Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Farewell Preston Mommsen

Fantasy Bob joins the rest of the cricketing world in wishing the now former Scotland skipper Preston Mommsen every success in his new career following his retirement from international cricket.

Preston has led the Scottish cause with distinction and success for the last couple of years. His recognition as Associate Cricketer of the Year 2014 was a towering achievement. His tussle earlier this year with powers that be in the ICC and their shameful ignoring of associate cricket made him the stuff of legend. (FB modestly suggests his own account of this incident on this link remains definitive.)

Only he can know the level of challenge that this role presented. FB is fairly sure that whatever stresses and difficulties there were in leading Scotland in the CWC and the World T20 Cup, they pale into insignificance compared to the challenge he faced previously when a member of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton. For it was there that he unwittingly assumed the task of improving FB’s non-existent batting prowess. As the unfortunate few who have misguidedly followed these witterings over the years will know, this is a challenge that over the years has defeated the cream of Carlton’s coaching elite.

Undaunted Preston accepted the challenge. At the next club night, he lobbed a few gentle throw downs and keenly watched his new charge’s less than balletic attempts to put bat on ball. 

His histrionics over, FB looked up expectantly, waiting for the magic hint, the secret to correct that small flaw in his technique that would unlock a succession of quick fire half centuries. 

He tried to jolly his stern faced new coach along, ‘That felt pretty good.... I hit at least one of those.... just about.’ Preston nodded in that inscrutable master batsman way. FB engaged again, ‘Well, maybe my stance is a bit too open.’ 

The coach nodded again. He carefully chose his words, ‘Well.... Bob.... what I suggest..... is that you try..... to open your eyes a bit.’  FB was perplexed. ‘What both of them?' he croaked incredulously. ' At the same time?’  

While FB never looked back (even with more than one eye open), and now watches the ball all the way down the wicket until he misses it, the grit that entered Preston's soul during these challenging served him well as he continued to grace the international stage and call out the closed eyes in the game's governing body.

Well done Preston.


Saturday, 29 October 2016

Toxic

Fantasy Bob has noticed a blizzard of publicity around the newly published book by Mitchell Johnson in which he describes as toxic the dressing room atmosphere in the Australian team under the captaincy of Michael Clarke.
Clarke and Johnson in happier times

As FB well knows, as publishers vie for the Christmas trade, a skipper is always at the mercy of this type of sensationalist revelation as this extract from a forthcoming volume of memoirs shows:

Yeah I remember the first time when I'm a junior cricketer and I have to play under Fantasy Bob's so called captaincy like it was yesterday.  Course, I should have guessed what was coming when my Dad leaves my kit at the gate.......yeah, like I had to carry it to the dressing room myself - and I'm like I'm shocked - I mean if your Dad can't carry your kit into the dressing room what are Dads for anyway.....but he's like I'm off laters buddy ........so I drag my bag to the dressing room and the atmosphere was...well I'd never experienced anything like it...the linament that Fantasy Bob is slapping on .....made my throat catch .....made my eyes water...Dad is well right to scarper it was like toxic...like the Government should do something about it or something.....so I sit beside the other juniors... we're all holding our breath...the kid on the end is turning purple already....then I'm looking around cos my Dad's said I could learn from listening to the older players ....like he knows anything.... cos all there is is a lot of chat from FB about Gustav Mahler... so I text the junior next to me to ask him who this Mahler man is...is he like the opposition opening bowler or something... but my pal texted back to say he's just some old guy from some sixties band....like the Beatles or something...then FB is up and says time for the toss and we can all breathe again and this other senior player says better get ready to field then...me: I thought we would bat - him: you don't know FB, last time we batted first he had had hair on his head....so we go out to field and FB like says to me you just stay close by me ...OK I says you want to chat about bowling changes to me ...no he says I want you to run after the ball when I miss it...so like finally he asks me to bowl and I say like I'll have 3 slips and a gully... and he's like OK everyone on the fence ...and I get 3 wickets from catches in the deep... and then I'm like batting and FB is at the other end and he says you run when I call and I'm like thinking doh he can't run at all what's he on about... but he calls me for three runs at least once an over and I'm like well shattered but I score the winning run....

Yeah.  Like it was well toxic.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Volvo


Alien territory for FB
It is a few weeks now that silence has reigned in Fantasy Bob’s household. No more the regular sound of a thump of a body falling closely followed by an agonised shriek of ‘For goodness sake! Did you really have to leave that wretched kit bag just where I am bound to trip over it!’

Mrs FB has been able to set her foot where she will with minimal risk; for her consort’s cricket kit has been neatly stowed for the winter and no longer spreads itself menacingly across her path. Not that FB has got any thanks for his heroic efforts.

Indeed, the dust had hardly settled on the season and he had barely recovered from his efforts at kit stowage when she observed, ‘The car has almost 150,000 miles on the clock.’ As a statement of fact, FB had to acknowledge that this was incontrovertible. But his observation that this compared more than favourably even to the number of first class runs score by Sachin Tendulkar merited a more engaged response from his life partner. It was as if he had said nothing, for she went on, ‘We need to think about a new one.’

A linguistic philosopher of more skill than FB might have observed that the use of the word think in this sentence was inappropriate since the force of the remark clearly indicated that the speaker was determined on the action described. That linguistic philosopher would also have needed considerable courage to pit himself against the illocutionary force of the utterance. For it was immediately revealed that Mrs FB had worked hard since the season end to establish that there was an ideal vehicle available in a near by show room. 'And we're test driving it this afternoon,' she concluded.

So it was that FB found himself in the alien environment of a car show room feigning understanding as Mrs FB engaged the salesman in a detailed discussion of the relative merits of automatic transmission with manual override, now fitted as standard, and the all wheel drive option, also now fitted as standard.As the salesman reached the climax of his presentation describing the rain sensor, now fitted as standard, FB met his eye. For there was one vital issue that had not been addressed. 'Very interesting - but do you know how many junior cricketers and kit this motor can carry?' If the salesman heard the deep sign from Mrs FB he was not distracted. Instead he swiftly consulted his notes, 'There are 575 litres of luggage space but fold down the rear seats and you have 1,600 litres.'

How many junior cricketers can be fitted in this space?
This would have been extremely helpful had FB known how may litres a junior cricketer consists in. But he did not. And there was no junior cricketer readily available at that moment to be subjected to measurement. Direct investigation was necessary. Making use of the power opening system on the key fob, now fitted as standard, FB raised the tail gate. He was still uncertain - what did 575 litres of kit bag look like? There was only one thing for it. He climbed in and measured his length. The sotto voce 'Oh for goodness sake.' from Mrs FB was below his aural threshold. He scrambled out and powered the tail gate closed again.

'575 litres?' he said, as he collapsed in exhaustion from his efforts. 'Well, I think it should be enough.'

A financial arrangement having been transacted, FB and Mrs FB returned home. As they moved off, Mrs FB remarked, 'I suppose this means that you think you have another season in you?'

That linguistic philosopher might again have queried whether the use of the word think in this context was wholly appropriate. Hope might have been more relevant. But there was no linguistic philosopher available. And hope, in any case, springs eternal.  It is now fitted as standard.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Another ICC Discussion

Another day, another ICC discussion..............

This week the CEOs of the ten Test playing nations met in a special workshop in Dubai. Important issues about the future structure of the game, including a two tier test structure, were on the agenda.  A subsequent statement advised the media that this option was no longer on the table but said that ‘there is an appetite from the ten full members for more context around all three formats of the game’.

Many struggled to understand what was meant by that statement.  Veteran cricketers muttered that they hadn’t seen so much flannel since proper cricket trousers were abandoned for polyester pyjama pants.

Fantasy Bob is here to assist.  Long suffering readers will know, from links such as this, that FB has unparalleled access to the deliberations of the organisation which guides world cricket so carefully.  He is therefore able to bring to bemused fans the following transcript of this week's proceedings.

So this two tier test structure thingy – who’s in favour?

Right, that’s six of you.  Who’s against?

..Two…three…OK four of you. A clear majority.

Yes, a clear majority.  We reject two tier tests.

( A chant is heard in the background 'Reject, Reject')

But there were six for and four against.

So?

That’s a majority in favour.

No it isn’t, India were one of the four.

Ah yes of course, then that’s a proper majority.  So no to two tiers.

(The chant is heard again 'Reject, Reject')

But the associate nations want Test cricket.

Well, they can come and watch us play any time.

No they want to play Test cricket.

What’s the matter with them?  Lots of us don’t.

(The chant is heard again 'Reject, Reject)

We need ……….

....a plan.....

 I know - why don’t we let the Associates play Test cricket………..

….with themselves…………

 ……….as much as they want……….

 ………..while we have all the ODIs and T20s………..

 ………………..and all the money….

 Now you put it in that context, 

It's brilliant!

(A new chant is heard 'More context, More context')

I’ve definitely an appetite.

Us too.

(The chant resumes 'Lunch Lunch')

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Drummo

There was a touch of sadness in the elation at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton's triumph in the Scottish National Championship yesterday.  For it marked the last appearance for the club by Gordon Drummond, one time club skipper, one time Scottish skipper, quality all round cricketer and quality all round good guy.

Those who have had the misfortune to follow Fantasy Bob's Witterings over a number of years will know his admiration and respect for Drummo.  FB will leave to others the statistical analyses of Drummo's on field contributions for Carlton and Scotland, the eulogies of his commitment to developing young cricketers at Carlton and elsewhere.  But he will share the following vignette which gives a measure of the man.

It had been a rainy Thursday afternoon.  FB had looked out of his office window at regular intervals as the sky first darkened, then lightened then darkened again.  Would cricket practice be on, he wondered?  The normally reliable airwaves were silent.  Did this mean that nets were on - or that it was so bleeding obvious that it was too wet?  FB swithered.  At 6.00 he set off more in hope than expectation.  Arriving at the bedraggled ground, he found a forlorn 13 year old and one other member of his own 4th XI going the other way - 'No point ,' they said. 'No one's here.'   FB thought he would wait on a bit just in case.  In case of what he didn't know.   Just in case.

Then Drummo, Scotland skipper at the time, purposefully entered the gate.  Did he notice that FB was the only one there?

'Come on then, Bob,' he said.  'Get those pads on.  Too slippy to bowl but I'll give you a few throw downs.'

A few throw downs proved a Drummoesque understatement.  An hour later, Drummo had gently pushed and prodded at what passed for FB's technique.  His uncontrolled forward lunge had been grooved into a fair imitation of a cricket shot. FB has never looked back.

FB was not a fledgling international, not a junior with potential - just another club cricketer needing a bit of help.  And Drummo was more than willing to give it, with every bit as much care and attention as he would in preparing for his next international.

And that is why there will always be a place in Carlton's 4th XI for Drummo should he ever feel the urge to don the whites again.

Well played Gordon - you'll be greatly missed - don't be a stranger.

Drummo at the heart of things in Carlton's triumph


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Cosi Fan Tutte

In his long and thoroughly undistinguished cricketing career, Fantasy Bob has served under a wide range of captains.  For the most part these have been amiable and admirable souls - some even verged on the competent.  Every so often however he has come across a skipper who sees the lower leagues as an opportunity to demonstrate to the world his own radical thinking - as if the world (or indeed the players under him) were taking any interest.


FB thinks of those skippers  who have tried to persuade him that to play leg spin bowling he should avoid closing his eyes;  those who have commanded him to field short leg to a bowler who has an uncertain grasp of length and have queried his taking cover behind the square leg umpire; those who invite admiration of field settings which randomly distribute all available fielders between the arc of cover and mid on and then wonder why so many runs are being scored behind the wicket.  There are even skippers so radical that they invariably bat on winning the toss.  Generally FB has found those last to be untrustworthy.


The challenges have been enormous.  But FB has faced up to them and done his best.  More than often it hasn't been good enough, but that is another story.


His brushes with radical captaincy may have left FB scarred, but he begins to think that he may have got off lightly.  Generally there has been room in the dressing room for the team, their kit and the skipper's ego.  He has never had to put up with a skipper whose conceptual thinking brings him to the view that the cricket match is an opportunity to mount his personal critique of a corrupt and corrupting political regime.  He and his team mates have never been asked to dress in Nazi or similar costume to reinforce the skipper's limp concept.  His skipper has never insisted that FB should conduct his bowling spell in the nude.  He has never been asked to bat in women's clothing, even against leg spin bowling.  Gallons of gore have never followed him being triggered LBW.  He has never had to work with a skipper who insists on acts of simulated rape or other sexual degradation at the fall of every wicket.  He has got off lightly.


A scene from Cosi without simulated rape

FB was minded of his charmed life as he left Edinburgh's Festival Theatre last week after a production of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte.  For once he felt relieved to be a mere lower league cricketer and not a high flying opera singer.  For the unfortunate singers in this production were the playthings of a maniacal director who inflicted serial degradation on them as he forced the traditional froth of Mozart's opera into his dyspeptic critique of the racism and sexism underpinning Mussolini's invasion of Abbyssinia in the 1930's.  Indignity followed indignity, obscured the plot, negated the music - and the lighting design was so under powered that an appeal against the light would have convinced any umpire worth his salt to stop play.


Why? The lower league cricketer might well ask.  It is a very good question.  FB gets the point - the story of Cosi Fan Tutte has its dark side - and the manipulative character of Don Alfonso may well be a left arm over the wicket bowler.  Oh, and Mussolini was a bad guy (and not only because he had no interest in cricket).  FB gets all that - but how heavy handed does it all have to be?  One over of leg spin would have been enough - this was constant from both ends.


FB was forced to conclude that this director would have no hesitation on batting on winning the toss.

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?