Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Fantasy Bob reads with as near as he can muster to interest that zips are to be banned from cricket trousers by the ICC. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.

Banned by the ICC
This has been confirmed after the fine levied on South African Faf du Plessis in the recently completed Test against Pakistan.  Du Plessis' offence, for which he was docked 50% of his match fee and his side given a 5 run penalty, was to shine the ball in the area of the zip on the pocket of his trousers.  This was deemed ball tampering so the fate of the zip was sealed, as it were.  Zip-a-dee-ay.

Old Faf might have been inconvenienced by the fine, but the 5 run penalty didn't hurt as S Africa won by an innings and 92 tuns.  My oh my.

FB was surprised to learn of cricket trousers with zips - even if they are on the pockets.  He has not encountered a zip anywhere on cricket trousers, least of all in the place you might expect a zip to be. For many years now all his cricket trousers have had a closed front. What a wonderful day.

du Plessis
It is arguable whether this is progress.  It has the unfortunate consequence that cricketers must now bare their all in a very undignified fashion when they nervously seek to relieve themselves prior to their innings. Rugby players moon with enthusiasm on every possible occasion.  But cricketers are more modest. And the requirement to present a bare rear at such a private time can only add to the fraughtness of these highly charged moments.  It is hard to believe that had such as Bradman or Hammond been faced with such indignity it would not have dampened their performance.  Indeed FB suspects that their consistency can be explained by there being an opening in their trousers where an opening should be.

There may be another way of looking at it. For the majority of their careers Bradman and Hammond would have had to negotiate a set of buttons.  Zips only came into widespread use in the flies of trousers in the late 1930s.   This immediately heightened the risks faced by cricketers.   In the USA there are 17,000 zipper accidents per year when that all too delicate part of the anatomy is caught in the zipper in the attempt to close it.  FB suspects that there will a similar frequency of eye watering occasions in cricket playing countries.  But it is not known how many cricketers have been so unfortunate, although the risk must be considerably higher since doing up a zipper with batting gloves on presents an added challenge.  This may explain the speed with which the fly-less modern trouser grew in popularity.

It's the truth
Its's actual
Everything is satisfactual...................

FB's dwindling world wide readership may find it of interest to know that the first modern design for the zip was made and patented in 1913 - by the American Gideon Sundback.  Since this was in the USA it is unlikely that cricketers' interests were significant in the designer's mind.  Well, Sundback should have thought harder and the heirs to his invention would not be facing this ban now.

PS the song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah seems to have nothing to do with trouser fastenings.  It cames from the Walt Disney film Song of the South released in 1947 - which was also Walter Hammond's last year in Test cricket.  He got out when button flies were still available.

Sunday, 27 October 2013


It is rare these days that Fantasy Bob receives a phone call from a world leader.  Indeed it is rare these days that Fantasy Bob receives a phone call from anyone.  Even those breathless callers eager to tell him about his opportunity to claim compensation for his mis-sold PPI have found better things to do.

So he was unprepared for the call when it came.  His thoughts were far away from the wet autumn night.  He was back in the height of the summer, with his bat arcing to its high follow through having dispatched the ball effortlessly to the distant extra cover boundary.  Dream on.

As soon as he picked up the phone he could tell that the caller was displeased.  The voice was female, it was icily calm.  Oh no, he thought, Mrs FB is about to give him what for again for leaving his kit in that place where she is bound to trip over it again?

But the strong Germanic inflection told him it was not Mrs FB.  But his feeling of relief did not last long.

Don't you wrong number me Her Fantasy Bob........
'Schweinhunt!  Herr So called President of so called USA you are spying on your so called closest ally. We have nice dinner at Davos, you tell me you are friend and all the time you are buggering me.  Is this the reward we Germans get for Bayern Munich stuffing Man City?'

Fantasy Bob tried to clear things up.  'Frau Merkel,' he said, 'I fear you have the wrong number.  This is Fantasy Bob not President Obama.'

'Pah,' the ear piece rattled, 'Don't you wrong number me.  Fantasy Bob, Fantasy Obama - is all the same.  I know you are buggering me Fantasy Bob.  Listening to all my conversations.  Trying to see what selection will be turning out in crunch league match against Carlton All Stars Fourth XI at the weekend.  Well I tell you it won't work.  We have mystery leg spinner that will make you like monkey - not that that is difficult.'

The voice took a breath and continued in an even more emphatic tone.  'Don't you try to soft soap me like you soft soap Frau FB. German cricketers will not tolerate it.  It is time for action.  We sat back when you took our wonderful German biscuit and renamed it the Empire biscuit.  No longer.  Unless we have a no buggering agreement, we will stop supplies of German biscuits reaching your cricket club tea tables. Henceforth.'

There was a pause.

'Do I make myself clear?'

FB had to time to respond for the line went dead immediately.

It was the henceforth that did it.  Fantasy Bob sprang into action. Strings had to be pulled.  Favours had to be called. Promises had to be made.  Obama.  Cameron.  Hollande.  Yes they had all heard the conversation.

Yes they wanted to help.  But they needed something in return.  For a moment the prospect of a deal was slipping way.  Then FB came up with the goods - yes he promised the leaders of the free world, they could turn out next year for the All Stars whenever the fancy a game.   Just stop the spying.

It was a near run thing but through his swift action, FB is confident that he can assure all cricketers that supplies of German Biscuits are secured for seasons to come.
Empire Biscuits
German Biscuits

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Fantasy Bob suspects that police investigating the theft of a Henry Moore sculpture from the
Glenkiln Sculpture Park in Dumfries and Galloway may wish to interview senior cricket officials. For try as he might to think otherwise, Fantasy Bob thinks the finger of suspicion will soon fall on the tightknit fraternity of umpires.

Moore's Standing Figure - unfair to umpires?
The stolen sculpture is one of Henry Moore's rare cricket inspired works. It is entitled Standing Figure and as such is generally regarded as a representation of an umpire going about his important business.

However Fantasy Bob understands that many in the umpiring fraternity are not overly happy with this representation. There have been many complaints that it looks nothing like its supposed inspiration, the doyen of Scottish umpires Mr Sandy Scotland.  Mr Scotland could not be contacted today by FB's large research team.

Sandy Scotland - A model for Standing Figure?
Fantasy Bob fears that umpires have taken the law into their own hands and removed the offending statue. Why take this piece and none of the others in the remote location - none of the other pieces is relevant to cricket?  It is an important clue.

Defenders of umpires point out that this is not the first Moore sculpture to have been removed illegally.- In December 2005, the 2.1 tonnes of Moore's Reclining Figure 1969-70 was lifted from its position at the Henry Moore Foundation and removed on a flat bed truck. This work has no cricketing relevance. Last year a smaller work Sundial was also removed from the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation. Valued at £500,000, the thieves sold it for scrap for £46.

However Fantasy Bob understands that umpires are not among the suspects for either of these crimes.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Vandals attack city icon

World famous statue
of world famous
Fantasy Bobby
Executive authorities at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have launched an investigation into a possible act of vandalism to one of the club's most cherished icons.

The world famous Fantasy Bobby underwent restoration work recently to turn his shiny nose back to its original black.  However, less than 48 hours later, his nose was shiny again.

A spokesperson for the club said, 'Fantasy Bobby attracts visitors from all over the world following the legend about him turning up day after day to bowl up the hill against the wind long after his bowling action was well and truly dead.

'We are disappointed that his nose has gone shiny again, but we do not believe there is any relation to the amount of Kopparberg consumed in the club bar this season.'

Saturday, 5 October 2013


On the face of it, one of the more unlikely places to see cricketers is on a bus in Naples.

Fantasy Bob sat with Mrs FB as the vehicle moved slowly up the Via S Teresa delli Scalzi.  The bus dodged the chaos of the traffic outside the suicidal pedestrians regularly stepping out in front of it adding to the entertainment. FB's feet were still sore from the previous day's expedition to the ruins at Pompeii - the aches after 20 overs up the hill against the wind on a hard surface was nothing compared to this.

FB had gone to Pompeii with serious purpose.  He had noted the failure of generations of archaeologists to identify any indication that cricket had been played in Roman times.  He was sure that his eagle eye might spot some evidence to the contrary. Perhaps an antique statue with arm raised might be modeled on a medium pacer's action. 

Statue of Faun in Pompeii showing
 inswinger's action
But he was chastened to find no new evidence. Houses, shops, temples, theatres - all were laid out in the City where time stopped when Vesuvius erupted in 79AD.  But no evidence of cricket.  And FB increasingly felt the true answer to the question 'What did the Romans ever give us?' must be put in the negative 'Not cricket anyway.'

Mrs FB's patience with the drift of FB's conversation was wearing a bit thin. She had resorted to intense study of her bus ticket. 

FB was therefore silently contemplating another cricket-less day at the Museo Nazionale de Capodimonte when he noticed one of a passenger getting on the bus appearing to carry a cricket bat. He put this down to one too many glasses of Prosecco the night before, but he next stop brought onto the bus another cricket bat shaped bag. This time it could be no illusion for this bag was sported by a man in a Sri Lankan shirt. 
Real Palazzo Capodimonte

Things were looking up. There was cricket in the vicinity. He looked in his phrase book to check what the Italian for 'Do you need an 11th man?' (Avete bisogno di un uomo undicesimo?)

As the cricketers made to get off the bus, FB stirred.  But as he cleared his throat to utter the phrase, he felt Mrs FB's hand firmly on his shoulder. 'Don't even think about it,' she said. 'We are here for the Museo.'

It was an opportunity missed. 

But FB put a good face on it and enjoyed the Museo which is in a grand Bourbon palace overlooking Naples.  It is very grand - evidently the family made a lot of money out of chocolate biscuits in the 18th Century.  King Charles VII of Naples and Sicily (later Charles III, king of Spain) didn't do himself any harm by marrying into the Farnese family either.  The Museo houses a fine collection of old masters and Neapolitan art. 

Included in it is one of Caravaggio's greatest works - The Flagellation of Christ.  This fine painting is characteristic of Caravaggio's chiaroscuro style with dramatic contrasts in light and shade appears to show a batsman being assisted into his pads before an innings.  

Caravaggio - Christ getting his pads on
Though not a native of Naples, Caravaggio is taken as one of its own and his eventful life includes murders, stabbings and sexual adventures of all sorts.   It sounds like he could have been a fast bowler.  But the man could paint although none of his cricket paintings survived.

While FB was deprived of cricket during his visit, he is assured that cricket is growing in popularity in Italy and the national team took part in World Cricket League Division 3 this year and competed in the elimination tournament for the World T20 in 2102 where they finished in 10th place - Scotland finished in 5th place.

Despite the cricketers on the bus, FB can find no reference to a top flight team in Naples. Disappointing because the earliest mention of cricket in Italy is of a match played by Admiral Nelson's sailors in Naples in 1793.  It is unlikely that Nelson himself played - he seems to have spent the time propositioning Lady Hamilton when he could have been at net practice. 

Neapolitan Shrine to Maradona
Naples Football Club was founded by an Englishman in 1906 as the Naples Football and Cricket Club. This was similar to a number of other clubs in Italy eg A.C. Milan, which was originally the Milan Cricket and Football Club But these clubs soon forgot about cricket and concentrated on football. What might have been. 

Naples  sought to get in the big time by signing Diego Maradona in 1984 for a world record fee.  Maradona is venerated in Naples still.  

But had they concentrated on cricket they could have had Fantasy Bob for considerably less.

'See Naples and die,' said Goethe.

'See Naples but don't expect any cricket,' said FB.