Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Question

The executive authorities at go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have indicated that they will accept the advice of the Electoral Commission and revise the wording of the appeal that their players use.

There were many batsmen in opposing teams who held that Carlton's proposed wording 'Do you agree that the batsman is out?' invited the answer 'Yes' and so was unfair to batsmen.

The Electoral Commission, having considered the issue at great length and with great exactitude, have recommended that the question be changed to 'Should the batsman be out?'

Opposition players said they were pleased with Carlton's decision.  However several observed that the wording would make no difference when Fantasy Bob was bowling since the Electoral Commission's research had confirmed that he was incapable of getting anyone out.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Jane Austen - cricket writer
Fantasy Bob has been joining the worldwide celebrations to mark this week's 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

FB's worldwide readership may wonder why he retains such a lasting affection for this novel which contains no cricketing scenes or references.  Nor does it refer at any point to empire biscuits. 

While the absence of empire biscuits is understandable, since they may not have been known in their present form at the time Jane Austen was writing, the absence of cricket from her works is harder to understand.  Some time ago FB claimed to have found a long lost manuscript of Jane Austen's which seemed to show her interest in cricket, but FB has to acknowledge that this has yet to be authenticated.

FB still feels that cricket should ring out from her work.  He is sure Austen had a passion for the game.  For Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire in 1775, and spent much of her life in the county at a time when Hampshire was the crucible of the development of cricket.  Hambledon was about 30 miles away, easily within a day’s coach ride.  It is hard to believe that some gentlemen of her acquaintance did not play and that she was unfamiliar with the game.  It would surely have frustrated her that there is little by way of cricket history in her family - none of her 6 brothers is reported to have played, although 2 of them became naval officers.  Her father, a clergyman appears not to have been a cricketer.  Yet cricketing must have been all around in Hampshire at that time.  There are reports of women playing too, so perhaps Jane Austen herself might have played.  the only reference in her work to cricket was to refer to the heroine of Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland preferring playing cricket to more lady-like pursuits and there are some suggestions by critics that Catherine's character was based on Austen herself.
Hampshire women at cricket in 1799
Perhaps Jane Austen suppressed her passion for cricket because during the Napoleonic Wars cricket was held in abeyance and Pride and Prejudice was probably written in 1811-12, years central to that struggle and in which only one first class match is recorded as taking place in each year. Yet this is not wholly convincing because Pride and Prejudice is a reworking of an earlier youthful work previously rejected for publication. First Impressions, the original title was written in 1797. And it is at this point that cricketers should sit up and take notice for 1797 happens to be the year in which the records mention for the first time Hampshire cricketer John Bennett, who was one of the most celebrated players of the age.
Benjamin Whitrow as Mr Bennet in the BBC adaptation
- based on a Hampshire cricketing family
John Bennett was born and lived in Kingsley - which is about 20 miles from Steventon. In all Bennett made 61 First Class appearances, a large number for those days. The archives report that he was a fast underarm bowler - very fast by report, (hand unknown), a left-handed batsman, a fine and free hitter and "an excellent field". His cousin James Bennett was also a player of some reputation.

It is obvious to FB that the exploits of the cricketing Bennetts came to the attention of Jane Austen and in tribute to them and in secret acknowledgement of her own passion for the game, she used the name for the family in Pride and Prejudice.   Why else would one of her favourite male characters be so named.

For there are no other cricketing names in the novel.  No contemporary cricketers were called Darcy, or Lucas or Collins, far less Wickham or Bingley.  Indeed apart from New Zealand opener John D'Arcy who played 5 tests in 1958, those names do not shine out of the pages of Wisden in the years since.

In contrast, several Bennetts who have played First Class cricket over the years, although only one has a Test cap - Kiwi paceman Hamish Bennett. This is immensely significant.  It clearly establishes that Pride and Prejudice is a cricketing novel and all the more wonderful for that.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


This weekend sees the running of the ski world's premier downhill race in Kitzbuhel, a subject FB has mentioned previously.

Fantasy Bob visited Kitzbuhel at New Year and had a closer look at the famous course, reckoned to be the most challenging on the circuit.  He still wakes in terror at the memory of parts of it.  But here is a photo of FB on the very bottom section of the course.

And here is a picture of the great Didier Cuche, who won the race for a record 5th time last year, in more or less the same spot on the course.

It is uncanny. FB's worldwide handful of readers will be unable to spot any difference between the two.

Other than the fact that Cuche is going at over 100kmph and FB is stationary...............

Friday, 25 January 2013

Ae Fond Kiss

Fantasy Bob is in the fortunate position of being able to avoid the annual ritual of the Burns Supper for the simple reason that the organisers of such events are wise enough not to invite him.  So no haggis or neeps for FB tonight.

But as in previous years FB has continued his researches into the works of the Bard.  He has previously demonstrated, to his satisfaction if not to that of others, how Burns addressed important cricketing issues in his poetic works.  This fact has been  shamelessly suppressed by publishers.  This year FB has found in the deeper recesses of the archives a further example of Burns’ abiding concern about cricket. 

This newly discovered verse is a heartfelt lament on an injustice he faced in the field of play – and one every cricketer will recognise.  This is surely a far more fitting poetic subject than all the lovey dovey stuff which dominates many of his lyrics.  It would appear from this verse that as well as all the other challenges Burns faced during his life – rural poverty, illegitimate children, ill health, rejection of his political views - his batting was a source of trial.  It can be concluded from this verse that it is likely that his approach was agricultural, perhaps reflecting his origins in rural Ayrshire.  And to the other figures of authority for whom Burns felt and expressed scorn during his life must be added an 18th century umpire with an itchy finger.  

Ae big swing and then we sever
Oot first ball the same as ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll linger
Tho the umpire raised his finger,
Says it’s leg afore the wicket
Tho I’m telling ye I nicked it
And worse than that, this fact I beg
It pitched two feet outside of leg.

Oh umpire how ill ye've blundered
For I could have had a hundred
Faced one ball and the temptation
Led to unjust ruination
Had I never swung sae blindly
I might have seen the ball pitch kindly
Had I never tried to cart it
I would ne’er be broken hearted.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


As the wintry weather causes Scottish cricketers to shiver and wish they were in warmer climes - somewhere like India for example - comes the news that the final ODI in the series between India and England may be in doubt because of snow.  When Fantasy Bob first heard that he wondered, he is aware that anytime snow hits London it is an event only slightly more serious than the ending of the world.  But to cancel a cricket match 5000 miles away because of snow in St Johns Wood did seem a bit wimpish, even by London standards.  But then FB looked again and noted that the match is to be held in Dharamsala which is 1500m up in the Himalayas.  Exactly which genius administrator thought that this was a good idea is unclear, but he successfully tapped into the rich store of irony in the world.  Or was he thinking ahead and trying to help English players by getting them used to the temperatures likely to prevail at the start of the English season.

Dharamsala - a rival to GrangeLoan
A winter that went so well for England in the triumphant Test series has turned very flat in the ODIs and India have already wrapped up the series by virtue of their relatively simple win in Mohali.  This is disappointing for a number of reasons, not least because England were looking a force to be reckoned with in the ODI game on the back of their results last year.  And KP was in the ranks and fully committed to the cause.  But neither bowling nor batting was good enough against the Indian and some serious thinking will be required if England are to realise the World Cup ambitions.  The ICC Trophy will be a serious test of the progress they have made in this form of the game and there is still doubt about what their best side should be.  Root and Treadwell seem to have been the successes of the series but others didn't deliver.  So lots of homework for Ashley Giles in the coming weeks.

Grange Loan on a snow free day
But to return to the snow.  FB has seen the Dharamsala stadium on TV during last year's IPL.  It is a scenic triumph with the snow capped steeples of the Himalayas providing a dramatic backdrop which in world cricket is only rivalled by the majesty of Arthur's Seat towering above Grange Loan, home of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton.  And Grange Loan also shares with Dharamsala the risk that play will be prevented by snow.

The Dalai Lama
- thinking about becoming an umpire
While FB is loath to admit any superiority over Grange Loan, he has to acknowledge that Dharamsala is ahead in spiritual leadership, since it is home to the Dalai Lama.  The Dalai Lama has attended at least one IPL match at Dharamsala - incurring the wrath of the Chinese who issued a statement saying he pretended to like cricket to ingratiate himself with the Indians.  FB does not know whether the Dalai Lama intends to attend England's match - far less whether he will confer spiritual comfort on the players.  On his previous visit to the ground he is reported to have had a spiritual dialogue with the players before play and blessed them with white silk scarves.  Such a blessing could make all the difference for English players.

As FB has noted, Carlton is a bit behind Dharamsala at this kind of thing.  Players at Grange Loan have to do with the spiritual guidance issued by the Doughty Groundsman, which has the merits of being considerably more direct and less enigmatic than many of the Dalai Lama's utterances.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Square Go

The City Chambers and hideous red asphalt
To the cricketer the square is sacred.  It is to be venerated, curated, treated with love respect and reverence.      It is not to be walked upon except in the correct footwear. Its behaviour can only be interpreted by the oracle of the doughty groundsman who will define the sacrifices necessary to appease it.

Changing the square in any way is something not be done lightly - if it is to be done at all.  There are occasionally brave clubs who change the orientation of the wicket - as as happened in recent years at Old Trafford so that the previous east-west alignment is now north-south.  A consequence of this is to banish the historical names of the ends at the ground - no longer is there the Stretford End or the sight of trains leaving the Oxford Road station a sight which so delighted commentators down through the ages.  For lesser clubs there is the trauma of putting in an artificial and the challenge of where on the square it should sit.

Fantasy Bob imagined that the City Fathers in Glasgow would have been aware that the management of the square must be done with extreme skill and caution.  Not that Glasgow's George Square seems much of a cricket square to FB when he strides across it on his visits to the City.  He has failed ever to see any creases marked on the area - and in any case square is a misnomer since the site is twice as long in one direction as it is in the other.  The George Rectangle would be a more accurate name, at least geometrically.  If the place were not dominated by the grandeur of the City Chambers at one end it would be a rather sad location altogether.  Not that Glasgow's cricketers see it that way.

But ignoring what they should have known, the City Fathers dived in and invited ideas for modernising the Rectangle.  Architects made their proposals.

Cricketers and doughty groundsmen in the City were outraged - as is usually the case with proposals made by architects.  They did not want fountains here, there and everywhere and clumsily designed bits of concrete scattered willy nilly - which seemed to be the sum total of the collective imagination of the architects.  Glasgow's cricketers were quite happy with the 13 historic statues which adorn the square - even though many of them have no idea who they are.  FB regrets to inform his readers that none of them is of a cricketer.  However among them is the first ever monument to Sir Walter Scott.

Anyway the cricketers of Glasgow threatened rebellion.  Indeed they threatened a large demonstration in the square itself.  And of this there is precedent since large demonstrations in 1919 which included the raising of the red flag gave the authorities cause to think that a Bolshevik revolution was underway and they sent in troops and tanks.

The City Fathers have heard the words of the doughty groundsmen and have backed down in ignominious defeat.  They have abandoned their proposals although they do undertake to replace the hideous red asphalt that surfaces the place.  The prospect of a cricket wicket being installed is now remote although it is alleged that the Square will be the site of beach volleyball during the Youth Olympics of 2018 which Glasgow is seeking to bring to the City.

A cautionary tale for all cricket clubs contemplating changes to their square.

Monday, 21 January 2013

100 mph

Clarey - 100mph run
Mrs FB does not generally feel the need for speed. She will frequently mutter 'It's too fast' as Fantasy Bob pushes the Volvo round the City Bypass at speeds nearing 50 mph.

However she thrilled with FB in watching French skier Johan Clarey set a World Cup speed record of 100.6 mph during the weekend's race at Wengen in Switzerland. Although he hit that speed on a section of the course Clarey did not win the race outright, he was fifth as the title went to Italian Christian Innerhoffer who reached a modest maximum of just under 99 mph.

Quite what it feels like going at such a speed on skis FB finds hard to imagine. He rather concurs with Mrs FB's refrain 'It's too fast.'

Rigolly - has to hurry to get to cricket practice
Yet 100 mph is one of those totemic measures. Once upon a time only the most souped up motors could manage to approach it. The first driver to do it was in 1904 when Frenchman Louis Rigolly reached 103.55mph in a Gobron-Brillie car at Ostend. There is no explanation of why he wanted to get to Ostend so quickly. Nowadays there is a cricket club in Ostend so had he been travelling nowadays he might be late for net practice, but that was not the case in 1904.

Nowadays most motors could have a good stab at hitting 100 mph.   Indeed so smooth at modern cars that FB has occasionally looked at the speedometer to be surprised how fast he was actually going.  But he would be well short of the highest top speed by a street legal production car which belongs to the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.  This boy's toy's top speed is listed as 220mph but which hit 268 mph in test conditions. Mrs FB would definitely be of the view that this is too fast.

100mph is also a totemic measure in cricket. While there have been many claims that bowlers have hit 100mph - 1950s England bowler Typhoon Tyson was said to have bowled at 110mph - measurement techniques mean that this cannot be verified. Nor are batsmen to be relied on as witnesses. FB has on many occasions when shambling to the crease been told by the outgoing batsman, 'Watch it FB he's bowling at 1200mph'. FB is usually sceptical of this information particularly when the bowler is question is either a geriatric off spinner who can barely manage his 3 yard run up, or a tearaway 11 year old. Perhaps long ago the former touched a decent speed; perhaps one day the latter will hit the magic mark. But not that day. not against FB.

Akhtar in 2003
The fastest ball in cricket is accepted to have been bowled by Shoaib Akhtar, the Rawalpindi Express himself, in the 2003 World Cup. There are also claims that Brett Lee, Shane Bond, and Shaun Tait have hit the mark. There is no documented instance of FB having got anywhere near this speed. He is with Mrs FB - it's all too fast and nowadays FB's slower slower ball is probably his most dangerous weapon.

But one Australian bowler did get up to 100mph last year. Shane Warne was fined for speeding on the A74 between Glasgow and Carlisle. There is no explanation for this - he was actually heading towards Glasgow. Warne generally bowled at about half that speed. But at least he was on a motorway - Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole was done for hitting 100mph on a road with a 50mph limit.

FB thinks 50mph is a decent speed and would like to see it imposed as a limit for any bowler bowling to him.

Speed skiing - Origone in action
But to return to skiing - Clarey set his record in a downhill race where a complicated course has to be negotiated featuring turns, traverses and jumps.  But in speed skiing in which the skier simply goes straight down.  In this discipline the world record speed is 156.2 mph set in 2006 by Simone Origone.  This is as fast as a sky diver and subjects to body to forces of 5G.

As Mrs FB might observe 'It's too fast.'

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Outsourcing scandal

Executive authorities at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton reacted swiftly to rumours that the man called Bob who has been the subject of world wide media interest following the discovery that he had covertly outsourced his own job, could be Fantasy Bob.

The man called Bob was seen sitting doing nothing all day while the tasks he had been assigned by his company were being undertaken elsewhere. A spokesperson for Carlton said

'At first we thought this sounded just like Fantasy Bob, who consistently outsources his fielding tasks to some junior member who can actually run to the boundary without pausing for a rest on the way. The bit about sitting doing nothing all day is also an uncannily accurate description of Fantasy Bob. For a moment we were worried we had a scandal on our hands. Then we read that the man called Bob is also described as the company's top performer. Since performance and Fantasy Bob do not go together, we were more than relieved to conclude that this story was not about Fantasy Bob.

'Carlton is confident that FB will continue his outsourcing activities in the coming season. Whether he will perform to any standard is another matter. '

Carlton's celebrated jumior programme
includes coaching on how to secure lucrative outsourcing deals.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A lesson for Warnie

Fantasy Bob is sad to see so much media reference to Shane Warne whose return to active cricket duties in the Big Bash League down under seems to have included a clause in his contract to cause as much mayhem in the media as possible.  Presumably part of some marketing executive's deluded thinking (which probably started from the false premise that getting Warnie back from the poker table was a good idea).

A juvenile bust up with Marvin Samuels during Melbourne's local derby lead to a one match suspension.  Then on his return Warnie found himself in the dog house again for not declaring himself skipper of the Melbourne Stars during their most recent match in Perth.  The allegation is that an alternative captain was nominated on the team sheet to avoid the risk of Warne getting another suspension because of slow over rate.  Once the team took the filed however it was clear who was calling the shots.  Media frenzy.

Now it is here that FB begins to wonder.  Were the same media to take an interest in lower league cricket they would find the concept of the nominated captain and the leader (and the world is used advisedly) in the filed often diverging.  FB has many times been the nominal skipper of a side (a status conferred in lower league cricket on the sucker who has spent all Friday night finding an 11th player).  As such he has presumed as such that he had the exclusive rights over arm waving and general gesticulation, only to find that after the first couple of overs all ten of his teammates get hold of the same idea.  Arms are waved all over the place - even the most junior player joins in enthusiastically.  Fine legs are shortened and then lengthened, brought up and put back.  Retired naval officers patrolling the cruel sea of the boundary have on occasion enquired why there is so much semaphore practice.  They point out that semaphore is no longer used on active service.  These gentlemen might have commanded battleships on the Shetland station but they obviously lack the leadership skills for the lower league.

The captain's role is to make sure that every one gets something to do as a reward for turning out and bringing sandwiches.  If waving arms about and shouting incoherently keeps players happy then that is perfectly satisfactory.  It is something at which many players display more natural skill than the more esoteric acts of batting or bowling.  FB is happy to accommodate his players' ambitions and highly imaginative field settings can follow the collective efforts of 11 players - even though a filed with four cover points set at intervals of approximately ten yards between the wicket and the boundary.  They arein happy symmetry with the four square legs on the other side.  A filed setting that can present a challenge to the bowler's control of line and length.

A skipper's control of bowling changes can also be subject to excessive participation by team mates.  FB recalls an esteemed veteran who used to grace his side.  To protect the innocent, and to given an indication of his general character, FB will call him Meldrew.
'Fancy a bowl today, Meldrew,'  FB would ask cheerily.
'Not really bit of problem with my shoulder.'
'You don't fancy the first over then?'
'Not really, ankle is also playing up.'  '
Well maybe come on after the juniors?'
'Don't think so, back a bit stiff too.'
'You'll have to hide me in the filed too - and by the way,' says Meldrew with an expansive wave of his injured shoulder, 'you could do with another man behind the third cover point out there.'

So the innings goes on and FB happily contemplates possible bowling changes from his position at third square leg.  Until the point comes when Meldrew marches to the wicket and hands his cap to the umpire.  Uninvited and unannounced and to the consternation of the junior seamer who has just taken 2 wickets, his first in senior cricket.
'Eh.....'a high pitched voice sounds.  'Cover point boundary young 'un,' says Meldrew gruffly.  'By the way, FB, I'll have a bowl now - arm has loosed up, ankle feels fine and that rub with algipan has sorted my back.'

Many of FB's more inspired bowling changes have followed such a pattern, as he watches play unfold from  his position at fourth square leg.  Warnie has much to learn about this captaincy business.

Monday, 14 January 2013


Usher Hall - home of the world's great coughs
A persistent hacking cough has forced Fantasy Bob to seek medical advice.  He sat in the waiting room Kleenex in hand ready to stifle any outburst.  He need not have been so concerned.  It was a cougherama - as coughs and wheezes exploded on all sides.

Surely it reminded him of something.   FB closed his eyes.  Yes, that was it.  The only place that FB has heard such a cacophony is in the Usher Hall during the Edinburgh Festival.  For a moment he wondered whether the Festival Friends had sponsored a special event at the surgery.

FB has long failed to understand how a concert audience is incapable of suppressing its various coughs and wheezes until the music has stopped.  Performers coming to Edinburgh at the height of the summer must think that Edinburgh is the global epicentre of bronchial disorder.

Many times FB has expectantly watched the orchestra assemble, seen and heard it tune up as the audience gathers.  Heard the sussuration of whispering go down as the lights dim.  Applauded the eminent conductor onto the podium.  Watched him shake hands with the leader, bow to the audience, turn the page on his score, lift his hands ready for that all important first chord.

He holds the moment.  The audience is on the edge of the seat.  It is only then - in that moment of transcendent silence - that the soloist for the evening starts.  A loud cough comes.  The conductor's shoulders sag.  He tenses. He has a choice.  Like an oversensitive golfer distracted by the buzz of a bee a hundred yards away, he could break off.  He could start his routine again.  But he knows that if he did so, another cough would interrupt again in exactly the same moment.  He could be here all night.  He is on a knife edge.  So he tenses a bit more.  He closes his eyes and hopes.  He brings his baton down.  The audience expresses its pleasure by coughing in unison, cleverly matching its contribution with the quieter parts of the score.

Jon Vickers - tough on coughs........
FB has often wondered what it must be like to be a performer fighting against such odds.  The great American tenor Jon Vickers once famously let it get the better of him and in mid performance of Tristan and Isolde told the audience very loudly to shut up with their coughing.  Inevitably, the audience took that as a compliment and redoubled their efforts.  You can hear this episode on this link .

Nowadays mobile phones add to the opportunity for the audience to participate in the concert.  These are more of an irritant to performers, since many ring tones are in direct antithesis the music coming from the platform.  A recital of Schubert Impromptus is rarely improved by a short rendering of the theme tune from Hawaii Five-0.  Performers regularly stop, sometimes storm off, but sometimes respond with a quip.  The best that FB has heard may be apocryphal, but concerns the performer who hearing the loud ring tone, stopped mid bar, turned his head to the audience and said 'If that is my agent, tell him I'm working..............'

Members of the Usher Hall audience are well on top of technology so that they can use technology to reduce their own performance anxiety.  By installing the chesty cough ring tone on their mobile, they will ensure that they are able to deliver the right cough whenever the music desires.

Silence was golden.
While a well placed cough at the top of an opponent's back swing can have a significant impact on the golf course, the cricketer may not be so susceptible.  At one time cricket crowds were respectfully silent when the ball was being bowled, cheering or clapping only when the shot is played (or not).  Nowadays the approach of England's Barmy Army ensures that there is a constant noise with the bowler's run up often being accompanied by chants and trumpet voluntaries.  Players seem to have adapted.  Nevertheless unexpected sounds from the close field can distract, although a batsman can step away.  FB's long experience has taught him how to deal with the risk of such distractions.  He empties his mind of everything.  This is not a long process.  However it does bring mixed results.  Having emptied his mind, he finds that it is unable to determine that the ball coming towards him is a straight one.  The inevitable happens.  Perhaps the risk of a cough from slip would be preferable after all.

Friday, 11 January 2013


Alfons Walde 1891-1958
Kitzbuhel, from where Fantasy Bob has recently returned, is one of the world's premier ski resorts.  It is also the home to the only artist who has really successfully merged ski-ing and painting - not activities that can easily be done at the same time.  But that poor joke should be ignored and the skill of Alfon Walde celebrated.  FB has no idea if he was any great shakes as a skier, but he certainly was a fine artist.

Alfons Walde was born in  near Kitzbuhel and spent much of his life there.  In a series of paintings made from the 1930s on, he managed to capture the essential spirit of the ski slopes at a time when interest in winter sports was booming.  His images continue to have resonance and are reproduced and imitated in promotional literature for the Alps.  FB reproduces Walde's most famous image below, which FB knows as Skier in a Simmit, but which he suspects has a far more interesting title in German.  He hopes and expects that it is instantly recognisable to his handful of readers.

For reasons which defy FB's understanding, Walde did not look to cricketing themes to widen his work.  Snow covered mountains and hearty Alpine figures were his dominant imagery.  But he did venture into more racy areas.  Walde was also a bit of a ladies' man - in fact there was no bit of him that was not a ladies' man.  FB is greatly impressed that Walde managed to bring ski-ing and painting together.  But to bring ski-ing, painting and the erotic together is achievement at an altogether higher level.
This young lady's approach to ski wear did not seem to have any contemporary imitators as far as FB's recent researches on the pistes could establish.  He may have to return to investigate some areas of the mountain he failed to search.

Alfons Walde. Test Match Quality. Black Run Skill.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Man Flu

Fantasy Bob returned with all limbs in full working order from his most enjoyable New Year ski-ing trip to the Austrian Alps.  But back in Edinburgh he was immediately laid low by some dastardly cold bug or other that is doing the rounds at this time of year.  This one was Mach 10 on the virulence scale, which is about one point off bubonic plague.

 FB would like to think that he is as stoical in the face of such an assault on his body's defences as he is in his tussles with leg spin bowling.  In fact in many respects he may well prefer a heavy cold to facing such virulent bowling, but that is another issue. As his head thickens and his throat rasps and his nose runs, FB will take to bed and demand nothing more of his nursemaid - known to his handful of faithful readers as Mrs FB - than regular cups of tea and/or Lemsip.

It is therefore with some incredulity that he heard himself being accused of having gone down with man flu.  A condition that is evidently one of the scourges of the age, although medical opinion remains divided as to its existence.

 It was apparently a survey of readers of the esteemed scientific publication Nuts which put the term into popular use, suggesting that men are prone to exaggerate the impacts of a common cold describing it as flu and themselves at death's door as a result.  The condition can only truly be called man flu when the sufferer in question has a partner from whom they hope to solicit extra attention to care for their supposedly grievous symptoms. When the sufferer is alone then the condition can only be the common cold. But other experts suggest that women can be just as prone to exaggeration.

If it wasn't man flu then, what could have laid FB so low?  An emminent medical authority had suggested that FB's immune system may have been compromised by a prolonged abstinence from empire biscuits over his Austrian sojourn.  This authority suggested that whatever the qualities of strudel or sachertorte they are not so therapeutic as the empire biscuit.

This is a compelling theory and one which FB might have shared until this year.  For this year he discovered one of the great  pieces of cross cultural stimulation.  Just as Beethoven was enamoured of Scottish music and arranged several sets of tunes, so Austrian and Scottish bakers have enjoyed the same stimulus.  The Austrian empire biscuit as pictured below is a fine example.  Enough to keep the man flu off! For those interested in the technicalities the filling is cranberry, they have given up on the jelly tot and white icing in favour of 3 holes but the concept is the same.

Austro Hungarian Empire biscuit -
for those interested in the technicalities the filling is cranberry,
the jelly tot and white icing have been replaced by 3 holes.
Experts are divided as to whether this is an improvement.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

FB's Cricketing Year 2012

2012 was a memorable year for Scottish cricketers.  It is the year they will remember getting soaked week in week out.  Elsewhere 2012 was memorable for the London Olympics and Paralympics and for the extended soap opera around Kevin Pietersen.  Here is a brief review of the year from FB.

January - Mrs FB suggests that if FB doesn't stop knocking in that new bat which he gave himself as a surprise Christmas present she may not be able to answer for the consequences.  FB tries to mitigate his inamorata's ire by rhythmically hammering his blade in time to the Archers' theme tune.  The look he got has stayed with him for much of the year.  While FB starts the year on the ski slopes, England's cricketers fly off to UAE as number one Test nation.  Surely nothing can go wrong in their 3 match series with Pakistan and they will consolidate this position?  Three straight defeats as their batsmen are bamboozled with Ajmal and Rehman.  In the second test they are skittled for 72 chasing 144 for victory.  It is raining in Scotland.

February - England beat Pakistan in the ODI series which followed the Tests.  FB's bat  is used in earnest as indoor nets commence.   FB's nagging concern that Mrs FB's limitations on his knocking-in might risk the blade prove unfounded as he is unable to get any part of the bat on the ball.   It is raining in Scotland.

Trouble coming
March - Scotland are in the UAE trying to qualify for the World T20 but defeats by Namibia and the USA are a set back and they miss out.  Ireland and Netherlands qualify from the non-test playing community. One of Scotland's greatest bats - the Wa' - Rahul Dravid retires from cricket - he has faced more balls in Test cricket than any other batsman. It is raining in Scotland.

April - at the end of the month the Scottish season gets underway in a spell of Arctic weather.  FB has never been so cold on the cricket field.  He is wrapped in so many layers that he can barely move - his team mates do not notice the difference.  It is raining in Scotland.

May -  England see off the W Indies as Tino Best fails to become the first number 11 to make Test 100 getting out on 95.  Scotland beat Nottinghamshire in the CB40.  It is raining in Scotland.

June -  FB makes a short professional visit to India, but is unable to command a satisfactory price in the IPL auction.  It is raining in Scotland.

July - Week after week of cancelled fixtures begins to tell.  In an emergency programme Doughty Groundsmen throughout Scotland are issued with buoyancy aids as the wet weather threatens to get beyond a joke.  Scotland's fixture with England is cancelled as the Grange goes under water.  In a brief dry interlude KP notices FB in the crowd at Headingley and in his honour plays one of the defining innings of his career.  The sky then falls in for him as his texts to S African players suggest he is not quite the team man.  Scotland beat Bangladesh in a T20 in the Netherlands, their first victory over a Test Playing nation.  Carlton win the Murgatroyd T20 trophy again and will go on to compete in the national finals, but their hopes of retaining the League Title suffer from some disappointing early season results.  The Olympics are a triumph for Team FB, only the resurrection of the Spice Girls in the closing ceremony adds a sour note.  It is raining in Scotland.

August - Andrew Strauss's 100th Test proves to be his last as he resigns from the England captaincy after the losing series against S Africa.  S Africa win the series convincingly to take over the number one spot which has been England's for barely a year.  In 50 Tests as skipper, Strauss won 24 and won back to back Ashes.  But his declining form and being generally fed up with the KP saga are seen as reasons for the sudden decision.   FB is overlooked for the role and Alistair Cook is made captain for the coming tour of India.  Carlton win the National T20 Trophy for the second season running.   The Paralympics are a compelling follow up to the Olympics and deliver the performance of the year when the crowd boo Chancellor George Osborne.  FB's season peters out in its usual fashion of under achievement and might have beens.  Consolation came in the form of empire biscuits.  Nevertheless to a stunned silence in the dressing room FB promises to return next year. It is raining in Scotland.

KP carrying a list
of those he is
not allowed
to mention in texts of tweets
September - without KP England struggle in the World T20 tournament in Sri Lanka.  West Indies are surprise winners - to the delight of most neutrals.  Europe win the Ryder Cup making an astounding come back on the final day. FB's fellow Aberdonian Paul Lawrie goes unregarded by the media in spite of a vital contribution.  As FB knows it is typical treatment of Aberdonians.  It is raining in Scotland.

October - KP is recalled to the England squad for the India tour having gone through a programme of reintegration which involved counting to 100 before he hits send on any text he has written. It is raining in Scotland.

November -  After an unconvincing defeat in the first Test in Ahmedabad, England listen to FB and choose Panesar for the second test in Mumbai.  He delivers as do Cook and Pietersen and England win by 10 wickets.  In the US Presidential election, Barack Obama is returned on the strength of his commitment to cricket.  Australian captain Michael Clarke makes successive scores of over 200 against S Africa.  He finishes the year with another hundred and as the year's leading run scorer.  It is raining in Scotland.

December  England carry the Mumbai momentum into the next Test at Kolkata where Cook scores his 23rd Test Century to become the leading English Text centurion.  A draw in the final test gives them a 2-1 series victory, their first in India since 1984-5.  Sachin Tendulkar announces his retirement from ODI cricket - India plunges into dark mourning.  Mrs FB is relieved to discover that FB's surprise Christmas present to himself does not involve knocking-in.  Peace and goodwill to all men, even FB, breaks out.

Vintage year
FB's cricketer of the year is Michael Clarke, who scored 1595 runs this year - more than any other Australian ever - at an average of 106.33.  His team of the year is his own squad of 11, 12 and 13 year olds in the Carlton All Stars 4th XI who so ably and athletically made up for the deficiencies of their elders throughout the season.

Don Wilson, 6 Tests, 1189 FC wickets @ 21.00
But the Grim Reaper had the last laugh dismissing Tony Greig right at the year end and Christopher Martin Jenkins on New Years Day.  Both will be greatly missed.  Otherwise FB thinks that the only Test player to have left the crease in 2102  is the Yorkshire left armer Don Wilson.  FB will also remember fondly Lancashire's Harry Pilling, the diminutive batter who was such a favourite during the televised John Player league.

Non cricketers leaving the crease are many and FB recalls in particular Neil Armstrong, Ravi Shankar, Eric Hobsbawm, Gore Vidal and Donna Summer.  It is raining in Scotland.

Harry Pilling 15279 FC runs @ 32.23

In tribute to all whose innings were completed, here is a link to Take 5 by Dave Brubeck who died on 5 December at the age of 91.  It is raining in Scotland.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Vanity Publishing

In tribute to the passing of the old year, but mostly out of Fantasy Bob's extreme vanity, here are FB's XI favourite Witterings from 2012.  (Not in batting order)

Cooks Numbers  - the arithmetical significance of Alistair Cook's stellar performances as England captain

Pippas Cricket Tea - some important advice on crucial entertaining

Dookers - FB gets in some bother in the swimming pool

Glenrothes - FB has navigation difficulties

The Primacy of Amla - more on numbers - this time it's Hashim Amla

Salmon Fishing in the Grange - the implications of all the rain in 2012 for cricket grounds

The Hunting of the Snark - a poem in honour of Lewis Carroll and spin bowling

The Velodrome - FB and Chris Hoy go head to head in fitness test

The Carlton Tango - a welcome to Toby Bailey, Carlton's new coach

Leveson - FB finds himself mentioned in the Leveson inquiry - a pathetic attempt at satire

Temptation - FB manages to resist, but only just

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

I M Jolly

For many years the only bearable part of the apology for imaginative programming that BBC Scotland got together for Scottish cricketers on Hogmanay was the address by the Rev I M Jolly.

Jolly was the creation of the great Scottish comedian Rikki Fulton and was a satire on the then Last Call shown late on many weekday nights featuring a fireside homily from some Minister of the Kirk or other.  In these more secular times these delights are no longer available.  For we like sheep have gone astray............

Jolly was the archetypal miserable Christian with the ability to be depressed at every turn of events and Fulton's straight faced lugubrious presentation brought out the wonders of a particular Presbyterian view of life.  Test Match Quality.  This link will take you to his very first address.

The Reverend Jolly never addressed cricketing issues in the broadcasts that FB recalls, perhaps it was too cheerful a subject.  However FB's diligent researches have unearthed this script which makes unusual reference to Jolly's skill at ministering to troubled cricketers.

In the bleak midwinter - and never has a midwinter been more bleak - we've had water coming in our roof for days now.  So much so that my wife Ephesia has taken to wearing wellingtons around the house.  Her repeated suggestion that walking on water is a skill that I should master strikes me as wholly inappropriate.

But no matter how bleak the midwinter is, it is our lot in life to bring happiness to those who are less fortunate than ourselves.  A cheery wave from us happy souls can make their day.  Even though as I look around me, it strikes me that there may not be too many who are less fortunate than me.  I've had a hell of a year.  A bloody nightmare from day one.

In the bleak midsummer - and never was a summer more bleak in my considerable experiences of bleak midsummers.  Some of you may have thought that all that stuff in the Good Book about it raineth for forty days and forty nights was a poetic expression.  Indeed my own keen sense of humour may have from time to time made light of it - I acknowledge now that my suggestion that the Lord did not say unto Noah build me an ark, but  instead build me an anorak was too radical a reinterpretation of scripture.  It may also have been in questionable taste given the Church roof blew off in the January gales.  And for this I am sorry.

It was in the midst of the downpour that a member of the local cricket club came to me seeking spiritual guidance, which, there being nothing worth watching on the telly at the time, I was only too willing to give.

Reverend he said,  'Whit is it whit I should dae in these terrible times of torment?' 

My first thought was that he should learn to speak English, but I suppressed it.

'Brother' I said unto him.  'What is it that troubles thee?'

Upon which he let out such a wail of lamentation that reminded me of myself on a good day.  The gist was that this soul was once a star batsman but had been dismissed for a succession of low scores. His wife  fed up of hearing his endless tales of biased umpires and had left him.  His business went bankrupt as he practised 24 hours a day. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. He was at the end of his tether.  He was thinking of ending it all.  And so he went on.........  and on............and on.

It is at times like this that one's vocation comes to the fore.  That one's long years of training in the Ministry bring forth their fruit.  Without that I might have turned my back on him and passed on the other side of the road.  In the spiritual sense of course - the literal sense would have been difficult since he was sitting in my vestry at the time.  Drinking my tea.

But instead I looked kindly on him, and gently said to him some words of comfort.  

'You may think that things are bad just now.  But just you wait.  It's getting worse.  Let me tell you about the day I've had............'