Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Stormy Weather

Storm Gertrude - no cricketing interest
As Fantasy Bob wearily trudges through the worst of January's weather, he finds himself wondering exactly what motivated the Met Office to grant names to the storms that have raged across these islands.  It seems to FB that the act of naming has done nothing more than get these storms coming off their long run.  'Look at me, look at me - I'm Gertrude.'  Look at me look at me I'm Henry.'
There was no such showmanship when they were anonymous - they would simply pass without drawing too much attention to themselves.

If the modern world requires names then at least they good have good names rather than the random hotchpoch that has appeared. There are no connections or themes and most of them don't even sound stormy.
Having just weathered - ha! - Gertrude and Henry, we can now look forward to Imogen.  Long suffering readers of these pages may recall that FB once had his own storm associated with Imogen, but in other respects it seems to FB a pretty poor name for a storm.
The problem with the list of names is clearly its minimal cricketing content.  FB thinks that this was an opportunity lost.  After all, there are many cricketers whose destructive power in its context bears comparison with any storm.
It would have been a tonic to cricketers buffeted by wind, rain, snow and hail to be able to compare the destruction around them to that caused by swaggering batsmen or intimidating pace bowlers.
So FB does the Met Office's work for them and offers his list of storm names for use by cricketers:

AB -  deVilliers - fastest ODI century - 100 in 31 balls v WIndies, J'burg 2015;
Beefy - Botham could cook up a storm with bat or ball (and with the management) - 200 in 212 balls v India, the Oval 1982
Curtley - Ambrose - meanest of mean pacemen - 405 Test wkts @20.99
David - Warner - 100 in 69 balls v India, Perth 2012
Eion - Morgan - 178 from 167 balls v S Africa, the Oval 2009
Fred - Flintoff - most 6s for England
Gilly - Adam Gilchrist - joint most 6s in Tests; 100 in 57 balls v England, Perth 2006 (or if he is unavailable - Gayle (pun intended)
Holding - whispering death - 249 Test wkts @ 23.68
Imran - Khan -  In 9 Tests in 1982 he took 62 wickets at 13.29
Jimmy - Anderson - England's leading wicket taker and still going
Kapil - Dev - 100 off 74 balls v Sri Lanka, Kanpur 1986
Lara - Highest Test innings - 400* v England, Antigua 2004
McCullum -  Brendon - joint most 6s in Tests
Nathan - Astle - fastest double century in Tests - 200 off 153 balls v England, Christchurch 2001
O'Reilly - Bill - 144 Test wkts @22.59 - the best bowler of his age
Pollard -  Kieron - 119 off 52 balls v India, Chennai 2011
Qadir- Abdul - finer than Warne - 236 Test wkts @ 32.80
Richards - the Master blaster - 100 in 56 balls v England Antigua 1986
Shahid - Afridi - 102 in 37 balls v Sri Lanka  Nairobi 1996
Tyson - Frank - the fastest ever
Ul  -Misbah Ul Haq -  100 in 56 balls v Australia, Abu Dhabi 2014
Virender - Sehweg - fastest triple century - 300 off 278 balls v S Africa, Chennai 2008
Wasim - Akram - 414 test wickets @ 23.62
Yuvrav - Singh - 6 sixes off the over - v England (ie Stuart Broad), Durban 2007
Zaheer - Abbas - the first Asian to score 100 FC centuries

Now that list is something to sing about - Stormy Weather indeed.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Robert Burns' Rant On the ICC

Here is further proof of Fantasy Bob's contention that Scotland's bard is a true cricket lover.  Sic a parcel o' rogues is generally held to be an invective against the machinations behind the Act of Union between  Scotland and England.  But this earlier draft seems to suggest that Burns had seen the excellent Death of A Gentleman and taken its message to heart

Oor cricket is a cantie game
That’s played the warld o’er
Wi' honesty its middle name
An' lo'ed by rich and poor
Ye’d jalouse this game is o’er-seen
By council weel electit
But fegs, there's just the gang o' three
Sic a parcel o' rogues running cricket

The Test match was the skyrit jewel
Thy grandeur’s been dilutit
By coontless twenty over duels
True cricket is pollutit
A twa Test series' meagre meal
For ODIs restrictit
Bought and sold for T20 gold
Sic a parcel o' rogues running cricket

Associates graced the warld cup
And had the michty crying
It drove them on, it fired them up
The dream of qualifying
They won't be there next time around
The minnows are neglectit
A selfish pact has slammed the door
Sic a parcel o' rogues running cricket

Olympic Games could spread the sport
To a' the warld's nations
The powers-that-be maun gie support?
But spurned the invitation
Maun we thole sic arrant failure
Wi' IPL gold complicit?
England India Australia
Sic a parcel o' rogues ruining cricket

For those who find Scots words as hard to read as leg spin bowling:

Cantie - cheerful
Lo'ed - loved
Jalouse - suspect, think
Fegs - by faith
Sic - such
Skyrit - shining, bright
Maun - must
Thole - tolerate

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


All that is holy is vinyl
What few remaining brain cells Fantasy Bob owns have been well exercised by reading a recent article by Ed Smith drawing out a comparison between Test cricket and vinyl records.

The substantive point that he makes is that vinyl recordings seem to be on the way back.  In 2014 sales in the UK leapt by over 50% passing the million mark.   From a position of near death following the introduction first of CDs and then of streaming, this is something of a resurrection and sales are higher than at any time since 1991.

Could this be a pointer for Test cricket, he asks, for which there are many suggestions that it is on its last legs, teetering on the brink of non-sustainability due to the rival attractions of the shorter formats.  Can vinyl Test cricket survive the onslaught of streaming T20?

The fan of vinyl will claim that by comparison with the CD, the sound is of a higher – more natural - quality (generally described as brown), it allows the concept of the album (or at least the half hour side) as opposed to the single song focus of streaming and encourages listening rather than consuming.  There is a parallel to the fan of Test cricket for whom it offers higher quality, greater sustained excitement and subtlety compared to the crash bang wallop of limited overs contests.

Is the route to survival for Test cricket to develop a similar niche status to that increasingly enjoyed by vinyl recording?

FB sees the point but is less than convinced.  He is sure that there is a parallel to be drawn between the behaviour of record companies, whose profit motives led them to abandon vinyl when CDs arrived, and the almost negligent behaviour of the ICC whose recent domination by the big 3 seems similarly designed to undermine Test cricket.  

But even if it is recovering a bit, vinyl is still a very small part of the recorded music market - a pretty small tail wagging a large dog.  Vinyl seems to be more like the heritage industry – it is about finding music in the format it was first recorded and issued in – there is little new music or recordings in the format.  This does not seem a proper comparison for Test cricket.

Like most cricketers of his age, FB has a sizable collection of vinyl recordings.  Even Mrs FB now treats this collection with respect having, after many attempts, given up her once enthusiastic suggestion that it might best be consigned to the charity shop.  

Like a proper cricketer FB ensured that these discs are carefully archived and stored in strict alphabetical and genre order. FB can recall where and how he purchased each one of these miraculous items and for most of them many of the times he played them - a set of reminisces that Mrs FB inexplicably finds less than compelling.  This orderliness went out of the window when CDs arrived which are stacked any which way and do no credit to anyone.   

FB's vinyl collection pretty much reflects his travel through music from the poptastic, through progressive rock and out the other end into the world of classical music which dominates his collection.  But there is something significant lacking at the centre of this collection.   He confesses with some remorse is that his collection contains no cricket recordings.  For there are a number of items in the catalogue that FB might well have added.  For example John Arlott Talks Cricket was released in 1982 but sadly failed to keep Duran Duran off the top of the album charts.  If ever there was a vinyl voice it must have been John Arlott's, but inevitably these discs are now downloadable.   Such treatment seems almost sacrilegious and FB has resisted the siren call of iTunes.

But the vinyl recording that FB most yearns after must be the record simply titled Cricket which was released in 1970 by the BBC. It took Bridge of Troubled Water to keep it from claiming its rightful place at the top of the chart. Cricket featured a collection of readings by Lords Taverners recorded to fill the tea interval of Sunday League matches.  John Arlott features here, but so do cricketers - Peter May, Alec Bedser - sportsmen - Graham Hill, Mick McManus and entertainers Brian Rix, Leslie Crowther, Eric Sykes.   As far as FB can tell this has not been digitised yet.  It remains holy.

Perhaps the solution is to get this on e-Bay and play it while watching yet another T20 thrash.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Exit Pursued By A Bear

Fantasy Bob hied him hither to a live stream performance of The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare.

FB understands that there is a dispute among literature critics as to whether this play should be classed as one of Shakespeare's problem plays.  FB can answer firmly in the affirmative.  The Winter's Tale is certainly a problem play - the problem for FB being that there is no cricketing content in it whatsoever.  FB accepts that this barely differentiates it from the rest of the bard's output, so to label it particularly a problem play might seem unjust.

But the title of the play would seem to offer more to the cricketer than many of the bard's other plays. Possibly it would disclose the drama associated with indoor nets on cold February evenings; or the excitement of waiting for the postman for that new bat to be delivered; or listening over the crackling airwaves to the faltering progress of the touring side overseas.

Disappointingly Shakespeare eschews all these possibilities in favour of a story about jealously, the passage of time and redemption.  Cricketers will recognise that these themes define a lower league fixture towards the end of the season when vital points are at stake.  But the audience is left hanging for this sensible content while babies are abandoned on rocky shores and statues come to life.  FB wonders if these are metaphors born of Shakespeare's experience as a junior of having to face the opposition quickie on a bouncy track or of the apparently stationary fielder at mid on suddenly leaping 3 feet in the air to pocket his blistering drive.............but this reading is not a conventional one among critics.

But one thing that everyone, cricketers and non cricketers alike, knows is that The Winter's Tale contains what is reckoned to be the most famous stage direction in the whole history of play writing, when at the end of Act 3 a character is instructed to - Exit run out without facing a ball.

Many critics have tried to deny this original text and contend that Shakespeare revised it to read Exit pursued by a bear. But that is obviously nonsense since no batsman has ever been dismissed in this way. And no bear otherwise features in the play.   Such a dismissal would of course be bizarre.

But bizarre dismissals may be becoming more common.  Not only has there in recent months been the Ben Stokes incident when he was dismissed for handling the ball as it was flung at the stumps, but this week the Australian Big Bash League saw an even more bizarre episode.
The ball deflects from Neville's bat onto Zampa's nose

Adam Zampa bowled to Dwayne Bravo who strode out of his crease and crunched it back down the pitch.  The non striker Peter Nevill was backing up several yards down the wicket.

The ball deflected from Nevill's bat onto the diving Zampa's nose and onto the stumps. (The link here contains video footage of this great incident).

Exit Run Out by the bowler's nose.  Now, if Shakespeare had written a stage direction like that it could have been the making of him.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Fat Cat Tuesday

Fantasy Bob has long concluded that the world is ill divided between those who can play leg spin bowling and those who cannot.

His conclusion received further confirmation with the publication of a report which labels this Tuesday as Fat Cat Tuesday.  This report reveals that in the few days since the start of 2016, a number of batsmen have already scored more runs this year than Fantasy Bob will over the whole year.  These include Ben Stokes, Johnny Bairstow and Hashim Amla.

As if this wasn't enough to stir FB's revolutionary fervour and demand that the authorities immediately introduce some positive redistributive measures - surely some of Ben Stokes' runs could be used for the charitable purpose of improving FB's average.

Fat Cats
But FB's sense of outrage is further provoked as he now reads that in the first few days of this year a young batsman has scored in one innings not only more than FB will in any one season, but more runs than FB has scored in his entire career.

Pranav Dhanawade scored 1009 not out in a school match in Mumbai.  In doing so he broke one of the oldest records in the history of cricket, that of fellow schoolboy AEJ Collins whose 628 not out scored in 1899 has long been held as the highest innings ever recorded.

As FB's post of some time ago records, Collins did not make the leap into first class cricket and was unfortunate enough to be killed at Ypres in 1914.

It will be interesting to see if Dhanawade's cricket career prospers or not - has he been a cat who has gorged too early on the cream?

Fat Cat gorging on cream or future star?

Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Cricketing Year - 2015

Fantasy Bob has dutifully immersed himself in the reviews of the cricket year that are all pervasive at this time of year.  
He has been stirred by the elated descriptions of the recapturing of the Ashes, the Australian World cup triumph, Scotland’s qualification for the WT20, and Scotland’s women's deeds in Malaysia. 
He has been McCullumed, Broaded, Rooted, Smithed and Hazlewooded until he knows not whether he is coming or going. (Not much change there, FB's long suffering handful of readers will think.) 
He has bid sad and fond farewells to Tyson, Benaud, Rice, Close and many others who paid their final visit to the crease. 
His blood pressure has been raised to danger levels reading about the ICC’s plans to exclude associates from future world cups. 
    In all it has been a year full of highs and lows for the cricketer with much to live long in the memory.

    Vainly however has he searched those miles of text for a single reference to the most important cricketing story of 2015.  Sadly he concludes that the legions of commentators and bloggers, pundits and analysts, critics and theorists have been guilty of a collective oversight on a grand scale for which there is no explanation.

    It is therefore up to FB to correct this failure by calling to notice the heroic achievement of the Carlton 4th XI in winning their league - the highly prestigious Division 7 of the East of Scotland Cricket Association and gaining promotion to the even more prestigious Division 6 of the East of Scotland Cricket Association. 

    This was a triumph in adversity in facing down the impossible odds of taking to the field under FB's idiosyncratic version of captaincy.  So incisive was his captaincy that when, after a poor start to the team's campaign in which they lost 3 out of the first 4 fixtures, FB departed on an Italian sojourn, the team unselfishly dedicated a series of 4 consecutive victories to his absent memory.  Not even his return to the helm could undermine their collective momentum and the prize of the league flag was duly grasped with one match to go in the schedule. 

    2015's victorious skippers
    Readers wishing to understand the full grandeur of this world beating season might wish to review the match reports on the website of the go ahead Edinburgh club.  They should be warned - this material is not for the faint hearted or even those lacking a decent Encyclopaedia.  Readers may struggle to work out why these reports give such prominent mention to Gustav Mahler, Aristotle, BB King, Mary Queen of Scots, Bob Dylan, Richard Strauss, Bertrand Russell, Epictetus, Sir Van Morrison, Walt Whitman, Henry VIII, TS Eliot and the Lady Boys of Bangkok.  What exactly did they do on the field?*

    FB sometimes wonders about this too but he guesses that it is just one of the wonders of cricket in 2015.

    *FB apologises to those of his handful of readers if some recognise this attempt at a joke from his remarks at the end of season dinner of the go ahead Edinburgh cricket club.  He felt safe in repeating it here for he was sure that none there had stayed awake long enough to hear this passage. 

    Tuesday, 29 December 2015

    And Then There Were None

    Fantasy Bob and Mrs FB worked off the excesses of Christmas by watching the excellent TV adaptation of Agatha Christie's compelling murder mystery.
    Before assuming his athletic posture on the sofa FB observed, 'For once this could be interesting for cricketers.  Agatha Christie was a great enthusiast for the game.  There is a tree on boundary at Barton CC in Torquay which is called Agatha Christie's Oak since it was there that she sat on many an afternoon watching her father play and sometimes scoring the match.'

    FB's enthusiastic hope that the programme might make some reference to this background was met with some indifference by Mrs FB.  As she dipped into the Milk Tray, her thoughts lingered on the prospect of Aidan Turner's shirt failing in its primary role at some point to reveal his celebrated torso.  FB recalled her breathless suggestion during a bare chested episode in Poldark that these rippling abs suggested he could bowl a lively fast medium.  Sadly the show did not present evidence to support this suggestion, its cricketing content being non-existent. 

    FB digresses.  To return to And Then There Were None.  As is the way of these things, Mrs FB's hopes were fulfilled as the shirt duly failed at a critical point in the mystery.  However FB's hopes were cruelly dashed yet again as the programme's cricketing potential was disgracefully ignored.
    This was clearly an opportunity lost by the show's producers, who had updated a number of aspects of the original story.  They might have looked more closely at the poem which provides a motif throughout the story, describing how the guests lured to the deserted island by a mystery host meet their grizzly fate one by one. 

    Agatha Christie's original verse is now politically incorrect - the poem was revised to refer to Indians and in the TV adaptation to soldiers. 

    This is a great failure on the part of the producers.  For it is clear that Agatha Christie took her inspiration from her early experiences on the boundary at Barton CC and really tells of a struggling cricket team.  One by one they meet their untimely end at the hands of a mysterious fast bowler and a sinister leg spinner. 
    What a great basis for a mystery drama - failing shirt or not.

    Ten little cricketers playing down the line;
    One missed a yorker and then there were nine.
     Nine little cricketers tried to play it late;
     One got a bottom edge and then there were eight.
     Eight little cricketers why aren’t there eleven;
     One missed the team bus and then there were seven.
     Seven little cricketers will always walk on nicks;
     One hung out his bat and then there were six.
     Six little cricketers kept the game alive;
     The fast bowler bounced one and then there were five.
     Five little cricketers playing for the draw;
    One swung across the line and then there were four.
     Four little cricketers holding out till tea;
     The leg spinner turned it square and then there were three.
     Three little cricketers hope the bounce is true;
     One got a shooter and then there were two.
     Two little cricketers think about a run;
     Yes, no, yes, oh, sorry ....…… and then there was one.
     One little cricketer left all alone;
     He’s gone to the bar and now there are none.

    An opportunity lost.