Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Lago di Como

Lago di Como
Mrs FB has long accepted that summer holidays are for other people.  Not for her lingering balmy evenings sipping chilled prosecco on an elegant terraza as the sun slowly slides into the Mediterranean.  Not for her dining al fresco at the traditional harbourside restaurant as the waves lap gently below.

Instead she must find her own amusement as her life partner's every waking hour is devoted to cricket.  As if playing and net practice weren't enough, he spends the time in between filling the team sheets of the go-ahead Edinburgh club Carlton with increasingly unlikely combinations of old laggards and thrusting young talent.  Compared to FB's challenge of finding 55 players every week, Lord Kitchener had it easy when he was appointed Minister for War in 1914 with the simple task of assembling a force of 2.5 million.

Mrs FB is resigned - it may sizzle, it may drizzle, she may scan the travel mags with longing.  But her only summer trips are those when she measures her length over the kit bag FB has left lying in an unexpected place.

She therefore looked sceptically at FB when he asked whether she fancied a few days away.  Had the searing heat of an Edinburgh June finally fried what brain cells he has left?

She played it safe. 'No way,' she said. 'I'm not going on a cricket tour with you.'  FB appeased her.  While a cricket tour seemed a good idea he was thinking of something more along the conventional holiday lines.  'What ? With no cricket?' she asked distrustfully, searching her contact book for the number of a reputable care organisation in case the time had come.  With a sigh, FB pulled out his dog-eared fixture card and explained that a Saturday fixture followed the next week by a Sunday fixture gave the opportunity for a break.
Local tourist attraction

He was still in mid-explanation when Mrs FB looked up again from a flurry of keyboard clicks and said, 'That's done - Lake Como.  Pack your sun hat - it'll be over 30 degrees.'

FB had no reason to demur at the choice of venue but, as he wearily slotted player number 52 into his matrix for the weekend, he wondered why she had chosen this venue. Then a clue came as he heard a  murmur from another room.  Mrs FB was practising her Italian.  'Dove è villa di Giorgio?'  ' Signor Clooney sarà in visita in questo ristorante? A che ora?' 'Si. Mio marito sembra niente come George Clooney. Egli è ossessionato con il cricket.  Lui e una tragedia. Grazie per la vostra simpatia.'

From the deeper recesses of his memory FB dredged up the recollection that Mrs FB's heart throb George Clooney owned a villa on Lake Como and was regularly reported visiting local restaurants and beauty spots.  Mrs FB was on a mission.  Quite why Clooney, a man of no known cricketing skills, should so command her heart is a mystery to FB.  But life is full of such mysteries for FB.

Later she said, 'You'll be able to read that book I gave you - Who Wants To Be A Batsman.  Looking at your recent scores suggests you need all the advice you can get.' FB let that cruel shaft pass. 'And what will you do, carissima?'

'Oh, this and that, you know,' she said, coyly but with a gleam of excitement in her eye.

Sadly, her expectations were unfulfilled.  No sighting of George was made during their visit.  Villas and gardens, restaurants and cafes were searched without success.  It would seem that George had gone to ground.  Like a batsman on the end of a cruel LBW decision, Mrs FB remained philosophical.

As did FB.  Only once did he remark to Mrs FB that the tranquil lakeside landscape was beautiful in every respect apart from having any land flat enough for a cricket field of any meaningful size, so precipitously do the mountains descend to the water.  This observation seemed of disappointingly little interest to Mrs FB.

This was not cricketing country, concluded FB.  How then, he wondered, does the Navigazioni Lago di Como, the ferry company whose boats run up and across the lake, come to have as its logo a perfect representation of a set of stumps with a ball flying over middle?

Once a cricketing organisation?

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A Comparison of Sorts

Bairstow - nothing like FB
Fantasy Bob has for some time been prepared to acknowledge that Jonny Bairstow might be superior to him in the cricketing skills department.  Experts may struggle to spot the crucial differences but to the layperson, Jonny’s batting average in First Class Cricket of 48.64 is a bit of a clue. 
FB has come to terms with this unfavourable comparison.  He bears Jonny no grudge and has shared the general elation at Jonny's performances this season. They have taken JB to another level. There seemed to be no way that FB could match JB. 
However as Fantasy Bob watched last week’s First Test between England and Pakistan the realisation came upon him that he had downplayed his own skill level too quickly.  For there was the evidence.  His batting average might not show it, but in one critical respect he was on a level with Bairstow.   

Long suffering readers of these pages know that FB’s prodigious skills with the willow dissolve into nothingness when confronted with leg spin bowling.  At the twice weekly net sessions of go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton, aspirant leggies from the age of 5 upwards form an orderly queue to take turns in making a monkey of him.  His sacrifice to youthful mirth seems to pay dividends as the youngsters involved who frequently as a result go on to glittering careers for club and country. 

FB is living proof of the 10,000 hours fallacy.  Mozart may have practiced piano 10,000 to be become the towering musical genius that he was.  But 10,000 hours of facing leg spin in the nets has left FB no further advanced than he was at hour zero.  (History does not record how Mozart got on in working out leg spin.) 
Bairstow - just like FB

Now it would appear that FB shares this much with Jonny.   He cowered in front of the TV, feeling the sympathy of a fellow sufferer as he watched Bairstow turned inside out by Yasir Shah.  All the certainties of JB's technique against other bowling disappeared as he was left, FB-like, chasing shadows.
Lindsay Hassett
FB has long sought the Holy Grail of  a plan to improve this area of his performance.  Once seeking inspiration he found an article written by Dean Jones, a great Australian batsman who played spin as well as any other batsman.  Jones reports that he spoke to another great Aussie of a previous generation with an equal reputation for mastering spin – Lindsay Hassett.  Hassett told him:  

''Deano, watch their ball release, watch the rotation of the seam, and try to get down the track and hit the ball on the full. If you can't get to the pitch of the ball, then play them off the back foot. It's easy!'' 

FB more or less understood this advice.  Watching the ball release he could just about manage.  Watching the rotation of the seam would require him to keep his eyes open, a major change in technique.  Getting down the track, yes that seems sensible advice.  FB has never managed it, but it seems sensible advice. He was clearly on a roll.   he had the Hassett method to a T. Mastery would be his.  But suddenly it all fell apart as he reached the final sentence.  ‘It’s easy.’   

Not for FB.  And not, it would appear, for Jonny.


Saturday, 2 July 2016

That ICC Discussion in full

ICC discussion underway in Edinburgh
Fantasy Bob is stung to the core that he was not invited to participate in the Annual Conference of the ICC in Edinburgh this week.  

Not only did the organising committee not rush to seek his views on the important issues on the agenda – the proposed 2 tier Test system, more ODIs, more T20s, more ODIs, more T20s but they did not extend an invitation to any of the glittering social events that surrounded the business.  The reception at the Castle, the dinner at the Assembly Rooms, the tour of Edinburgh’s Home of Cricket aka the Meadows; all were poorer for his absence.

However following a shady transaction with the waiting staff of the prestigious hotel at which the conference took place FB was able to secure a transcript of the important session discussing the possibility of increasing the Test playing nations.

Now delegates we come to the important matter of whether we should have a 2 tier Test match structure.  We must discuss this carefully.

Do we have to? The bus goes for the tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience in 30 minutes.

But this is important – particularly to the Associate nations.


The Associate nations - you know Ireland and Afghanistan ............and Scotland.

Scotland who is that?

We are in Scotland.

Are we – who’s idea was that?

Well you said you wanted to see the pandas.

I did and very good they were too.  But they couldn’t play Test cricket.

No but Scotland wants more matches.

They can play the pandas anytime.

No against Test nations

Surely not.

Yes, their skipper Preston Mumsnet has been banging on about this for ever.

And there’s Ireland and Afghanistan….

And Netherlands….

And UAE….

OK I get it I get – but they can’t all have pandas.

Forget the pandas – these countries want to become Test nations.

What and play against us?

If you think we’re playing at the Meadows you must be joking.

Well we need to do something.

We’re could have two tiers of Test nations.

With promotion and relegation.

Brilliant.  Will the pandas be in it?

No but Ireland and Afghanistan might.

When you say might, what do you  mean?
They won’t.


But what about Scotland?

There is no doubt that the Meadows is a potential test venue.

We love Scotland.

Yes we love Scotland.

We love the Castle.

We love the empire biscuits.

We love the Scotch Whisky Experience.

We love Preston Mumsnet.

We love Fantasy Bob.

Steady on that's going too far.

We love Scotland.

We must do something for Scotland.

I know – let’s have a third tier of Test nations.

Which contains…………..


…….er and who else?

That’s it, just Scotland.

Brilliant – that’s sorted – now who is for the Scotch Whisky Experience?

A visit to Edinburgh Castle