Friday, 4 May 2018

De Maria

It was one of Mrs FB's more challenging asides. Some years ago she was escorting Fantasy Bob through a celebrated temple of modern art.

'Minimalism,' she said, as they entered a gallery devoted to practitioners of that style, 'it's always seemed to me to have a lot in common with your batting.'

'What,' replied FB, 'in its elegant economy of movement and gesture?'

'No,' came the reply. 'In its minimal number of runs.'

FB required an extended stay with the abstract expressionists to recover his equanimity. A challenge, for abstract expressionists rarely express equanimity, abstract concept though it may be.

FB found himself recalling this deeply repressed exchange recently as he watched Simon Schama complete the excellent Civilisations series on BBC. The programme examined a number of contemporary artists who he thought he had relevance to an age where the very concept of civilisation itself seems under attack from the snake oil salesmen of T20 and 100 ball cricket formats.

One artist featured was Walter De Maria, who is described amongst other things as a minimalist. In 1960 he called for meaningless work: art that does not accomplish a conventional purpose. Was it this that gave his work a peculiar significance to FB whose very existence - particularly on the cricket field - can only be described as meaningless and without a conventional purpose?

Perhaps, but more probably it is the fact that in spite of being American, De Maria is one of the great cricket artists. See his great work below.

In 3-5-7 there are 24 sets of stumps in 3 lines obviously expressing something very deep.

time timeless no time

Stumps obviously did it for De Maria for in his later work time timeless no time, they adorn every wall of the gallery and express something even deeper.

But he had more in his kit bag than stumps. In Dem - broken kilometre, he expresses that existential nightmare known to every cricketer - indoor nets.

Dem - broken kilometre

Walter De Maria - inspecting the crease

De Maria - minimalist - cricketer - genius.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Get a Grip

In common with all other cricketers at this time of the year, Fantasy Bob has been conducting a microscopic examination of his kit to assess its suitability for the rigours of the coming season.  As his faithful handful of readers know, the moment that FB's voluminous kit bag emerges from its winter storage is always met with cries of extreme pleasure by Mrs FB who relishes the opportunity once again to find herself tripping over it several times a day.

As he meticulously inspects each item, he is mindful of Mrs FB's strictures on economy.  She suggests that any investment appraisal of new items should take into account the stage that FB's cricketing career has reached.  The twilight years, she suggests, have lingered longer than seems natural even at these latitudes.  The value  to be derived from expensive investment therefore might be limited.  By comparison with for instance, she adds in a slightly coquettish fashion, items of jewelry.  The law of diminishing returns, she says returning to a more trenchant tone of voice, applies not only to FB's visits to the crease

With a sigh therefore, FB puts the glossy Gray Nichols catalogue aside and judges his trusty bat is fit for one season more.  Given his performances over recent seasons there must be many runs still locked in it.  However closer inspection reveals the grip to be in a condition comparable to FB at the end of a trying spell up the hill against the wind.   Refurbishment is not an option.  The bat grip is gone too.  There is no alternative but to purchase a replacement.
The total of FB's new kit for season 2018

This puts FB in a quandary.  FB's bat handle is festooned with grips -  5 in total.  It is perhaps the thickest bat handle in World Cricket.   A cause for wonder by his junior colleagues who struggle to get their growing hands round it.

FB read many years ago in some coaching manual (as if he ever read such things) that a thicker grip would soften his hands giving him greater control over his shot making.  It would be heroic to suggest that this adjustment has worked and turned FB into a master at the crease, but FB has continued to pile on the grips.  Hope springs eternal.

So, what should he do faced with his new purchases - should he put them on top of the existing ones or remove those first?   

Mrs FB's advice has, for once, not been helpful.  Watching him as he agonised at length over this decision, she reached the end of her patience.  'For goodness sake,' she said.  'Get a grip.'

Monday, 2 April 2018

The Crying Game

'I know all there is to know about the crying game
I've had my share of the crying game.....'

Dave Berry
There is no reference to ball tampering in the lyric of Dave Berry's 1964 hit.  And to the best of Fantasy Bob's knowledge the old time rocker never had to face the Australian press to account for  his shameful actions.  But by the end of the week FB certainly had had enough of the crying game as one by one the disgraced Australians accounted for themselves.  This was not family viewing - however much the family was involved in the tearful responses.

FB cannot imagine how the trio feel.  For many years ago FB was close to the position they find themselves in.  He faced the allegation that the crumbs of the empire biscuit he was carrying in his pocket smeared across the ball were having an uncanny influence on the effectiveness of his bowling.  There seemed no other way the opposition could account for the extreme improbability of him bowling a maiden over.  The crisis was soon averted, not by attempting to stuff the biscuit down the front of his trousers but by the expeditious consumption of the biscuit.  FB was able to plead stupidity - an excuse readily accepted, particularly by his colleagues in the leadership team (ie the 11 year old leg spinner fielding at mid off).  The incident was thankfully forgotten until last week's actions brought it freshly to FB's mind.

As he watched the interviews FB felt a great sadness descend upon him.  For those involved, for cricket, for the world. Dave Berry was not enough.  The words of the Latin requiem mass seemed more to the point, the reference to the ashes uncanny.

Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen.

Full of tears will be that day
When from the ashes shall arise
The guilty man to be judged;
Therefore spare him, O God,
Merciful Lord Jesus,
Grant them eternal rest. Amen.

As set by Mozart this is comfort for the soul.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

World Cup Wash Up

Another quirk in atmospheric conditions has meant that Fantasy Bob has been able to listen in to the report back from ICC's representative at the recent Cricket World Cup Qualifiers.

- Gentlemen, I can report that this tournament was a great success.
- Hooray.  [Clinking of glasses]
-The ICC can take great credit.
- Hooray. [More clinking of glasses]
- Our 10 team World Cup is a triumph.  There will be no Associate nation.
[Popping of champagne corks - a song is heard - 9 games for India]
- We can look forward to a golden period of growing the game.  The 8 team World Cup is in our grasp.
- And then a 6 team..
- ...4 teams.......2 teams!!!!
[More champagne corks pop - another song is heard - 12 games for India]
- But I have heard that the Associates are not happy.
- Nonsense - who is saying that?
- Someone called Kylie Minogue.
- Not Minogue - Coetzer.  Kylie Coetzer - he's captain of Scotland.
- Captain of Scotland at what?
- Cricket.
- I didn't know they played cricket in Scotland.
- They almost qualified.
- Surely not.  Who allowed that to happen?
- Yes, it took some exceptional umpiring to keep them out.
- And the rain.
- Well, I suppose Scottish people are not used to that.
- What more do they want?
- More matches.
- Are they mad? 
- They say that is the only way that they will become more competitive.
- What?  If they become more competitive....
- .....they'd get in our World Cup.......
- ......and there'd be less money for India.
- ......which would stop us growing the game.

Kylie sings  'I should be so lucky...(not)'

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Hold the front page

Earlier this week a quirk in the atmospherics meant that Fantasy Bob overheard what appears to be an editorial conference at a major Scottish media outlet.

- Right we need a big splash on the back page - sports editor what do you have for us?
- Eh - nothin' - Rangers and Celtic weren't playing.
- Nothing?  There must be something.
- Zippo - Rangers or Celtic huvnae signed nae unknown forriners this week.
- I thought one of their players got a new haircut.
- Naw that wis last week.  We're in a tragic news drought.
- There must be other sports.
- You dinnae wint us to cover the Hibs do ye?
- Other sports, not other teams.
- We done that - we done an article aboot golf last year.
- I remember that - a Rangers player got a hole in one.
- What about cricket?
- Whit's that?
- Aren't Scotland playing qualifiers for the world cup just now?
- Are they?  How would I ken?  I'm the sports editor.
- They beat Afghanistan.
- Nae a great fitba nation.
- They're unbeaten so far.
- See whit happens when you appoint big Alex McLeish.
- Nothing to do with McLeish.  We need to give the cricket some coverage.
- OK OK.  How mony Rangers players is involved?
- None.
- OK  Must be a' Celtic players then?
- No.
- Oh no, it's nae Aiberdeen players is it.  I'm no going up there for interviews.
- No - it's cricket - it's nothing to do with football.
- Cannae go on the sports pages then.  This is a Scottish paper.

Saturday, 10 March 2018


As the Beast from the East recedes the full horror of the life or death struggle is becoming clearer.

No empire biscuits to be found....
Many faced extended periods of empire biscuit deprivation as panic buying stripped the shelves of all provender.  In many parts of Scotland shoppers disaster loomed found only fresh fruit and vegetables.

Even Fantasy Bob could not resist the hysteria of panic buying - as a result, he now has 6 new cricket bats.

Mrs FB did not seem overly impressed as he returned from the blizzard blasted wasteland proudly bearing these trophies, although she did eventually concede that, used with dexterity and a sense of purpose, they might be used to move the snow from the path to the front door.  FB felt that her trenchantly expressed scepticism that FB had any dexterity, far less a sense of purpose, did little to help the household's overall response to the extreme conditions.  But he bit his tongue.  Thus adding injury to insult.

Much as the media tried to downplay the horror by continuous hysterical reporting of references to red alerts, extreme conditions and life or death situations, the sense of panic was not eased.  Emergency services were inundated with calls.  Police Scotland report that they received 50% more 999 calls than usual.

'Your kebab is cold....?'
FB is sure that there were many in genuine difficulty but, as increasingly seems to be the case these days, there were many calls which suggests that many of FB's fellow citizens understand that the word emergency now means a situation of mild inconvenience.  Police therefore had to respond to such life or death matters as a desperate request to borrow a show shovel;  a frantic concern that a gate was frozen; an imperious command that since there was no bread in the shop and could the police make a delivery; a sobbing inquiry as to where an open cigarette shop could be found.

These calls only add to the long history of similar 999 calls - distraught citizens have called to report that eggs in the fridge were broken, that their kebab is cold and that they have forgotten their password.

FB has never called 999.  Obviously he has been oblivious to threat.  He needs to reassess his generally stoical outlook.  He needs to revise his sense of emergency. He regularly faces life or death situations.

The next time he sees the ball being handed to an 11 year old leg spinner. He knows what to do.  999.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The beast from the east

Scotland’s cricketers have been plunged into confusion.  The beast from the east.  A sudden cold snap.  Dazed and shivering they look out their kit for they must assume the season has started.

For the first matches of the season are by long tradition played in Siberian conditions.   There are misleadingly titled warm up matches (which Fantasy Bob avoids – he does not want to peak too early) where fielders in the deep have been known to get lost in snow drifts.

Edinburgh’s cricket grounds in particular have been historically positioned to ensure no barrier between them and the Siberian wastes.  They promiscuously welcome any chill winds to their empty expanses at any time.  At the start of the season however they are particularly lascivious and can without difficulty ensure that frozen draughts come from each point of the compass simultaneously.  There is no beast like the beast across the cricket field.  The beast is from the east south north and west. Bowlers, if they are able to move at all, struggle with length since they are bowling into and with the wind at the same time.

Go ahead Edinburgh club Carlton's ground
ready for the first matches of a new season
Cricketers in Scotland are therefore made of stern stuff.  They scoff at the media's hysterical reference to snowageddon and franticThe beast from the east over-hyping of the slightest drop in temperature.   The beast from the east - isn't that our new overseas amateur pace bowler?

They reflect on how they survived the Arctic conditions at the start of last season losing no more than three toes to frostbite.   And they still managed to bowl a 10 over spell.  As he dons his gloves and prepares to leave the  warmth of the pavilion a batsman will stiffen his upper lip and say stoically to his colleagues, as they huddle together for warmth, that 'I am just going out now, I may be gone some time.' (The promise of a long innings that FB never manages to fulfill whatever the climatic conditions).  They struggle to close the door against the icy wind and as they watch their colleague walk out to make the supreme sacrifice, they bring to mind that magical day last season when the Siberian wind relented, when the sun shone high in the azure all day and the temperature approached a sweltering 10 degrees.  The joys of summer - they come nearer every day.