Friday, 30 January 2015


Fantasy Bob has been considering the extent to which the 50th anniversary of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill should be a cause for celebration among cricketers.

30 January 1965
For every article praising Churchill there is one reviling him. He may have been the leader Britain needed in 1940 – but he was far from that at any other time in his career. In fact, he was a bit of a KP in his way, chopping and changing party and policy in the manner that KP became English overnight and not suffering opponents or even fools on his own side gladly – although there is no record of Churchill referring to his colleagues as muppets.

It is there that comparisons end however, for just as KP is an indifferent orator, so Churchill was an indifferent cricketer. Indeed Churchill seems to have been no cricketer at all. There is no record of him having taken any interest in the game at any point in his career despite copious opportunities.

His school career at Harrow is generally considered a failure, but not because he made no impression on the cricket field. Biographies tell that he was once humiliated by a group of his schoolmates who threw cricket balls at his hapless self who took refuge behind a tree. His early military career in South Africa seems to have been wholly preoccupied with beating the Boers on the battlefield rather than the cricket field.   

But there is one brush with cricket greatness in Churchill’s career – at Harrow he was fag to Archie MacLaren – one of the greats of the golden age – whose 424 scored in 1895 stood as the highest score in English first class cricket for almost 100 years, until Lara’s 501 in 1994.  MacLaren’s judgement on his youthful servant was severe - 'snotty little bugger, uppity but damn near useless, with no aptitude even for sport.’ 

Well, Churchill had the last laugh – for MacLaren died in November 1944, his glittering cricketing career long behind him and an unsuccessful business career, while Churchill watched the Allied Forces push towards Germany and looked forward to the end of the struggle.

Perhaps Churchill’s experience of the bully MacLaren was a factor in his standing up to the bully Hitler, notwithstanding that he may have shared Hitler’s disdain for cricket.

FB has always found Churchill’s war time speeches an inspiration. He has tried many times to emulate them in his pre-match addresses to the members of the Carlton All Star 4th XI as they face another stern challenge in the lower leagues of the East of Scotland Cricket Association.

The faces of his youthful charges shine and they would seem to have nothing but admiration as FB solemnly intones, ‘I have nothing to offer but blood toil tears and sweat.’

They look up with steely determination in their eyes as he goes on, ‘We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’

They hang stoically on his every word as he continues, '...if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.’

And then a small voice pipes up – 'Er... right.... FB – you did remember to bring empire biscuits for tea didn't you?'

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Address to an Umpire

Fantasy Bob has continued his world famous research into the unpublished cricketing works of Robert Burns.

He reproduces his most recent find below - but he has not discovered why Burns should have suppressed this fine work.

After all he used the opening lines again in his celebrated Address to the Devil.  That poem was written in 1785, a year which marked a decline in the fortunes of the dominant Hambledon Club as cricket spread throughout the country.

However in this, undated, original draft Burns targets a devil of a different sort, as he presents an ironic, but heartfelt, celebration of the challenges facing the umpire in lower league cricket with which Burns seems to have been fully familiar.

Address to an Umpire

O thou! whatever title suit thee,—
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie!
Thou art ne'er a thing o’ beauty
Nor yet inspiring
Thou maun do your cricketing duty
By Umpiring

In upper grades th’ umpire’s appointed
Wi' sponsors’ logos weel anointed
But in low’r leagues we’re disappointed
Thou'rt just a player
Thy knowledge of the laws disjointed
And peculiar

Whiles aifter tea thou felt like rest
But mercy be thou'rt cruelly pressed
The skipper says there's no chiel else
Prepared tae stand
The juniors couldna tak' the stress
But thou art the man

What could be simpler than to count six
It disnae need Higher Mathematics
But every over's full o' tricks
Tae complicate
No balls, dead balls, wides. Thy count is fix'd
By guestimate

The LB law's a real damnation
Each chiel has his interpretation
But can he gie an explanation
O' a decision
Withoot causing consternation
Or derision?

'Not out,' we hear thee sagely cry
'It's missing leg; it's ower high;
The ball has hit the batsman's thigh;
No stump wad be hit;
An' onywye, the sun was in my eye
I didna see it

There's places in this noble land
Where billies deem LB's been banned
So have the years passed since the man
Has raised the finger
Though bowlers scream their fraught demand
The batters linger

A loud appeal for caught behind
Thou must be deef, thou must be blind
Could thou hear, nor see, nor call tae mind
A deviation?
Thon batter's no a walkin' kind
It's ruination

Fegs! Low'r league players we a' suffer
At the whims o' sic a duffer
But we shouldna tak the huff for
There's no reason
We'll get the smoother and the rougher
O'er the season

Ah umpires! Thou must be respectit
I pay thee tribute thou'rt so neglectit
It ill becomes those at the wicket
To yell and doubt thee
For there would be nae bonny cricket
Were we withoot thee

Thursday, 22 January 2015


Blackmail victim attempting disguise 
Fantasy Bob has read with concern reports that England's World Cup skipper Eoin Morgan has been subject to a blackmail action in which a miscreant has threatened to reveal information about an alleged relationship with an Australian woman 5 years ago.

He has a message to all would be blackmailers who might think major cricketers such as Morgan and himself are fair game.  Any attempt to extort significant numbers of empire biscuits from FB to keep his secrets secret and to protect his reputation will be met with a firm shrug of the shoulders. This should be no surprise to FB's dwindling handful of readers.  For not only to they recognise that FB's reputation could not be lowered beyond its present precarious level.  They will also know that FB has already fully disclosed the details of an alleged relationship with an Australian woman.

The full details of his Morgan type incident can be found in this link.  

So think again blackmailers.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Festina Lente

Fantasy Bob has observed the controversy surrounding the recent decision by Edinburgh’s City Fathers to introduce a city wide speed limit of 20mph with close interest.
A 20mph zone
For there has been a wailing and gnashing of teeth by those whose sole purpose in life seems to be to drive at 70mph on any road and who cite the Bible, Magna Carta, and the Collected Works of Jeremy Clarkson in support of their right to do so.

Then there is a similar gnashing and wailing of teeth by assorted cyclists, pram-pushers and jay-walkers in support of the Council's proposals.

Generally speaking, FB sides with the pram pushers and their allies.  Festina Lente, as the ancients had it.

In fact he thinks the so called blanket speed limit does not extend far enough.  For the Council's roads are not the only places where FB is concerned about an excess of speed.

The Council's clutch of prestigious cricket pitches need also to be subject to some better regulation. For as FB has pointed out many times, 20mph still pretty fast.  Too fast in fact.

Particularly when the central feature of his world famous and innovative batting technique involves him closing his eyes as the bowler’s arm comes over.  The chances of him completely missing the ball bowled at that unnaturally rapid speed are therefore high.   Quite apart from the fact that many of his opponents deliberately project the ball towards him at speeds well in excess of that - a Jeremy Clarksonite tactic that requires to be discouraged.
The Meadows - not a 20mph zone

He is therefore disappointed that the Council has not extended its regulation to these locations.  He will continue to petition.

Some of FB's worldwide readership will recall that the first numeric speed limit was created in the UK in 1860s when  a limit of 10 mph on open roads in town - wisely this was reduced to 2 mph in towns and 4 mph  in rural areas - under the so called red flag act which obliged the bowler to have a man with a red flag proceed down the wicket before him.  In 1896 the speed limit was raised to 14 mph.  This was  held to be the estimated speed of a horse being driven furiously - by coincidence it is also the speed of a under-11 bowler bowling furiously.
This legislative change was too late for Mr Walter Arnold, of East Peckham, who was fined one shilling for travelling at 8 mph in a motorised vehicle. That was 4 times the speed limit applying at the time - a proportion of offence that would excite even Jeremy Clarkson. Mr Arnold was chased and caught by a policeman on a bicycle.

Little is known about Mr Arnold or his reasons for his indecent haste.  His cricketing interests are not recorded.  How he would have fared on contemporary Edinburgh's roads must be a matter of conjecture although the prospects of him being chased by a rozzer on a bike is more than remote, rozzers having given up bikes in favour of social media.

Despite all this uncertainty, Mr Arnold remains East Peckham's most famous person.

Not Mr Walter Arnold

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Elvis Has Left The Building

8 January 2015 is Elvis Presley's 80th birthday.  Except that he died in 1977. Tragic.  But even more tragic is that he died without ever having played cricket.

Who knows?  Had he survived he might have come in contact with the game and grown to love it.

Regrettably Elvis's opportunities to familiarise himself with cricket were limited.

Elvis is given that news that a net session at Prestwick CC is not possible
As Fantasy Bob is sure his worldwide readership will know, Elvis only once set foot on British soil. In 1960 he spent an hour at Prestwick Airport en route to the US from Germany at the end of his military service.  There is a special star in the terminal to mark this great event.

Special plaque at Prestwick
It seems a typical military blunder that this was in March, so giving Elvis no chance of visiting the adjacent Prestwick Cricket Club.

Instead he had to hang around the terminal building drinking coffee, listening to the clamour of his screaming fans outside and and talking to the press. Had he come in June, he could have popped across to the club for a net.

Who knows how frustrated he must have felt?  All Shook Up at least.

Prestwick and Elvis - it could have been something. For Prestwick Cricket Club had West Indian George Reifer as their professional in the 1990s. George had a twin brother, also a cricketer who played briefly for Hampshire. He died in 2011. His name was Elvis Reifer. He is only Elvis in Wisden.

Elvis may well have left the building - but he still has his impact on cricket.  For no Test Match is complete nowadays without the statutory quota of Elvis impersonators.

Thursday, 1 January 2015


FB wishes his world wide readership a very happy new year.
Over the years Fantasy Bob's attempts at the New Year Resolution have never got very far. 

This will come as no surprise to those who have seen him attempt to play leg spin bowling.  Nowehere is to be found a better display of irresolution.

FB understands that it was the ancient Babylonians who started all this resolution nonsense.  For reasons best known to themselves, instead of doing something useful like inventing cricket, they got themselves in the habit of making promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects.  The records do not show whether this led to an annual surge of Babylonian lawn mowers being taken back to their rightful Babylonian owners, or whether things just went on as before.

FB would like to think that the Babylonians were honourable and stuck to their resolutions. But the evidence from other civilisations is not encouraging.  Certainly the school friend to whom FB entrusted his precious copy of Days by the Kinks in 1968 was not of the Babylonian persuasion, for that record has never been returned.  FB supposes it is always possible that his friend will be converted to Babylonianism at a late stage in life and will duly return the disc. He looks forward to that happy day.
Babylonians doing Babylonian things

In 2007 a study involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success.  FB suspects that none of the subjects was Babylonian but even  had the study been conducted 4000 years ago he doubts the results would have been any different.

And yet the obsession with New Year Resolutions persists and the media, for want of anything better to print, devote pages and pages to fatuous advice on how to make and stick to resolutions.  Be positive, be specific, be realistic, FB read them all.  He has sought advice from counsellors, mentors and significant others.  Mrs FB in particular.  Last year FB decided that the time for action had arrived - he would heed one of her many suggestions.

One morning she remarked, in what seemed to FB an unnecessarily trenchant manner, 'It would be good if you could resolve to put your cricket kit in a place that I am not likely to fall over it all the time.'

FB duly resolved and declared his intention to his life partner as the strains of Auld Lang Syne rang out.  FB could not decide whether her snort in response indicated approbation or scepticism.

Anyway things went well.  There was a complete absence of tripping incidents or stubbed toes for the entire month of January.  FB basked in his achievement.  He felt positively virtuous, Babylonian in fact.

February was going well.  FB had this cracked. There was nothing to this resolution stuff. But pride comes before a fall.

The summons to indoor nets did it.  The morning after FB's quiet breakfast contemplation was disturbed by a thump and a crash in the hall followed by a series of choice epithets whose illocutionary force seemed to question  the reason both for FB's existence, implying it was somewhat hopeless, and the necessity of his cricket kit finding itself once again in a place where the speaker was bound to fall over it.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Mrs FB thinks it is also paved with cricket bags which the virtuous stumble on.

The force of his failure is still upon him so FB has resolved this year that he will make no resolutions. Can he stick with this one? Or is it more likely that he will finally get his copy of Days back?