Thursday, 28 February 2013

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Following its dramatic downgrading of its rating of the UK economy last week, ratings agency Moodys today issued their latest assessment.

In a statement the respected agency said,

'We have observed that go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton held its first indoor net practice last night.  We have examined the data available from that session and are pleased to confirm that our rating of Fantasy Bob remains AAA.

'He is abject at batting, awful at bowling, and absolutely lamentable at fielding.  The outlook for the coming season is therefore in line with previous expectations.'

Chancellor George Osborne responded to Moody's latest announcement by saying that Fantasy Bob's efforts on behalf of the UK empire biscuit sector had given an important fillip to a critically important part of the UK economy.

Mrs FB reported that following the training session Fantasy Bob was unable to move.  She said she noticed little difference from his usual condition.

Not a rating agency
Moodys Rating Agency bears no relation to Tom Moody, the former Australian cricketer who also holds the world record for throwing the haggis.  Tom Moody's assessment of Fantasy Bob is not known - easy to guess, but not known.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Trial by Jury

Sweeney - sudden fame
Fantasy Bob has some sympathy for Mr Justice Sweeney who has shot to unwanted fame this week.

He seems to have had a hard time with the jury in the high profile Vicky Pryce trial - Ms Pryce is accused of perverting the course of justice by accepting her ex-husband's, Chris Huhne, speeding points on her licence.  The jury would seem to have a collective IQ little higher than the number of points at issue.  The jury asked him a series of questions about the case at which he threw down his wig in despair, concluded that they had no understanding of their role or the nature of the evidence and so dismissed them. A retrial has been ordered.

However through diligent research of the sort that only he can muster, Fantasy Bob has discovered that Mr Justice Sweeney has had some similar previous experiences. 

Was this batsman out LBW?
When he is not judging, Mr Sweeney is a keen cricket umpire and committed to coaching and teaching aspirant umpires in the laws of the game. However sometimes he struggles to convey the subtleties of the laws in layman's terms.  In a recent class he was subjected to a series of questions from trainee umpires which caused him some anguish.

FB has obtained a copy of the transcript of the Q&A session, and presents it without further comment.

Q. You have defined the defence of marital coercion and also explained what does not fall within the definition by way of examples. Please expand upon the definition, specifically can a batsman be out if he leaves his crease when his wife waves from the boundary to tell him to put his sun cream on.

A. The words are relatively straightforward English words which the MCC does not permit me to go beyond further than I have.  The batsman would have to feel he was impelled in relation to the sun cream and truly believed he had no real choice. The mere suggestion shouted from the boundary that she certainly didn't want to see his sun tanned bald head glowing in the dark that evening is unlikely to be sufficient.

Q. In the scenario where the batsman may be out but there is not enough evidence provided by the bowling side at the material time to feel sure beyond reasonable doubt, what should the verdict be: out, not out, or didn't see cause the sun was in my eyes?

A. There was no answer but the sharp intake of breath.

Q. If there is debatable evidence supporting the bowler's case for LBW, can inferences be drawn to arrive at a verdict? If so, inferences/speculation on the full evidence or only where you have directed us to do so, eg circumstantial evidence, lies, failure by the batsman to mention facts to the police.

A. The answer was preceded by a long sigh. The police a rarely involved in cases of LBW.  The drawing of inferences is a permissible process, for example it is an inference that a batsman wielding a top of the range Gray Nicoll Scoop is a rich bugger, but it is speculation that he must be a quality batsman and so could not possibly have misjudged the line. Further you must not speculate as to whether the batsman intended to place his leg outside the line of off even when he did not or that the bowler intended to pitch in line and would have but for a sudden gust of wind.

Q.Can you define what is reasonable doubt?

A. I doubt it but I'll try to be reasonable so here goes - A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable. These are ordinary English words - what's your problem?

Q.Can an umpire come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented on the field of play and has no facts or evidence to support it either from the bowler or fielders?

A. The answer to that question is firmly no. You cannot give a batsman out because something reminded you of the dismissal of Ian Botham at the Oval in 1991, nor can you say a batter is out bowled if the ball has just crossed the boundary for 4.

Q. Can we infer anything from the fact that the batsman did not bring witnesses from the time of the ball being bowled such as au pair, neighbours?

A Nor, before you ask, can you infer anything from the fact that his trousers appear to be too tight.

Q Does the batsman have an obligation to have a defensive shot?

A There is no burden on the batsman to prove he can bat. Nor is there an obligation to defend a straight ball - many batters try to wallop the cover off everything. it's not a pretty sight but it can be effective once in a while.

Q. Can we speculate about the events at the time that the batsman missed the ball, or what was in his mind at that time?

A In my experience batsmen rarely have anything in their mind.Q. Please advise on which facts in the bundle the jury shall consider to determine an out or not out verdict.

A. For pity's sake - you bunch of dumb twats decide the case on the evidence. That means it is for you to review all of the evidence and decide which of it you consider to be important, truthful and reliable, and then decide what conclusions, common sense conclusions, you can safely draw by way of inference from that evidence.

Q. Would religious conviction be a good enough reason for a batsman snicking a ball behind?

A. I give up. I'm going back to judging. This is not, with respect, a question about cricket at all. No jury could ever come up with such a bunch of dumb questions. 

Footsteps are heard followed by the sound of a door opening and slamming.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

These are my mountains

Scotland's mountains can be deadly
Following the recent series of tragic deaths in Scotland's mountains, there have been calls in the media that access to the hills should be restricted.

Ever vigilant to the need for public safety, the executive authorities at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have issued the following statement

'The hill in Carlton's outfield is one of the jewels of Scotland's mountaineering heritage.  We do not think access should be restricted.  We want people to enjoy this wonder of nature, but we take safety extremely seriously. It is a miracle that that we have had no fatal tragedies on the slope, particularly when Fantasy Bob is at third man. Last season there was a scare when he disappeared completely from view and had to be rescued by a junior who led him down to safety.

The hill looks benign in sunshine
but it can turn
to a hostile environment in seconds
'We therefore urge climbers setting out to conquer the hill to bear in mind that it is a dangerous and hostile environment.  Conditions can change very quickly on the ascent.

'Climbers should be properly prepared and equipped  Sat nav and mobile phone are no substitutes for a map and compass, and a watch whistle and a torch are essential.  An ice axe is desirable at most times of year. FB recommends an extra empire biscuit in case the mist comes down.

'Climbers should always tell someone that they are going on the hill - preferably the wicket keeper - they should advise of the planned route to the top and the estimated time of return.  They should not venture on the hill alone.

'It is no disgrace to turn back if they are unsure they can reach the top.

'Carlton wishes all climbers to be safe rather than sorry.'

The search for FB on Carlton's hostile hill

Friday, 15 February 2013


By accident Fantasy Bob received a copy of the following e-mail directed to Carlton’s Doughty Groundsman.  It purports to be from his colleague in Doughtiness and Groundsmanship at go ahead Russian cricket club Chelyabinsk CC

Fraternal greetings to you,  my Doughty Groundsman comrade at Carlton, go ahead cricketing club in Edinburgh. How you?  How your comrade Fantastic Bobski - him of the long words?
You want know how I am?  I am sick in spirit. I need your help and advice.  Super pronto.

Trouble start when our bone headed skipper tell me he want early pre-season fixtures.  He think playing squad need to have feel of bat on ball in middle.  He tell me to get wickets ready.  This I do dawn till dusk even though Mother Russia’s winter is still here.  Bone headed skipper say no matter 3ft of snow on square and diesel in heavy roller frozen. Get to it.  He is right pain in the Urals. 
So your comrade buckle down and clear snow and wicket look not too bad. No sign of thatch that was problem last season.  We have scarifying party in September is why.  Even bone headed skipper help by standing around with stupid look on his face. Take me 3 days to remove vodka bottles from middle, but thatch is no problem.  Top dressing has settled well.  Geiger counter register zero so slight concern about cheap loam from Chernobyl District Cricket Association is dispelled.   Winter floods have come and gone only 3 juniors washed away this year.  Smell of spring is in the air.

So today I look forward to getting outfield cut for first time and think about some light rolling on square.  I am at ground nice and early.  I am heating up samovar and listening to some good Pussy Riot music on radio when there is light in sky.  Big light. Is like fireworks at end of season when we win 20-20 league for umpteenth time. But bigger. For a moment I think that bone headed skipper has been in the fuel store with his cigarillos.  Many times I tell him naked flames and petrol fumes not a good mixture.  But door is still locked.  Then light get brighter and there is big bang.  Even deafest umpire would hear without snicko evidence.
I look around and roof is blown clean off tractor shed.  I look around again and there in middle of square is a trail of smoke.  This is place where trail of smoke should not be – according to ECB pitch preparation manual.  I look more closely and there is smouldering lump of rock on a length from the Yeltsin Memorial end.  That in itself is not such problem.  But rock is sitting in crater 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep.    This is problem.

So Doughty Groundsman at go ahead Carlton cricket club help me.  I look in said ECB manual and there is zero advice on fixing meteor craters on wicket.  Zero.  Zilch.  I hear you are expert on fixing craters as I hear a senior member’s bowling action digs sizable crater in wicket.  I hear rumours that Carlton has lost several juniors in  such holes in recent seasons.  But your wicket is batting paradise week in week out. You have the knowledge so please tell me how to fix Chelyabinsk crater before first match.


Даути землекоп
Chelyabinsk CC

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Love Poems

 reluctant cricket widow
On Valentine’s Day, Fantasy Bob finds his thoughts turning to love. And to poetry. For what is the point of poetry if not to convey that undying love, that never ending yearning, that special place in the heart. In short cricket. But to judge from their published works cricket has not stimulated many of the greatest poetic imaginations in literary history. FB cannot readily identify why this should be so.

One of the best loved romantic poets is Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose own story is highly romantic and has been the subject of stage and screen. As a young woman of talent and sensitivity, she lived a reclusive life in the semi-invalid mode that was either fashionable or imposed on women in those more repressive times. But when she published a volume of poetry in 1844 (the year by the say in which the first international cricket match was played, between USA and Canada) it so impressed the young Robert Browning that he wrote to her in admiration. Letter followed letter, then secret meetings and eventually they eloped in 1846 getting secretly married before eventually settling in Italy.

It has long perplexed scholars as to whether Robert Browning, himself a poet of some stature, was a cricketer. Evidence has proved elusive, however FB has unearthed this original manuscript of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s celebrated Sonnet XLIII which suggests that he may well have been. Could her reluctance to be a cricket widow explain why they went to Italy?

Some of FB’s diminishing worldwide readership will recognise that, on the basis of this verse, there appear to be some parallels in the Barratt-Browning relationship with that between FB and Mrs FB. FB is unable to explain this and must put it down to coincidence.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee though you throw your cricket kit
In just the place I must trip over it
Why must you strew it all around the place?

The cupboard ‘neath the stair has lots of space
With room to house those many ancient bats
Those pads, those gloves, those bags and umpteen hats
Why then d’you drop it on the stair case?

I love thee; and so I fully share your mind
And although the words mean nought to me
I’m sure the ball hit you outside the line
The ump was mad to give you out LB
Yes! Unjust! A cruel trick of the divine!
And put that damn kit somewhere. Tidily!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Fantasy Bob shed a silent tear at the end of the last ever episode of Lewis which was screened earlier this week.  Not that he was a devoted fan of the series, but the occasional sighting of it was a comforting reminder of the glory that was Morse.  Perhaps it was the crosswords, perhaps it was the Wagner, perhaps the Oxford College locations but  for FB this was the best of all detective shows.  And Lewis was Morse without Morse and none the worse for that.  And Lewis will be missed because under his bluff Geordie exterior was a cricketer of some potential who had devoted his life to putting Oxford's many murderers behind bars.

Cricket is not often featured in detective shows and far less nowadays with forensic pathology the dominant genre.  But cricket was central to one of the finest episodes of Morse - Deceived by Flight was first screened in January 1989with a script by Anthony Minghella from an idea by Morse's creator Colin Dexter.  FB would like to think that the episode's cricket theme was Dexter's idea.

The plot revolves around an ex student cricketing team who visit Oxford each summer to relive old glories.  Some are old acquaintances of Morse himself and almost inevitably one of them is murdered.  As the plot wanders on through its idyllic locations, Lewis finds himself going undercover as a college porter and is eventually pressed on to play in the cricket team.  This he does with much modesty but earnestly hoping that Morse his boss will watch and be impressed.  At that stage in the life of the show Lewis felt he had to make special efforts to impress Morse.  There was also a running joke during this episode of Test Match Special coming onto Morse's Radio 3 just when he was hoping for some consoling classical music.

One of the most authentic looking cricket matches in TV drama happens during which Lewis is run out for 1 by the prima donna batsman, takes a fine catch and bowls to take a wicket.  But his over is interrupted by the discovery of another corpse in the pavilion and the outcome of the game is left in doubt as Morse springs into action.

Kevin Whately, playing Lewis, looked like he had played cricket before - unlike many actors who are pressed into similar roles.

Just one reason why Morse is much missed and now Lewis is.

For the nostalgic among FB's worldwide readership, here is a link to the full episode.  Lewis cricketing skills are on display at around 1hr 02 Batting  1hr 07 (fielding) and 1.08 bowling.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Skating Minister

Raeburn's masterpiece
Fantasy Bob has learned of tensions within the authorities at the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton over the participation in this week’s imaginative scheme to project the nation’s best loved art works onto notable landmarks.

There was no disagreement that the club’s Grange Loan HQ is deservedly recognised as a significant landmark and, alongside such lesser sites as the Glasgow Concert Hall and Lincoln Cathedral, would be an appropriate site for such decoration.

It is there that the agreement stopped. For it was suggested to the club that the painting to be projected might be Sir Henry Raeburn’s iconic masterpiece Fantasy Bob Skating on Duddingston Loch.

The discussion got off to a bad start when the Doughty Groundsman expressed the trenchant view that to compare the ground to Duddingston Loch failed to reflect his sterling work at mopping up after the wettest season in the club’s history. He was sure that the artistic experts could find suitable works depicting Stakhanovite figures driving tractors or pushing mowers which would be more in mood with the surroundings. The DG’s views were duly noted.

A work to please the DG
But then the discussion became more heated. A significant group suggested that the club could not accept this painting due to the controversy over its attribution. For it is a matter of hot dispute in the art world as to whether this painting is genuinely the work of Sir Henry Raeburn, Scotland’s greatest portrait painter, or the work of a French artist, Henri-Pierre Danloux, who is believed to have been in Edinburgh in the 1790s, at the time of the painting's creation.

After several hours energetic discussion, the majority opinion was that the attribution to Raeburn, while controversial, remained sound. Above all there is no indication that M Danloux understood anything about cricket. While cricket is disappointingly not a major subject within Raeburn’s oeuvre, it was noted that his estate in Stockbridge once contained the land that is now Edinburgh Accies' ground and the Citlylets Grange home to Scotland and the Grange Club itself. This was compelling evidence in favour of Raeburn.

But there was more disagreement as to whether it is genuinely a picture of Fantasy Bob. Some present suggested that while FB’s propensity for skating on thin ice had often been witnessed, most particularly in his presentation of himself as an opening batsman for the All Star 4th XI, he had never been seen in such an elegant pose as displayed in the picture. Others were sceptical that FB had been around at the time the painting was made, although the club’s scorebooks failed to provide evidence one way or the other. A final clinching argument was made that the club did not need any more controversies around misattribution and FB. Close inspection of the scorebooks had seen many leg byes, byes and wides being erroneously attributed to him rather than the extras column.

The club therefore decided, with some sadness, to decline participation in the scheme.

Friday, 8 February 2013


Cricketers the world over will be considering the outcome of their voting behaviour having elected a cat to replace the iron as a token in the Monopoly game.

From the cricketer's point of view, the choice given to them as possible new tokens for the game was uninspiring - a guitar, a ring, a robot, a helicopter and a cat.

Frankly Fantasy Bob did not fancy any of them and did not see what was wrong with the existing tokens, so he withheld his vote.

He will miss the iron.  In his playing days he tried to pick the battleship but sometimes the choice of token was keenly contested within FB's family.  He knew he was on a hiding to nothing when he ended up with the boot, or even worse the Scottie dog.  He might as well have declared himself bankrupt at that point.  But with the battleship he was sure he would end up with hotels all around the board particularly in Mayfair and the money would roll in.  FB's memories of Monopoly are accompanied by rain slamming against caravan windows.  Not cricketing weather.

Even as a child FB wondered at the choice of locations on the board.  Nowadays there are versions for every city, but back in pre-history there was only the London board.  FB did not understand why neither Lords nor the Oval was there, the London locations of greatest meaning to him.   Marylebone Station was on the board - a place of no singificance compared to Marylebone Cricket Club which was ignored.  And the more recently created Edinburgh Board is equally defective - there is no place for Grange Loan, headquarters of go ahead cricket club Carlton.

How any cricketer is expected to maintain any interest in this game is beyond FB.  But there is hope.

There is even a Manchester United version of the game in which the streets are replaced by players.  FB thinks there may be a gap in the market for an IPL version with players and franchises for sale - and being hit for six rather than going to jail.

But a game would have to have a cricketing set of tokens.  FB looks forward to the world wide election in which fans are invited to choose what they are.  He is sure the box will get a good number of votes.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Scotland’s cricketers have gone Borgen mad. 

 The Tweetosphere is awash with comments on the Danish soap opera depicting the strains on fictional Danish Statsminister Brigitte Nyborg as she tries to balance her family life and her political duties. There are cries of, Why can’t Scottish cricketers play to this standard? Why can’t Scottish cricket be more like this? And so on. And so forth. Afficionados even attended a special event in Edinburgh at which Mrs Borgen appeared in person clad fetchingly head to foot in tartan. Scotland is Borgen mad.

While Fantasy Bob is not quite at the mad end of the Borgenites he has enjoyed the show greatly. He quietly waited through the second series which has just finished for it to address the most important issue facing Denmark today. Instead he was treated to a succession of dramas about Afghanistan, funding the health service, and peace brokering in Africa. All of which may be of significance in their own right but none of which compares to the real issue facing Denmark’s future.

Denmark joined the ICC's High Performance Program from 1 April 2007. In August 2007, Denmark registered a win over Bermuda, and had a very successful tour of Kenya. In November 2007, Denmark took part in Division Two of the World Cricket League. In finishing fourth, they qualified to compete in the 2009 ICC World Cup Qualifier. However, they eventually came last of the twelve teams, meaning they were relegated to Division Three of the World Cricket League. They next competed in the 2011 ICC World Cricket League Division Three, where they came 5th to be relegated to the Division Four. The did however compete in the T20WC qualifying championship in UAE last March where they managed only one win out of 7 matches before losing to Oman in the 15th/16th place play offs.

This is disappointing progress and a test even to the Statsminister's Machiavellian spin doctor Kaspar Juul.  for some reason Kaspar also has the name Kenneth. 

FB is sure that the scriptwriters could have come up with something which reflected the pressure this would place on Denmark’s elected representatives. An episode which saw Statsminister giving a stirring team talk, if not putting her pads on and getting out into the middle herself, leading instantly to better results would not strain credibility any more than some of the episodes seen so far. Particularly if she wore her tartan outfit.

FB notes that a 3rd series is promised. He is sure this script is in the making.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Richard Plantagenet

Many cricketers have turned to Fantasy Bob in a misguided search for advice.

A chorus of worried voices has surrounded him all day, 'What should a cricketer make of the confirmation that the skeleton of Richard III has been found in a car park in Leicester?'  'Is it a cause for joy, despair or continued apathy?'

FB is uncertain.  There is no indication that Richard was a cricketer.  His impact on Scottish cricket is even less clear - his only tour to Scotland involved the recapture of Berwick on Tweed.  He never saw Grange Loan.  Richard's own physical condition, the skeleton shows a significant curvature of the spine, suggests that pace bowling might not have been an option for him.  However historical suggestions of a withered arm have not been confirmed, so a slower pace may have been possible.  But it remains disappointingly uncertain.

Not a fast bowler's skeleton

This is not idle speculation and it is a great disappointment that the researchers trumpeting their discoveries today have not properly investigated the issue.  For there are claims that early forms of cricket were played in Plantagenet times. FB's research team reports that a review of the accounts of the Royal Household in the year 1300 reveals the sums of 100 shillings and 6 pounds were spent on creag and other sports of Prince Edward. The report refers to Edward I, then aged 15, playing a game called creag in Newenden, Kent.  Creag is thought to be a game involving hitting a ball with a stick, which sounds pretty much like cricket to FB.  Edward is better known to cricketers as Longshanks or the Hammer of the Scots, and had an unpleasant propensity for bowling bouncers.  He certainly did for William Wallace in a most uncricketlike fashion, a viciousness not repeated until the bodyline series.

It is likely therefore that Richard, Duke of Gloucester and later King of England, may well have had the opportunity to play cricket.  It is a tragedy that history's understanding of his capabilities at the crease is so limited. Knowledge here might help explain his character. For had Shakespeare been aware of him as a cricketer he might not have portrayed him as such an outright villain in his play.  But Shakespeare may well have called it right - perhaps even as a cricketer Richard Plantagenet would have been a nasty lot - a sledger, a chucker and a batter who refused to walk.

Richard was the last Plantagenet king and died without issue, so descendants are hard to find.  For there are very rare mentions of the Plantagenet name in the cricket archives.  But Alan Plantagenet Stewart, aka the 10th Earl of Galloway, played for MCC between 1858 and 1864.  Subsequently he was MP for Wigtownshire and had all manner of accolades bestowed on him including becoming a Knight of the Thistle - Scotland's highest order of chivalry.  

But he was a bit of a lad. In October 1889, the Earl of Galloway appeared in Dumfries Sheriff Court on a charge of indecent behaviour towards a young girl. He was found not guilty. On 23 January 1890, the Earl of Galloway appeared again in court, this time the Glasgow Central Police Court, charged with having been 'riotous, disorderly or indecent' in his behaviour, by accosting, following and molesting Margaret Brown and one or more female passengers. The charge was found not proven.  What would Shakespeare have made of him?

So FB is uncertain to guide cricketers as to their appropriate response.  But he is sure that they will share his relief that there will be no more jokes about how much Richard owes in back dated parking fees.

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Auction

Glen Maxwell $1m dollar man
Fantasy Bob has never been the subject of an auction.  So he has no idea how it feels like today to be Ravi Bopara or Matt Prior who were left unsold at this weekend's IPL auction for the 2013 series.

Nor has he a clue how it feels to be Glenn Maxwell who went for the top price in the auction - as the Mumbai Indians forked out $1 million for him.  FB must admit he has never heard of Maxwell, good Scottish name though he possesses - not that that fact seems to have diminished his value.  Apparently he scored the fastest half century in Australian cricket history - taking 19 balls.

But he celebrated his good fortune by scoring a big fat duck for Australia in their latest ODI against W Indies.  A game in which former Scottish Saltire George Bailey scored 125 in a match winning innings.  George Bailey was signed by Chennai in the IPL in 2009 for a mere $50000 but has played only a handful of games.

FB recognises that the player auction is one way of ensuring that teams have competitive squads so that no team can unduly dominate a competition leading to the sterility that is present in, for example, in Scottish football. The time may be ripe for the concept to be introduced in Scottish sport.  Just to gauge the Scottish appetite for the concept FB suggests that a player auction should be introduced into the lower leagues of the East of Scotland League.  However he recognises that in an amateur league there is a sensitivity in putting monetary value on layers in this league, so he suggests that players' value should be assessed in non monetary terms.  Fortunately FB has identified he perfect alternative currency.  For the 2013 auction player's worth will be evaluated in terms of empire biscuits.

Here is the auctioneer rehearsing for the coming event.