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 those who have tried to persuade  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 ahs 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?


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.

Who?

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.

Excellent.

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…………..

Scotland!

…….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

Friday, 3 June 2016

Four Last Runs

Sometimes Fantasy Bob thinks that all the clever clogs in the world simply miss the obvious in their self serving search for metaphor and meaning.  If they all had a better grounding in cricket and cricketing matters they would find things easier.
Strauss in 1948

As a case in point, FB enjoyed this week a performance by the RSNO of Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs. Lush orchestration with a floating soprano line - Test Match Quality.  Looking at the programme note FB was told all manner of guff about how the 84 year old Strauss set these poems as a marker of his own impending death - for he died shortly after he composed them.
This has a superficial plausibility.  However it fails to take account of the fact that the songs were written in 1948.

This was of course the year of the Invincibles, the touring Australian team which swept all before them.  It was Bradman's last tour.  It included his last Test innings.  An innings in which he needed four runs to ensure that he had a Test batting average of 100.  As all children should be taught in primary school, a googly from Eric Hollies gave him a second ball duck and he finished his Test career with an average of 99.94.
Bradman in 1948

It is obvious - at least to FB, and, if to him, why not to everyone? - that Strauss, the last great Romantic composer, was greatly affected by this misfortune.  After all his earlier work had included works which dwelt on the nature of heroism - the great tone poems Ein Heldenleben and Don Quixote among them. Inspired by Bradman's heroic failure, he dashed off in his masterful way a work he carefully entitled Four Last Runs.  Sadly it got lost in translation, and one of the finest cricketing works of the concert hall has never been properly recognised as what it is.

There are no doubt those among FB's dwindling handful of readers who are thinking to themselves, 'Come on FB, there is no link between Bradman and Strauss.'

But that is where they are wrong.  The great batsman had a passion for classical music and in particular the soprano voice, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he was familiar with Four Last Runs, and appreciated its true meaning.

But even beyond that his granddaughter Greta Bradman is a soprano of growing reputation wowing audiences in the concert hall and opera house.  Her repertoire includes Strauss' Four Last Runs.

So there.
Greta Bradman