement is on a par with those of Balanchine, Fosse or Tharp.

Gayle leads the corps de ballet in a SuperEightsome Reel - Gangnam Style

Monday, 8 October 2012


Fantasy Bob is not surprised to find that a pair of James Bond's dookers (as those from the North East of Scotland call swimming trunks) has reached the trifling sum of £45,000 at a recent charity auction.  These are the dookers which adorned Daniel Craig's manly lower abdomen as he emerged from the Caribbean water in Casino Royale.  Mrs FB has never been the same again.  She may well have been a bidder in the auction driving the price ever upwards.

But in the months after the film's release, so concerned was FB that he might have lost his place in the order of Mrs FB's affections, that he soon after purchased a pair of similar figure-hugging Speedos to replace his sagging swimwear.  Swimwear which had served him well for the purpose of swimming, but had caused few palpitations in watching females.  Not that there were many such admirers as FB ploughed up and down the health club pool.  In fact not that there were any. FB and his trunks were disregarded.

Until one day several months afterwards.  Having swum his statutory distance, FB climbed out of the pool and was only slightly aware of the astonished gasps behind him.  He played it cool.  Obviously his exercise regime was having its effect. A small shimmy of the hips as he stepped from the ladder. Even Mrs FB's gaze might now linger on his toned frame.  Heartened he made his way back to the changing room.  It was there that he discovered the truth.  The seam on his Daniel Craig style dookers had succumbed to corrosive power of the chlorine and had given way.   Big time.  Where there had been dooker, there was a yawning gap. Those gasps he had just drawn from his fellow swimmers were in response to nothing other than his big arse hanging out of his dookers in a decidedly less than James Bond fashion.

Downcast, FB threw the dookers away.  As a result they are not available for auction.  FB regrets that his hasty action has deprived charities of the possibility of a sizeable donation.

Mrs FB's views on the matter are not recorded.  Her loyalities may well still be with Daniel Craig. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Love Me Do

A proper appreciation of tea
may suggest that
they are cricketers
Fifty years of The Beatles. Who would have thought? For cricketers of Fantasy Bob's generation, they have always been there. It looks like they always will be too. 

The first single record that FB bought with his own money was the Beatles' Paperback Writer. The first LP he bought was Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Lennon hits out while filming in Spain 1966
Evidence of the Fab Four as cricketers is hard to come by. It is unlikely in their formative years in Hamburg that there were too many opportunities for net practice. But John Lennon at least seems to have been a cricketer. Some photographs of him playing while on the set of the film How I Won the War show him both batting and bowling. Maybe his later predilection to wear white was an expression of his frustrated cricketing needs. There is little evidence that Yoko Ono encouraged him to take up bat or ball. so that may explain a lot about his later career.

The Beatles have been part of the soundtrack to FB's life. So omnipresent have they been that FB is sure all their songs must be about cricket, but he just hasn't worked out how yet so deep are the lyrics.

Here is FB's Beatles XI - his favourite songs from the catalogue.  All of them seem to have some kind of clue in the lyric to their cricketing significance. Perhaps this is why they are FB's favourites.  Or is he just making it up? (Not in batting order).

A Day in the Life  - nobody was really sure if he hadn't ever played at Lords
And Your Bird Can Sing - you tell me that you've faced every ball there is, and you bowl with swing
Come Together - Got to be a quickie 'cos he's so hard to see
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away - Here I stand, Bat in Hand, turn my face to the ball
Dr Robert - Ring my friend, I said No Ball, Dr Robert
Get Back - Get Back, Get Back, Get back to the crease where you belong
Norwegian Wood - I once had a Scoop
Strawberry Fields Forever - Batting is easy with eyes closed
I Should Have Known Better - I should have known better with a ball like that
If I Fell - If I trust in you, Oh Please, don't run me out
Here Comes the Sun - Little Darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter, Here come the Nets

Cricketing songs or not - John George Paul and Ringo - Test Match Quality.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Franchise Fiasco

Starting a new spell up the hill
There were red faces at go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton yesterday as they announced that the bidding process for the prestigious franchise to bowl up the hill against the wind at Grange Loan would be restarted.

The franchise had been held for many years by Fantasy Bob but earlier this year it was awarded to an alternative provider following a tender competition.

Fantasy Bob immediately challenged the result saying that his bid had been wrongly evaluated since inadequate account was taken of the empire biscuits he brought for tea every week.

Following an investigation by the club, officials have acknowledged that mistakes were made. A spokesman said, 'We found a number of additional empire biscuits behind the tea urn.'

Fantasy Bob welcomed the decision and said he was confident that he could continue to operate the franchise for many years.

Richard Branson also welcomed the decision, but also observed that Fantasy Bob couldn't run a railway even if he tried.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Rob Roy

It was 300 years ago to the day, that the Duke of Montrose issued a warrant for the arrest of Rob Roy MacGregor.

The story has it that as a result Rob Roy became an outlaw and took to the hills time and again narrowly escaping  his dogged pursuers. And so, on the basis of very little evidence in Wisden, Rob Roy was transformed by Daniel Defoe, Walter Scott and a handful of film makers into a legendary action hero – the Scottish Robin Hood, the Caledonian Zorro.  Who cares that there is little to substantiate this legend? The Rob Roy of lore maybe as mythical as FB's in-swinger, but none the less potent for all that.

As an impressionable child, Fantasy Bob bought into this legend. On the A93 leaving Peterculter on the way to Banchory, Crathie, Balmoral and beyond there is a painted statue on a rock above an impressive gorge through which runs the Culter Burn. It was here that FB was led to believe as a youngster that Rob Roy pulled off a particularly daring escape by leaping the raging torrent onto the rocks below, leaving clumsy Redcoats cursing him behind.  Such escapes were a weekly if not daily occurrence for Rob Roy and many other burns are similarly feted.  But only the Culter Burn has the statue apparently erected in his honour.

Rob Roy at Culter
FB is still coming to terms with the fact that Rob Roy was never recorded as having been anywhere near this spot - a statue in Stirling is far nearer his known stamping ground -  and that a more realistic assessment of the practicalities of leaping the burn at that point would suggest that he would more likely be floating in the flood with a broken neck than standing defiantly waving his claymore at his pursuers.  As the prosaic further takes over the poetic, FB has also discovered that the original statue (it has been replaced several times in its life) was in fact a ship’s figurehead, from a whaler with the name Rob Roy, put there by workers of the nearby mill – possibly because they had nowhere better to put it. It has been a source of local attention and pride ever since. But nothing to do with the real Rob Roy.

Whether Rob Roy was a proper hero or whether his existence was more mundane is for others than FB to judge. It does seem likely however that all this chasing about the hills, if it ever happened, left little time for cricket and the descendants of Rob Roy seem not to have recovered the lack of attention to cricketing skills established by their myth laden predecessor.

Gregor MacGregor -
a Highland Rogue?
For the annals of first class cricket are light in members of the MacGregor clan. So are the annals of Scottish cricket.  In fact so light are they that they are dominated by one MacGregor -  Gregor MacGregor – who played 8 Tests for England in the 1890s.  He also was capped by Scotland at rugby, and may well be a candidate for Scotland’s greatest ever all round sportsman.  There is no indication of whether Gregor MacGregor is a direct descendant of Rob Roy.  However it may have been the genetic propensity for leaping Highland burns that contributed to his great athleticism.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Fantasy Bob celebrates the contribution of fellow Aberdonian Paul Lawrie to Europe's fantastic victory in the weekend's Ryder Cup.  Lawrie's performance may not quite have got the accolades from the media that it deserved, focussed as they were on the heroics of Poulter and the late arrival of McIlroy. But Lawrie did what the team required when it mattered.  And did it with some style - returning the most comprehensive winning margin of the remarkable day. Whether or not Seve was looking down on him as he did it, Lawrie demolished his opponent in his customary unflappable style stunning the baying US crowd into a welcome silence when he chipped in at the 4th hole.  Weel done loon!

Lawrie has hinted he fancies the Ryder Cup captaincy when the event comes to Gleneagles next time round.  an outside shout maybe - but why not - after all he has won a tournament on the course itself.

Lawrie long ago joined the list of sporting greats to hail from Aberdeen, a list to which FB modestly adds himself.

Even without FB, it is an impressive list.  Some years ago when FB with son and heir visited Manchester United's museum at Old Trafford, they were interested to note that in the part of the museum celebrating United's greatest players over its history, there were 2 Aberdonians among the 14 players so honoured.  One was, of course, Denis Law.  The other though is more of test.  It is Scotland's answer to Beckenbauer - Martin Buchan, as skilled and elegant defender as Scotland has ever produced.

So, here is FB's Aberdeen XI.  Fa's Like Us?

Paul Lawrie - golf -  Open Champion 1999, Ryder Cup 1999, 2012
Denis Law - football - 55 caps for Scotland - 30 goals
Martin Buchan - football - 34 caps for Scotland
Ian Peebles - cricket - 13 Tests for England
Katherine Grainger - rowing - Olympic Gold Medallist 2012, Silver 2008,2004,2000
Jason White - rugby - 77 caps for Scotland
Chris Cusiter - rugby - 55 caps for Scotland
Stephanie Forrester - triathlon - World Duathlon Champion 2000
Ian Black - swimming - Commonwealth Gold Medallist 1958, Triple European Gold Medallist 1958
Peter Nicol - squash - World Champion 1999,  Commonwealth Gold Medallist 1998, 2006
Graham Leggat - football - 18 caps for Scotland.

Aberdeen's Finest

Monday, 1 October 2012


October!  Not a month which traditionally excites the cricketer.

Fantasy Bob is aware that this October there is the climax of the T20 World Cup.  Scotland will also undertake a tour of South Africa.  But these are unnatural events, just like the strawberries that continue to be available in supermarkets.  These are to be viewed with suspicion, for their flavour and texture have little of the sweetness that ripening under the summer sun gives.  And the strawberries aren't up to much either.

Fantasy Bob marks the beginning of August with the song October Song.  This was written in 1965  by Robin Williamson and featured on the first album by the Incredible String Band, whom FB has eulogised previously.  But FB's preferred version of the song is by Bert Jansch, whom FB has also honoured previously.  (There is also a well known version by The Corries). Jansch and Williamson had played together  before the formation of the Incredibles.

Williamson - then
Williamson - now
October Song is in the traditional genre.  Despite its slightly elusive lyric it is a young cricketer's song.  Williamson says it is the first song he wrote.  He also says that when Bob Dylan heard it he said it was 'quite good' - a rave review that has been developed into the suggestion in some reports that it is one of Dylan's favourite songs of all time. And why should it not be.  (If you are interested in these things, then follow this link to find Williamson telling the story and then performing an astounding version of Dylan's Like A Rolliung Stone - Test Match Quality)

There is nothing by way of explicit cricketing reference in the lyric. Although the strongest verse which runs

The fallen leaves that jewel the ground,
They know the art of dying,
And leave with joy their glad gold hearts,
In the scarlet shadows lying.

is a fine description of Carlton's Grange Loan ground as the trees shed their leaves before, in one of the rituals of Autumn, players are summoned by the Doughty Groundsman to assist him sweep them up to pile on his ceremonial bonfire

Robin Williamson was born and brought up in Edinburgh, so it is possible that he observed Grange Loan lying under its blanket of leaves and this might have inspired the song.  He attended George Watson's College and in all probability had cricket lessons at Myreside.  But he left school at the age of 15 to pursue his musical destiny and is therefore unlikely to have come into consideration for the First XI.  A loss to Scottish cricket.

Mike Heron the other member of the Incredible String Band attended George Heriot's School, and in the way of Herioters, subsequently trained as an accountant before finding his musical career more rewarding.  There is no record of whether he came into consideration for the school's First XI.  However during his time at the school, the team would have been dominated by some fine players who subsequently went on to make important contributions to Scotland's side - most notable among which were Hamish More (45 caps) and George Goddard (78 Caps).

Somewhere there must have been common influences between these stalwart cricketers and Scotland's greatest hippy musicians - but FB requires more research what they could possibly be.