Saturday, 21 February 2015

Come on Scotland

Fantasy Bob's understanding of England's epic struggle with New Zealand in the CWC was undermined by endless advertisement breaks and the total lack of intelligent observation from the commentary team.

However extensive research has enabled him to piece together a definitive scorecard of how the powerful England batting line up put paid to the hapless New Zealand attack:

  1. M Bigbeard .................... 0
  2. I Bellybutton....................0
  3. G AnyonebutKP.............. 0
  4. J Nextkingofyorkshire .....1
  5. E Seamus Bejasus............0
  6. J Smallbutperfectlyout.....0
  7. J Slogger...........................0
  8. C Halftracker....................0
  9. S Poutandsulk...................0
  10. S Hucklebowlerfinn..........0
  11. J Sledgerson......................0
FB is disappointed to discover that the New Zealand innings failed to register on his state of the art electronic monitoring station which is not calibrated in nano-seconds.  He is therefore uncertain of the outcome of the match.

However FB notes the comments of Mr John Inverdale that this outing gives further strength to the belief that England remain on track to win the Rugby World Cup.

Scotland play England on Monday with everything to play for.  Come on Scotland.

Friday, 13 February 2015

CWC 2015

Fantasy Bob feels he has barely caught his breath since the last Cricket World Cup, on which, for some reason best known to himself, he felt compelled to comment on these pages; but he finds that the event is on him again.

The opening ceremonies have passed - mercifully, no Scottie dogs were pressed into service - and the teams are limbering up for the first of the 49 games that are needed to identify the champions.

FB is delighted that this time Scotland are among the 14 teams contesting, and equally delighted that 3 of his Carlton colleagues are in the Scotland squad - although it should be acknowledged that none of the 3 has yet reached the starry heights of playing under FB's stern captaincy in the Carlton All Star Fourth XI.  He hopes this lack of big match experience will not stand against them.

Carlton's Big Three - Gardiner, Mommsen and Evans -
all have benefitted from not playing with FB
He can only wish them and the rest of the squad well.  For once the run into the tournament has been good - with solid wins over Ireland and Afghanistan and a magnificent run chase against the W Indies which fell just short of the 314 required to win.  Many commentators expect that 300 is going to be the going rate for an innings in this competition, so it was timely for Scotland show that they have the power in their batting line-up to get to that total.

Scotland come as one of four associate nations who all share a similar objective to put as much egg on the face of the ICC as possible.  This is the last time that CWC will offer such opportunities to mix it with the full member nations since the ICC have insisted that future tournaments will be on a format will make qualification a remote possibility.  So much for trying to develop and strengthen the game beyond the present powerhouses.  So FB hopes that Scotland can cause some upsets in their group games.

It will not be easy - for first up is host nation New Zealand who have had their best year ever and in Brendon McCullum have one of the better ODI batters around.  So good have NZ been this year that they are FB's dark horses for the trophy.

But first they have to get past Scotland.

This is also a hurdle that Australia face - and FB finds it hard to see past the Aussies for the title.  An explosive batting line up, Mitchell Johnson and a home crowd.

But first they have to get past Scotland.

England also face this challenge.  And England have looked unconvincing in the lead up to the tournament - that their new skipper (who should be playing for Ireland) is scratching for form has not helped them.  Easy meet for Scotland?  Wouldn't that be a fine thing?

Come on Scotland - do us proud.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Nobody's Perfect

The great movie director Billie Wilder once said, 'Happiness is working with Jack Lemmon.'

Jack Lemmon would be celebrating his 90th birthday today, 8 February 2015, but for the fact that he died in 2001.

Fantasy Bob never batted with Jack Lemmon at the other end, so he cannot vouch absolutely for the veracity of Wilder's sentiment, but he thinks it must be right. For happiness is certainly watching any of Lemmon's fine performances in a string of classic movies and no more so than the great comedy Some Like It Hot.

Despite having no cricketing content, Some Like It Hot is well up FB's rankings of the greatest movies of all time and Jack Lemmon's contribution to its magic is among its highlights. Mystifyingly Lemmon was beaten for the Oscar by Charlton Heston performance as the chariot driving Ben Hur.

FB is sure that his worldwide readership can easily bring to mind the incomparable final scene in Some Like It Hot. Having breathlessly escaped from chasing gangsters Lemmon gives his admirer Joe E Brown a list of reasons why they cannot get married, ranging from a smoking habit to infertility. Osgood (Brown) dismisses them all; he loves Daphne (Lemmon) and is determined to go through with the marriage. Exasperated, Jerry (Lemmon) removes his wig and shouts, "I'm a man!" Osgood simply responds, "Well, nobody's perfect."

That final line seems perfect but the story is that it was put in by Wilder and his partner  IAL Diamond just to fill the space until they thought of something better. They are still thinking. 

Do they recognise how the line resonates for lower league cricketers who have sat through the movie wondering what relevance it is to their cricketing interests?  Cricketers struggle - the cross dressing, the shimmering of Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis' Cary Grant impersonation - what does it mean to them?  

But suddenly out of the screen comes the line they hear every time they trudge back to the pavilion having swing hopelessly all round a straight one - 'Nobody's perfect.' 

They understand.  Delving a little deeper, cricketers will understand that the line does have a sporting background - while Wilder and Diamond were not noted sports enthusiast, Joe E Brown the actor who utters the immortal words certainly was.  Among his early work was a baseball trilogy and he broadcast on TV and radio for the New York Yankees - indeed it was this work that gained him the role in Some Like It Hot.  he was not the original choice for  the role that he made his own until Wilder and Diamond heard him at a baseball game.  

Nobody's perfect?  But Joe E Brown is - and Jack Lemmon too.  Happy Birthday.



Friday, 30 January 2015

Churchill

Fantasy Bob has been considering the extent to which the 50th anniversary of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill should be a cause for celebration among cricketers.

30 January 1965
For every article praising Churchill there is one reviling him. He may have been the leader Britain needed in 1940 – but he was far from that at any other time in his career. In fact, he was a bit of a KP in his way, chopping and changing party and policy in the manner that KP became English overnight and not suffering opponents or even fools on his own side gladly – although there is no record of Churchill referring to his colleagues as muppets.

It is there that comparisons end however, for just as KP is an indifferent orator, so Churchill was an indifferent cricketer. Indeed Churchill seems to have been no cricketer at all. There is no record of him having taken any interest in the game at any point in his career despite copious opportunities.

His school career at Harrow is generally considered a failure, but not because he made no impression on the cricket field. Biographies tell that he was once humiliated by a group of his schoolmates who threw cricket balls at his hapless self who took refuge behind a tree. His early military career in South Africa seems to have been wholly preoccupied with beating the Boers on the battlefield rather than the cricket field.   

But there is one brush with cricket greatness in Churchill’s career – at Harrow he was fag to Archie MacLaren – one of the greats of the golden age – whose 424 scored in 1895 stood as the highest score in English first class cricket for almost 100 years, until Lara’s 501 in 1994.  MacLaren’s judgement on his youthful servant was severe - 'snotty little bugger, uppity but damn near useless, with no aptitude even for sport.’ 

Well, Churchill had the last laugh – for MacLaren died in November 1944, his glittering cricketing career long behind him and an unsuccessful business career, while Churchill watched the Allied Forces push towards Germany and looked forward to the end of the struggle.

Perhaps Churchill’s experience of the bully MacLaren was a factor in his standing up to the bully Hitler, notwithstanding that he may have shared Hitler’s disdain for cricket.

FB has always found Churchill’s war time speeches an inspiration. He has tried many times to emulate them in his pre-match addresses to the members of the Carlton All Star 4th XI as they face another stern challenge in the lower leagues of the East of Scotland Cricket Association.

The faces of his youthful charges shine and they would seem to have nothing but admiration as FB solemnly intones, ‘I have nothing to offer but blood toil tears and sweat.’

They look up with steely determination in their eyes as he goes on, ‘We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’

They hang stoically on his every word as he continues, '...if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.’

And then a small voice pipes up – 'Er... right.... FB – you did remember to bring empire biscuits for tea didn't you?'

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Address to an Umpire

Fantasy Bob has continued his world famous research into the unpublished cricketing works of Robert Burns.

He reproduces his most recent find below - but he has not discovered why Burns should have suppressed this fine work.

After all he used the opening lines again in his celebrated Address to the Devil.  That poem was written in 1785, a year which marked a decline in the fortunes of the dominant Hambledon Club as cricket spread throughout the country.

However in this, undated, original draft Burns targets a devil of a different sort, as he presents an ironic, but heartfelt, celebration of the challenges facing the umpire in lower league cricket with which Burns seems to have been fully familiar.

Address to an Umpire

O thou! whatever title suit thee,—
Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie!
Thou art ne'er a thing o’ beauty
Nor yet inspiring
Thou maun do your cricketing duty
By Umpiring

In upper grades th’ umpire’s appointed
Wi' sponsors’ logos weel anointed
But in low’r leagues we’re disappointed
Thou'rt just a player
Thy knowledge of the laws disjointed
And peculiar

Whiles aifter tea thou felt like rest
But mercy be thou'rt cruelly pressed
The skipper says there's no chiel else
Prepared tae stand
The juniors couldna tak' the stress
But thou art the man

What could be simpler than to count six
It disnae need Higher Mathematics
But every over's full o' tricks
Tae complicate
No balls, dead balls, wides. Thy count is fix'd
By guestimate

The LB law's a real damnation
Each chiel has his interpretation
But can he gie an explanation
O' a decision
Withoot causing consternation
Or derision?

'Not out,' we hear thee sagely cry
'It's missing leg; it's ower high;
The ball has hit the batsman's thigh;
No stump wad be hit;
An' onywye, the sun was in my eye
I didna see it

There's places in this noble land
Where billies deem LB's been banned
So have the years passed since the man
Has raised the finger
Though bowlers scream their fraught demand
The batters linger

A loud appeal for caught behind
Thou must be deef, thou must be blind
Could thou hear, nor see, nor call tae mind
A deviation?
Thon batter's no a walkin' kind
It's ruination

Fegs! Low'r league players we a' suffer
At the whims o' sic a duffer
But we shouldna tak the huff for
There's no reason
We'll get the smoother and the rougher
O'er the season

Ah umpires! Thou must be respectit
I pay thee tribute thou'rt so neglectit
It ill becomes those at the wicket
To yell and doubt thee
For there would be nae bonny cricket
Were we withoot thee




Thursday, 22 January 2015

Blackmail

Blackmail victim attempting disguise 
Fantasy Bob has read with concern reports that England's World Cup skipper Eoin Morgan has been subject to a blackmail action in which a miscreant has threatened to reveal information about an alleged relationship with an Australian woman 5 years ago.

He has a message to all would be blackmailers who might think major cricketers such as Morgan and himself are fair game.  Any attempt to extort significant numbers of empire biscuits from FB to keep his secrets secret and to protect his reputation will be met with a firm shrug of the shoulders. This should be no surprise to FB's dwindling handful of readers.  For not only to they recognise that FB's reputation could not be lowered beyond its present precarious level.  They will also know that FB has already fully disclosed the details of an alleged relationship with an Australian woman.

The full details of his Morgan type incident can be found in this link.  

So think again blackmailers.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Festina Lente

Fantasy Bob has observed the controversy surrounding the recent decision by Edinburgh’s City Fathers to introduce a city wide speed limit of 20mph with close interest.
 
A 20mph zone
For there has been a wailing and gnashing of teeth by those whose sole purpose in life seems to be to drive at 70mph on any road and who cite the Bible, Magna Carta, and the Collected Works of Jeremy Clarkson in support of their right to do so.

Then there is a similar gnashing and wailing of teeth by assorted cyclists, pram-pushers and jay-walkers in support of the Council's proposals.

Generally speaking, FB sides with the pram pushers and their allies.  Festina Lente, as the ancients had it.

In fact he thinks the so called blanket speed limit does not extend far enough.  For the Council's roads are not the only places where FB is concerned about an excess of speed.

The Council's clutch of prestigious cricket pitches need also to be subject to some better regulation. For as FB has pointed out many times, 20mph still pretty fast.  Too fast in fact.

Particularly when the central feature of his world famous and innovative batting technique involves him closing his eyes as the bowler’s arm comes over.  The chances of him completely missing the ball bowled at that unnaturally rapid speed are therefore high.   Quite apart from the fact that many of his opponents deliberately project the ball towards him at speeds well in excess of that - a Jeremy Clarksonite tactic that requires to be discouraged.
The Meadows - not a 20mph zone

He is therefore disappointed that the Council has not extended its regulation to these locations.  He will continue to petition.

Some of FB's worldwide readership will recall that the first numeric speed limit was created in the UK in 1860s when  a limit of 10 mph on open roads in town - wisely this was reduced to 2 mph in towns and 4 mph  in rural areas - under the so called red flag act which obliged the bowler to have a man with a red flag proceed down the wicket before him.  In 1896 the speed limit was raised to 14 mph.  This was  held to be the estimated speed of a horse being driven furiously - by coincidence it is also the speed of a under-11 bowler bowling furiously.
This legislative change was too late for Mr Walter Arnold, of East Peckham, who was fined one shilling for travelling at 8 mph in a motorised vehicle. That was 4 times the speed limit applying at the time - a proportion of offence that would excite even Jeremy Clarkson. Mr Arnold was chased and caught by a policeman on a bicycle.

Little is known about Mr Arnold or his reasons for his indecent haste.  His cricketing interests are not recorded.  How he would have fared on contemporary Edinburgh's roads must be a matter of conjecture although the prospects of him being chased by a rozzer on a bike is more than remote, rozzers having given up bikes in favour of social media.

Despite all this uncertainty, Mr Arnold remains East Peckham's most famous person.

Not Mr Walter Arnold