Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Call Centre

It was not through choice that Fantasy Bob recently spent a number of hours that might have been better spent perusing the pages of Wisden in telephone discussion with residents of Mumbai.  Nor was he engaged in research as to the thoughts of those locals into the prospects of England's coming ODI tussles with India.  That might well have been a more purposeful conversation than that in which he found himself immersed. There was no cricketing purpose attached to his actions.  However bit by bit there came to be a familiar cricketing feel as the conversation left him floundering at apparently simple deliveries.

FB's decision to change broadband provider may in the course of time prove to have been inspired - on a par with the one occasion on which he opted to bat having won the toss.  But the first viewing of the replays on Hawkeye suggest the contrary.   Indeed there were a few loose ends which it would appear could only be addressed by phoning the new provider's call centre
Hey - who wants to speak with Fantasy Bob?
He navigates a seemingly endless series of menus and waits an eternity for a human being to become available.  He imagines the scene at the other end of the line in the distant sub-continent, ' Hey guys - looks like it's Fantasy Bob on the line - who wants to speak to him?'  'Not me,' the crew answer with one voice.'  OK,' says the boss, 'I'll play some completely dreadful musak, that should get him to hang up.'

FB's ears are bleeding but he hangs on gamely until, finally, a human voice appears.  It asks in a friendly manner for his account number and then says 'I need to check your security question - where were you born?'
FB knew the answer to this one - he boldly stepped to the crease.
'Aberdeen.'
'That is incorrect.'
'What do you mean incorrect?'
'It is not right.'  This answer didn't advance FB's understanding much.  He tried again.
'I assure you I was born in Aberdeen - you know, where Bradman played his last innings for Australia.'
'Aberdeen Australia - I am sorry it is not right.  We cannot proceed further.'
'No Aberdeen Scotland.'
'It is not right.'  The certainties that had structured FB's identity began to crumble.  It was an uncomfortable feeling.  For if he wasn't born in Aberdeen, where was he born, if indeed he had been born at all and who was he?  He tried to get on the front foot.
'Well, where was I born then?'
'I cannot say.  It is for you to tell me.'
'But I have.'
'Where were you born?'
'Aberdeen.'
'That is incorrect.'
'Do you have another security question?'
'Yes.'
'Well, ask me it then.'
'I cannot until you tell me where you were born.'
'Aberdeen.'
'That is incorrect.'  A feeling familiar from the cricket field stole over FB.  There could be only one explanation.
'Tell me do you play cricket?'
'Yes sir.'
'And what is your bowling action?'
'Leg spin.'
Slowly, FB put the phone down - he knew he would never get bat on ball.  He would have to call again when the bowling had changed.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Memento Mori

The pundits of the press are convinced that 2016 has been the Grim Reaper’s most successful year ever as celebrity after celebrity has been taken from our midst. 

The cricketer must look soberly at these claims – 2016 may have been cruel but the Grim Reaper’s stats were better in 2015 as far as removing test cricketers from the crease of life.  He bagged 15 in that year.  It would after all be hard to top the year which seized Richie Benaud, Tom Graveney and Clive Rice. But in 2016 the Reaper had a good go – and strangely enough he dismissed exactly 11 cricketers who played at Test Level.  It is time to celebrate them.

top l-r - Carr, Maddocks, Warr, Nanan; middle Hanif, Gleeson, Crowe; bottom Ganteaume, Goddard, Higgs, Walker

 Not a bad side with a couple of true greats:

Trevor Goddard dismissed 25 November 2016 – S African skipper in the 1960s and one of the greatest all rounders ever – 41 Tests – 2516 runs at 34.46 and 123 wickets at 26.22. Goddard became an evangelist preacher after his retirement.

John Gleeson dismissed 8 October 2016 – Australian mystery spinner of the late1960s bowled leggies with an off spin grip 29 Tests 93 wickets at 36.20

Max Walker dismissed 28 September 2016 – Australian swing bowler of the 1970s - his unconventional bowling action – “right-arm over left earhole, legs crossed at the point of delivery” – earned him the nickname “Tangles” or “Tanglefoot” 34 Tests 138 wickets at 27.47.  

Len Maddocks dismissed 27 August 2016 - Australian wicket keeper who will always be remembered as the man Jim Laker trapped leg-before to complete his famous ten-for at Old Trafford in 1956, 7 Tests 19 dismissals.

Ken Higgs dismissed 7 September 2016 – fondly remembered for one of the biggest bottoms in cricket - so great a bowler for England that he has previously featured in Fantasy Bob’s blog  – 15 Tests – 71 wickets at 20.74

Hanif Mohammad dismissed 11 August 2016 – the original little master - played the longest innings in Test history - 970-minute 337 against West Indies in Bridgetown in 1957-58 - then followed it a year later with the highest first-class innings to that point, 499 – 55 Tests 3915 runs at 43.98

Donald Carr dismissed 12 June 2016 – more noted as Secretary of the MCC during the D’Oliviera controversy – a school boy wunderkind who played only 2 Tests, skippering on one occasion, but skippered Derbyshire with distinction.

J J Warr dismissed 9 May 2016 – played only 2 Tests in the 1950-51 tour of Australia and sadly retains the worst of any England Test player at 1-281.  He went on to skipper Middlesex and be President of the MCC.

Rangy Nanan dismissed 23 March 2016 - an off spinner from Trinidad at a time when W Indies were committed to a pace only attack he played only one Test taking 4 wickets.

Martin Crowe dismissed 3 March 2016 – a true great – elegance itself at the crease - and the only one of this select that FB has seen play – 77 Tests for New Zealand 5444 runs at 45.36

Andy Ganteaume dismissed 17 February 2016 – the man with the Test batting average of 112.  He had one Test innings – but couldn’t force his way into the W Indies batting line up of the time dominated the 3 Ws.  Timing is everything they say – he may have had it in the middle but not elsewhere.


Cricketers of FB’s vintage will also remember with affection Jack Bannister, dismissed 23 January 2016, who never played Test cricket but who, after a long and impressive career with Warwickshire (1198 wickets at 21.91), became a fixture of BBC’s cricket commentary team.

Jack Bannister


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Ghost of Christmas Past

There are those in the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton who refuse to believe that Fantasy Bob was every young.

But here is a picture which confounds their scepticism.  It is of young FB - he is the one at the front, by the way - at an important meeting in his early childhood.

Readers might wonder why there is not a look of enchanted and excited wonder on the young FB's features.

For he had entered Santa's Grotto in one of Aberdeen's more prestigious stores with an appropriate level of excitement and had sat on Santa's knee with that excitement still high.

'Have you been a good boy all year,'  Santa asked.

'Yes Santa.'  FB answered with his usual complete honesty.

'And do you know what you want from Santa?'

'Yes.  A Gray Nicolls Scoop.'

'Dinna be daft, loon - it hisnae been invinted yet fitiver it is.'  Santa's accent slipped nearer the Aberdonian belying his claim to be from the frozen north. 'Ony thing else?'

'A guide to how to play leg spin bowling.....' said FB on the verge of tears.

'Nae chance - it'd be wasted on you onywye.  Hae a couple o' tin sodjers playing bagpipes...an' mak sure an' smile for the phottie.'

Is the look on FB' face of a dream broken - an illusion shattered?  Even at that young age the threat of leg spin bowling hung heavy over him.

His scepticism about the claims made on Santa's behalf may have begun on that day.  These deepened shortly afterwards when an older child told him  'Santa - he's really your Dad.'  FB looked wide eyed at this world shattering revelation.  He failed to comprehend it.  He should be proud of course but how could his Dad get round all the children in the world?  He only had an Austin 7.


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')