Thursday, 31 March 2011

Inciting revolution

All this semi-final excitement is very well.  The CWC now has the finalists that the extended structure seemed designed to deliver and Tendulkar's date with destiny is nigh.

But others are also approaching their date with destiny.  His Royal Highness Prince William and Her Unroyal Commonerness Kate Middleton have less than a month before they bring joy to the nation through the additional day off work that has been ordained. 
Long standing readers of these pages may also recall how the wedding announcement scuppered the tentative plans for HRH to turn out for Carlton in the coming season.  But while the disappointment may have been crushing to some of the club's more impressionable members, FB's further consideration of the issue leads him to conclude that it is a matter for some relief.  Skippering a royal might not be easy.  FB wonders how in the heat of the moment he could remember the proper form in which to administer to the heir to the heir to the throne a right royal bollocking for dropping a sitter off his bowling.  Or the care that would have to be taken in asking HRH to drop down the order, in making clear that he meant the batting order not the order of precedence.  Appeals would be a bit different - 'Howsat' would become 'Subject I command you to give that man out LBW' which rather changes the overall conception. 

There are greater risks.  FB vividly remembers long ago playing rugby for his school against Gordonstoun who fielded a foreign princeling on the wing.  While the princeling's team approached him with a studied deference - 'Permission to pass to you sir' - his own team of plebs was filled with anti-monarchist fervour.  They embraced with enthusiasm and more the opportunity to re-enact the French Revolution at every ruck.  Such revolutionary fervour could disturb the batsman's concentration unduly.

So all in all HRH's other priorities might be a bit of a relief. FB suspects that his risk of finishing the season in the Tower of London for treasonous bowling changes or some such affront would just have been too high.

While cricket seems to be free from the royal couple, another of FB's great loves is not. Cakes have succumbed and a royal wedding cup cake has been designed.  Now FB gives fair warning that if these turn up anywhere near him on any cricket tea table this season it will lead directly to the start of the revolution.

Incitement to revolution

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Semi final two - the match of all mothers

Daljit Singh's dilemma
Fantasy Bob's slumbers were disturbed the other night by the insistent ring of the telephonic communication apparatus.  Dishevelled and half asleep - ie more smart and awake than he usually is - FB answered to find a distressed voice imploring him for advice.

'This is Mr Daljit Singh', the voice intoned, 'curator of the Mohali cricket pitch.  Those swine at the ICC have scheduled the India Pakistan mother of all matches on my square.  If India lose it will be my fault for not preparing the right surface.  Mr Fantasy Bob I am desperate - I need your help and advice - and maybe also that of your doughty groundsman at Carlton Mr Magnus Moon of whose work we hear great things.  Everyone can see that India is the batting team and Pakistan the bowling team.  So what is the best surface to prepare?'

A tricky dilemma.  If Mr Singh delivers an absolute road, the inferior Pakistani batters could do well.  A bowler's wicket might allow the class of India's batters to come through.  Mr Singh resumed his plea,  'It's too much, the fate of the nation and the future of the world rests in my hands and how I use the light roller.  Tell me what to do.'


FB is a soft old soul.  he hates to think of anyone in distress.  He recognised that the wrong word could tip Mr Singh over the edge.  He quickly consulted local history.


At one time the pitch at Mohali had a bit of a reputation.  India were even rolled over for 83 on the first morning against New Zealand in 1999 - but it changed complexion drastically over the next few years and turned into a dead pitch producing high-scoring draws.  It is more often than not an IPL featherbed.  But its ODI heritage is grand - including a tight World Cup semi-final in 1996 when Australia squeezed past West Indies to win by 5 runs.  In a low scoring match, the innings were mirror images of each other -  Australia went from 15 for 4 to 207 and Windies from 165 for 2 to 202.  During the second innings Richie Richardson struck umpire BC Coorey in the head with a sweep to square leg.

So what would he say?  'Mr Singh you must prepare a good cricket wicket with something in it for the bowlers and the batters.'  The effusive expression of gratitude was overwhelming.  FB is modest - for that is all any match needs a good cricket wicket.

Afridi -
leading from the front
Yuvrav - all round brilliance
Afridi and Gul against Tendulkar and Sehwag.  The clash of nuclear powers.  To FB is looks like it should be an epic an titanic struggle.  Afridi and Yuvrav are runaway contenders for player of the competition.  One of them will prevail.   Pakistan need to get past the top order.  But it is bowlers who win more matches in this competition adn Pakistan's bowling has been firing.

FB has a soft spot for Afridi, but it would be fine to see Pakistani cricket in rude health after recent history of being itinerant and exposed to scandal.  Either way a good cricket wicket and a victory for cricket - a cliche writer's dream.  But everything else tells FB that it is  India who will prevail in front of a clamorous home crowd (and why the match of teh centry is being staged at the smallest ground in India remains a mystery to FB).  Indian batting seems just too powerful and the bowling should be adequate in Harbajhan, Yuvrav and Khan.  Somewhere no doubt there is a script in which the words Tendulkar and destiny can be found together.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Semi final one - The heat is on

Fantasy Bob's abiding memory of England's quarter final against Sri Lanka is of Chris Tremlett apparently wading through treacle to try to get into position to take a catch which under most conditions would have been relatively straightforward.  That and Jonathan Trott unable to do anything other than jog slowly ice collar and all to take his runs.  Stuff all this stuff about English fatigue and stuff - England melted in all senses of the word.
A stunning fielding effort
So how are New Zealand, another temperate zone country, going to fare in these conditions?  Their major effort against South Africa was in the field where they scrambled around like the All Black back row.  An exceptional effort - which really put the pressure on their opponents.  Can they maintain this in the conditions they will find in Colombo?  FB has no idea but he doesn't envy them the challenge.  Mad dogs and Kiwis sweep the cover boundary in the midday sun.

Playing cricket in Edinburgh Fantasy Bob is of course fully experienced in the extremes of heat.  Here are some of his tips for dealing with the heat and he offers them free of charge to the New Zealand coaching staff. 

All juniors in the team have to be covered from head to toe and back again in high factor sun cream.  Inevitably the ball ends up covered in the stuff - perhaps this is why Sri Lanka dropped 3 catches in their match against - so forget your Murraymints, it shines up nicely. 

Drinks have to be taken at regular intervals.   At least one is mandatory in the leagues FB graces - a far cry from the days when it was optional and was another tactic in the armory of the win at all costs captain.  A well timed drinks break, leisurely taken, could disturb batsmen's concentration like nothing else .  Denying the fielding side due hydration could grind them into the dust.  For many highly trained athletes the drinks break would turn into an opportunity for a sit down, a fag, and extended snooze, catch up on the football scores.  Sometimes it was a challenge to reassemble the full fielding side let alone getting them in approximately the right positions.

Players who usually go capless will suddenly find the most inappopriate headgear at the bottom of their bag.  A range of khaki and green hats will appear that causes passing spectators to wonder if why the Afrika Corps and the Chindits have suddenly reappeared.  Batsmen could feel like extras from Apocalypse Now  Headgear with second world war resonances should therefore be discouraged - even a knotted handkerchief is preferable.

All juniors have to be resmothered in even higher factor sun cream at the fall of each wicket.

Some genius will suggest that iced tea should be prepared - unaware that just dropping the bar's entire supply of ice into a hot tea urn will not do the trick.  To make things worse, the ice machine decides that it is too hot and goes on the blink.  So treat that proposition with the disdain it deserves.  Iced tea is an American invention and to be distrusted - piping hot tea is a perfectly cooling refreshment.

It comes as a surprise to find that there is no shade in the outfield - and the cricketer's parasol still presents a design challenge.  Improvised alternatives should not be tolerated.

Anyone suffering from sunstroke should not be asked to umpire for more than 10 overs.  There is a risk they will hear snicks when there are no snicks to be heard.

As the one big timer to wear specs how will Vettori cope?  FB bats in spectacles which soon take on a kaleidoscopic function as the sweat drips on to the lenses.   Inappropriate headbands?  Which make you look like Mark Knopfler without the guitar.  Vaseline across the eyebrows and temples?  Maybe - FB simply resorts to his tried and tested tactic of closing his eyes as the bowler's arm comes over.


Dilshan -
opening the bowling and the batting
 So NZ face a big challenge.  Not only might the weather be hot for them but Sri Lanka have real quality in every department.  It is difficult to think of any other outcome but a home victory.  The form book is definitely Sri Lanka's not only did they wallop NZ in their group game but they have won their previous four World Cup games against New Zealand. The overall head-to-head record is 35-33 in New Zealand's favour but since 2000 it is 20-11 in Sri Lanka's favour. In Sri Lanka, since 2000, the head-to-head record is 6-1 against New Zealand.   On the New Zealand side is the fact that Vettori may be astutest skipper in the competition and Ross Taylor has hit more sixes (14) in this World Cup than the entire Sri Lankan team (12).    That's the way to do it.  Less running in the heat.

But this is FB's preview and his tips are rubbish.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Icons







The popular press tells Fantasy Bob that this week the iconic Athena tennis girl poster is 35 years old exactly. Younger readers - yes an unlikely concept but FB lives in hope - accustomed as they are to the constant bump and grind saturated world of the skimpily covered Rhianna and company may well wonder what all the fuss is about. But in 1976 this image was risque. It sold by the million. But it was also wistful and nostalgic - something that Rhianna may struggle to achieve.

FB confesses that he possessed this iconic image. it was a gift to him from a tennis partner with whom he had a romantic liaison - or was it a romantic partner with whom he had a tennis liaison - and who in a certain light and from the right angle might have convinced a jury that she was the model in the photo. As far as FB can recall possession of the poster may have given various pleasures but it did little to improve his serve and volley.

In search of lost moments - as that great slip fielder Marcel Proust might have put it.....a sniff of the madelaine and FB begins to wonder what might be the iconic cricket image of 1976? FB suggests that there can only be one.




The Master Blaster masterly blasting the English bowling to all parts of a drought kissed England. For that was the hottest summer since records began - particularly for English bowlers and batters. W Indies won the Test series 3-0 as Tony Grieg regretted his pre-series fighting comments about making them eat dirt.

As usual the statistics tell it all. Richards was W Indies leading bat - in 7 innings he made 829 runs at 118.42. England's leading bat was David Steele (an iconic figure in his own right and a walking embodiment of both the Dunkirk spirit and the spirit of cricket) with 308 runs in 10 innings at 30.80.

Denis Amiss played only the last Test and scored 219 runs in his 2 visits to the middle. Richards scored 291 in the same Oval Test - his top Test score. Over the test series his SR was 69.78 which is in CWC territory.

In bowling it was the same story. Holding and Roberts took 28 wickets each, at 12.71 and 19.17 respectively. Bored with battering Edrich and Close with short stuff at Manchester they pitched it up and demolished England for 71. Of all the English wickets to fall that summer only 3 went to slow bowling. Deadly Derek, Underwood, topped the English bowling with 17 at 37.11.

But Richards was on a roller coaster that year. In the eleven Tests he played from January to August he scored 1,710 runs with the style and consistency of a great player. No other batsman in the history of the game had scored nearly so many in a calendar year. Coming to England there were worries that the W Indies might be fatigued after playing Australia and India - so what do we make of the modern schedules as tiring players out?

Sir Vivian Richards - all time great and icon of 1976.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Census

27 March is a busy day for Fantasy Bob, he has to complete the census form.  He has a legal duty to do so and if he doesn't or supplies false information he may be fined up to £1000.  That's a lot of biscuits to put at risk.

Census report from 2001
The census is a 10 yearly survey and is essential to Government for planning services.  It is essential to know how many Jedi knights there are in the UK.  At the last census there were 390,000 but there are fears that the species may be in decline.

There are all manner of questions about FB's ability to speak and understand English Gaelic and Scots.  There are questions about his religion, his disabilities, his marital status, the number of rooms in his house, his working pattern and racial origin. 

All very fine and proper, but FB turned over the pages with mounting anxiety and came to the final page 28 with the crushing realisation that  that there has been a major oversight on the part of the authorities - there are no cricket questions.  How this can have been overlooked is beyond him, he fears MPs may have been too busy claiming or unclaiming their expenses to notice the factors that are vital to the nation's destiny.

In a last minute and probably futile effort to repair the damage, FB therefore presents his own cricket census.   Questions may be answered in English Scots or Gaelic.  Jedi languages are not accepted.

Readers should print and submit with their census form to the appropriate authorities with this covering note - Please find enclosed answers to essential supplementary questions as requested by Fantasy Bob:

1.    Does any member of your household possess a cricket bat?

Yes                  No

If you answered yes to Q 1 go to Question 2
If you answered no to Q1 all public services are hereby withdrawn from all persons at your address.

2.    Is your cricket bat

A Gray Nicolls Nitro            Some other piece of driftwood

3.    Can you play leg spin bowling?

 Yes                 No                   Only with my eyes shut

4.    Have you a car large enough to take 5 juniors to an away match?

Yes                  No                   Only if you put 3 of them in the boot.

5.    Which of these qualifications do you have?

Can apply the LBW law perfectly in all circumstances and in all lights.

Can apply the LBW law on the basis that every third appeal is probably out

Use the LBW law as an opportunity for personal revenge

Consider that you are above the LBW law

Think the LBW law was replaced following metrication and decimalisation.

6.     Last week were you

In trouble from the start on a slow turner

Well in control until triggered by a deaf blind incompetent team mate

Struggling to get your feet moving until you creamed a half volley through the covers

Left stranded on 49 as your team mate heaved across the line

 Many thanks for your cooperation.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Cricket World Cup - more talking points

As the quarter final to end all quarter finals (well these 4 anyway) gets under way in Colombo, this week's CWC action has seen more talking points than is good for a competition labelled a month ago a bore-athon.   With the consistency for which the world's media is renowned this competition is now the most exciting ever in the whole history of the universe, and possibly longer.

How to keep up with all this?  In a unique service to his readers, all 3 of them, Fantasy Bob has kept in touch with developments and listened to expert opinion totally disregarding it.  Here is his distillation of the week's off-field news.

Ponting - despite lots of media speculation that he is on the point of retirement, whether voluntary or enforced, the Australian captain remains in Gaddafi mode.  He is staying put.  But the Australian Board of Cricket are applying to the UN for the enforcement of a no-fly zone over him. 

Former coach Buchanan said Ponting had just too much to do as captain.  FB knows what he feels like.  He's had to chase around until midnight to find his eleventh man, he's had to get to the ground early but when he gets there he finds he's left the pavilion keys at home,  half an hour later he is already behind schedule and marks the boundary too quickly - he'll just have to say the big wobble at third man is to protect a water logged area, he's set up the scoreboard bruising his thumb as he bashes the hooks back into place with his shoe, when he opens the pavilion he finds the toilet's flooded, he's had to remember the milk for tea, and to remind the team of the new junior seam bowler's nut allergy, he's had to rummage in the kit store to find the 6th stump and even then he's not sure they are a matching set in fact one seems distinctly shorter than the others, aargh a terrible thought comes to him as he places the bails beside the stumps - where's the scorebook! - a frantic search and his heart rate comes back to normal as he finds it soggily wrapped in his still damp towel at the bottom of his bag, the tea urn blows a fuse when he plugs it in, he sets out to give the wicket a last roll but the engine seizes at the far end, he manages through the sheer power of bad language to push it off the pitch and he collapses into a seat thinking he just about has everything under control when the opposing skipper phones wondering where he is, he takes the fixture card out of his pocket, the microscopic text shimmers into focus briefly but long enough for him to detect that what he took all week as H is in fact A.  !!!!!!  A mad dash and he finally joins his hand picked team as they casually practice dropping catches in a corner of the outfield.  'Where the hell have you been skipper?' they ask, solicitous as ever after his welfare.  'Did you remember the wicket keeping gloves?   ****!  After that scoring 104 counts as a rest.

Motoring - Fantasy Bob is not a petrol head.  His understanding of the internal combustion engine is limited.  However he understands that South African vehicles have an automatic choke which shuts the engine down just when it begins to purr.  Vehicles are now subject to an immediate recall as the manufacturer tries to rectify this defect within the next 4 years.

Psychiatry - Another England player takes the flight home, joining Shazhad, Broad and KP.  Mike Yardy left the party this week suffering from depression.  Like Trescothick before him the detached life on the road just got to him.  FB has nothing but sympathy.  Banger's book describes in detail the hell of this condition - and FB wonders if cricketers more than any other sportspeople may be prone to this condition.  Long tours away from familiar surroundings and the stark transparency of the individual's contribution to team performances are significant risk factors.  Yardy's trauma was met with a remarkably sensitive response from Geoff Boycott who said  'He's just not good enough.'  Since when did Boycs become such a big softie?

Politics - The squeezed middle - this may be the new political catch phrase in the UK, referring to those on middle incomes who are about to be shafted to preserve bankers' quality of life, but might it be relevant in cricket - middle orders throughout this tournament have found life difficult.  The most evident example being the South African collapse against NZ - but the Windies also have had their problems.  Even the mighty Indian batting line up has looked vulnerable at 3 and 4 down.  Squeezed middles all around.

Sport - Four weeks ago the motto was 50 overs bad - now it's 50 overs good as there is recognition that this form of the game allows for changes in fortunes, it allows for innings to be built, for containing bowling to be important for strike bowling to be important, it puts pressure on the captain to think about how to wrest advantage, it requires batters not just to go and blast away.  In short it may actually be cricket.  Is it too late? 

Police - Local media reports also claim that Mumbai Police plan to deploy "only fit and good-looking" officers for the final on 2 April, rather than "overweight and tobacco-chewing" personnel.   Scottish authorities are taking note and will adopt a reverse policy for all Rangers and Celtic clashes.

Cricket (surely some mistake - what's this doing here?) - And so to Sri Lanka vs England.  The toss matters in this stadium more than most.  Results are heavily in favour of the side batting first, especially in day-night matches.  The ground is also one of Murali's happier hunting grounds particularly under lights - he has taken 25 wickets at 14.88 in floodlit innings there over the last decade.  Should the toss make such a huge difference to the chances of success?  Better win it rather than worry about it.  FB notes that at last England have done the sensible thing and have decided to open with Bell.  A tight game in prospect - maybe, but the home team seem to have a bit more in every department.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The captain's innings

Plaudits go to Yuvrav for his innings to carry India through against Australia yesterday, and he gathers yet another MOM award.  How many until it's his for life?  Does he have enough space on his mantelpiece?  (Fantasy Bob has the same worry at the end of the season when awards are made at club dinners).

But there is lots of sympathy (well not really) and respect (definitely) for Ricky Ponting who played an exemplary captain's innings. A great way to finish his World Cup career even if he promises to carry on in other formats.

Men of the Match - respect

The captain's innings is one of those cricket concepts that requires careful explanation to non-cricketers.  'Surely,' they will say innocently, 'any innings by the captain is a captain's innings.' 'Not so,' you say, full of misplaced and soon to be deflated confidence that these complications can be dealt with simply, 'for the innings of the captain to be the captain's innings it has to be ...........er the captain's innings.'  Silence ensues, disturbed only the ticking of a distant clock.  Whether for self amusement or some other reason you then compound your error, mistakenly thinking you can clarify the position. 'And,' you add, 'a spell of bowling could also be described as the captain's innings.'  'Ah yes,' your interlocutor says, swaying slightly under the extreme mental burden, 'of course, now I understand.'  Such challenges may well be why the Americans turned to baseball.

Wikipedia tells FB that a captain's innings is a high-scoring individual innings by the captain of the batting team considered to have changed the course of a match.   Far be it from FB to quibble with such an august source, but high scoring is not absolutely necessary.  Several of FB's own captain's innings have put mere handfuls of runs in the book, but they have shored up an otherwise rapidly sinking ship, grinding the winning runs in low scoring affairs when team mates have succumbed to the extreme pressure of the crowd baying from the boundary, or have been undone by the white hot heat of the sledge rich batting pod,  or bamboozled by the devastating bowling, or overcome the sudden and desperate need to lie down somewhere dark or all four.  So often does FB perform this heroic deed that it could be FB's speciality act - and FB is seriously considering whether a slot on the X-Factor is possible.

As FB's readers know full well, the captain's innings is the demonstration of practical leadership from the front, most often in adversity, providing a rallying point and direction to the team.  Often it is the definitive match-winning performance.  But this is a British concept so winning is not essential - character stiff upper lip and resolve are.  So the captain's innings can be played in any walk of life and by any rank - generals and colonels have played the captain's innings as have bosuns and able seamen. 

Atherton celebrates his hundred -
only another 5 hours to go
FB admires with all his heart and soul the performance produced in extreme adversity.  It is true grit and more to be admired than the easy flash double or triple hundreds that drip off the conveyor belt these days. 

The greatest exemplification of the captain's innings in FB's living memory is that of Mike Atherton in South Africa in 1995.  Atherton scored 185 not out in 643 minutes to salvage a draw, facing Allan Donald at his fastest and shoring up his partners.   This was his highest test score. Such an innings might be unlikely now as Test batsmen blast away and the concept of batting well over a day to save a game may be a thing of the past.  This innings gave Atherton a reputation as a defensive bat, occasionally likened to Boycott - which FB would take as flattery. 

But here is a trivia fact about Atherton, he holds the joint record with Steve Harmison for the most English test ducks - 20.  Respect.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Festival

Yesterday saw the publication of the programme for this year's Edinburgh Internationl Festival.  Fantasy Bob is sure that his readers are aware that Edinburgh is Festival City.  Each month is Festivalised - the August International Festival is of course at the top of the tree, but throughout the year there are other Festivals including the truly excellent Festival of Children's Theatre in May and the early summer Film Festival. 

Fireworks don't mark the end
 of Edinburgh's all year round
 Festival of Streetworks
Is there space for more Festivals in Edinburgh's crowded calendar?  Evidently, since some inspired policy maker in the Council has decided that Edinburgh should have a year long festival devoted to street and road works.  Celebrity holes in the road from all parts of the globe have been invited to form creative partnerships with local holes. The epic hole in the road that is the Tram project is back in rehearsal to iron out some technical flaws.  Taxi drivers talk with pride about this new venture.  Residents stoically get on with their lives, muttering to themselves about the Dunkirk spirit.

FB notes how Cricket Festivals are a feature of many places in England.   The Cheltenham Festival was first staged in 1872 making it the oldest in the world.  Its early days were graced by Grace and many great cricketers have performed there.  Similarly at Scarborough.   These Festivals traditionally involved the county side on location with a 4 day game and a limited overs match combined with a celebrity/charity fixture.  Beer tents and food stalls ensured a good time was had by all.  Like the fading pictures on the Pavilion wall their significance may be declining in today's hard commercial world.  FB hopes they can live on.

Prego.  Dove e il cricket pitch?
But such festivals are not a feature of the Scottish cricket calendar so FB has concluded that the Edinburgh Cricket Festival is likely to remain a thing of his imagination.   But hang on there.  Edinburgh is twinned with Florence and a casual Google Search tells FB that Florence has an annual cricket festival.  Now this sounds promising. His previous visits to Firenze had not located the cricket field but he is sure it is handy to Il Duomo.  As the search engine whirs, FB imagines strolling to the Uffizi Gallery to take in the Botticellis before taking his place on the boundary.  He is thumbing through the phrase book to check the Italian for square leg. He then looks closer at the page.  Crushing disappointment.

Festa del Grillo / Cricket Festival (Florence) - this festival takes place on the Sunday after Ascension day in Cascine Park and stallholders sell crickets in tiny woven straw cages, which are traditionally released by their new owners in the park for good luck

No chance of watching the descendants of Michaelangelo put together an innings on the banks of the Arno.  Only grasshoppers, and they can't bat.


Florentine  Festival crickets in cages

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Quarter Finals

Scotland v Ireland v Sri Lanka
Edinburgh July 2011
A welcome development
And so the CWC quarter finals get underway. 

Minnows are returned to their native waters with tales of might have been and nearly was, and amid widespread concern that the ICC have got it plain wrong seeking to exclude them from future competitions.  What incentive have they to improve?  How does cricket grow as a world game?  And how are the Test playing nations going to help them improve?  An essential part of any approach must be for there to be more regular minnow-test contests and not only at T20. There are lots of practical issues here - regrettably many of them come down to money.  FB welcomes warmly the few ODIs that Scotland has managed to play - this summer they will be host to Sri Lanka.  But these are tokens - a couple of such fixtures a year compares poorly with the huge number that the Test nations play.  Someone in Dubai needs to be thinking about how to close that gap.

Oops - Fantasy Bob didn't mean to get on this high horse.  He started off confident that he would turn out  one of those penetrating pieces previewing the quarter finals, full of new insights and uniquely informed analysis.  (There's always a first time).  He had visions of making his readers gasp with................. boredom probably.   So let's start again.

And so the CWC quarter finals get underway.  How easy are they to call?  FB notes that most predictions start by saying that the form book should go out the window, these matches are one offs and so on and so cliche but then rigidly stick to the form book.  The pack takes the majority view that Pakistan, Australia, S Africa and Sri Lanka will get through.  Taking the formality of the semi-finals for granted, this then leads to a Sri Lanka v S Africa final.  Which looks quite juicy.  It's a pity that India's star batters won't grace the final, but a good reminder that bowlers are seriously important.

So FB asks himself what could possibly happen to get in the way of this?  Lots - such as:

  • Afridi and Gul can't contain Gayle.    Akmal misses 3 stumpings and 2 catches off his skipper who fails to see the funny side.  Gayle blasts W Indies into a total that is beyond Pakistan's batting which has so far been modest.  They are the only team in the last eight yet to register a century.   Akmal is unable to bat, even with a runner as emergency surgery is required to remove the bat handle from a delicate part.
  • Tendulkar walks following a Brett Lee delivery.  This raises the temperature of the crowd in Ahmedabad.  The heat rises when Ponting stands his ground after a Harbajhan bat and pad.  The ensuing riot stops the match - after careful consideration of what Duckworth Lewis implies for riot interrupted matches India's faster scoring rate prevails. 
  • S Africa rediscover their heritage and reaffirm their choker tag with pride.  Vettori is still struggling with his knee and limps to the wicket in his delivery stride but imparts a different flight to his arm ball which to the nervous Saffie middle order becomes unplayable.  He takes 6 fer as the Saffies crumble.  Neutrals in the crowd cannot restrain their giggling. 
  • England are boringly predictable in their unpredictability - in another tedious roller coaster encounter they and Sri Lanka go to the very last ball of the last over from which Collingwood skillfully knees the leg bye necessary to secure victory.   The run is only confirmed after an agonising 20 minute wait while the UDRS is reviewed.  Guilty and distressed at the possibility of another tear stained phone call from his daughter asking him to come home, Colly immediately speeds to the Colombo Toys-r-Us store and stocks up on Barbie dolls.
Yes, a proper pundit would take all these factors into account and accept the probability of semis of W Indies v NZ and India v England.  And the distinct possibility of the final being a replay of the 1983 final which India won.  Well there you go.

 'Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it' as philosopher George Santayana remarked just as he was out lbw for the fifth time in as many innings.

Santayana - played across the line again and again

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Get on the front foot


Better than Shakespeare
 As a Scottish person, English is Fantasy Bob's second language.  Nevertheless he is greatly fond of the language of Shakespeare, Byron and Ian Botham.  It is of course an open question which one of these was the greatest all rounder.

But he notices the siren voices of despair are all around.   English is currently the second most spoken language in the world.  Mandarin Chinese is first, but, according to those anorak wearers who know about these things, English is likely to be overtaken by Arabic and the related languages of Urdu and Hindi by 2050.  Other voices wonder whether textspeak is killing the English language or whether this is a welcome and further demonstration of its infinite flexibility.

Fantasy Bob accepts that these developments will have to run their course.  But what is of greater concern to him is the sad and shocking decline of the use of cricketing terms in official communications.

When FB began his working career, internal memos and the public press bristled with cricketing terms. 

Comments or responses were requested before close of play or by stumps.

You tried not to have to bat on a sticky wicket, but it could happen.  Difficult questions were to be faced with a straight bat, or played with soft hands.  You strove to get on the front foot to present your case and feared when circumstances or your weak position forced you onto the back foot.  A tricky issue could make you stay in your crease.  If caution was required, you were told to sit on the splice.

Meetings would give the opportunity to bowl a few short deliveries to probe the case being made.  Alternatively you might go to a meeting expecting fast bowling, but be undone by a googly.  You might even be yorked.  A rash or ill considered answer would be described as flashing outside off stump.  A colleague could undo careful preparation by playing across the line.

Easy questions or fragile positions were bad balls, dollies and were hooked for six or dispatched to the ropes.  Asserting yourself in argument would be achieved by a firm push into the covers.  But you could  have a colleague fielding in the deep or sweeping the boundary - making sure no errors or inaccuracies damaged your position.

These terms were in every day use and many more too.  But sadly in this dumbed-down tricked-up 20-20 dominated textspeaking world, the language has abandoned this rich heritage.  FB has not seen a cricketing term in official correspondence for many a year.  He struggles to explain why this should be.  Colleagues have suggested to him that they don't know what these terms mean.  A tragic excuse and a further indictment of the educational system.

Things have got to such a pathetic state that FB himself has got out of the habit of enriching his working communications with these terms.  He has failed to carry his bat.  But the fightback starts now.  It may be too late, the run rate may already have risen too far, but he is confident that all his 3 readers will join him in this vital campaign to save the English language.  Get on the front foot now.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Walking back to happiness

Kant - no great bat
but he always walked
At last the CWC has given rise to the issue which unites cricket and moral philosophy. According to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) the categorical imperative denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself.  As he would put it:

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."

In the match on Sunday between India and W Indies, the great Sachin Tendulkar put his bat under his arm and set off for the pavilion despite the umpire having turned down the W Indies appeal.  He knew he had got an inside edge and he walked.  This contrasted with Ricky Ponting the previous day who stood and waited to be given out even though, as he acknowledged later, he was fully aware that he had nicked it.  Players are required at all time to respect the umpire's decision.  Tendulkar subverted the authority of the umpire.  Ponting respected it.  As Kant would put it - tricky. 

So what is the categorical imperative? If a batsman knows he hit it, should he walk or wait to be given out?  If you're a professional - and the umpire is a professional -  is there a case for letting the official decide?  After all criminals do not sentence themselves, nor do clodhopping centre backs award penalties against themselves when they take the feet from the balletic striker on the point of slotting home a goal.   And besides there is a chance that a batsman might actually be wrong in thinking that he hit it.
2003 - Gilchrist
about to take the law
into his own feet
Fantasy Bob long came to the conclusion that professional sport and honesty were separated at birth.  There is no point crying over that spilt milk.  Much as he would like to think that the code of honour of the Victorians still applied and batsmen in all forms of cricket would walk, and bowlers and fielders would only appeal when they were certain and Colonel Gaddafi would have done the decent thing long ago and resigned the captaincy, he thinks that these days are gone.  Professional sport does not provide fertile ground for the categorical imperative.  Regretably, it is a moral world apart.   Notwithstanding the spirit of cricket, (the preface to the laws of the game which says nothing about walking only referring vaguely to its traditional values), professional sportsmen are sportsmen first, human beings second, upholders of traditional values third.  It is pointless to look for moral models in that world - that is why it is always remarked upon when such as Tendulkar acts as he did.  While there are several well documented instances of walking - Gilchrist's in the 2003 World Cup semi-final - their rarity confirms that the Ponting view is the professional sportsman's view.  There is no traditional value only a win bonus.
 
But in the lower leagues inhabited by Fantasy Bob, the issue of walking takes on a different moral hue altogether.   Saturday cricketers are human beings first and sports people second.  They are the embodiment of traditional values.

As FB has mentioned in previous posts, umpiring duties in the lower leagues are shared by the batting side and a range of abilities and approaches can be observed.  Caught behind can be a difficult judgement for these occasional arbiters - it always comes as a shock.  He is comforting himself that at least there won't be an LBW appeal on that ball, trying to remember whether he is passing his ball-counting stones from left to right or vice versa (and in many instances it is both) when a huge cry of 'Howzat' shatters the silence.  The batsman is immobile, the wicketkeeper seems to have suddenly succumbed to St Vitus' Dance and the close fielders exhibit more animation than seems seemly.  'Howzat?'  What to do?  Moral guidance is required.

Long nano seconds pass.  The batsman's immobility changes - he may be pointing at his trousers, he may be scraping the toe of the bat on the wicket, he may be slapping his bat against his pad.  There is a lot of information to be processed.  Too much.

The mental instant-replay-super-slo-mo seems disfunctional.  You know you didn't hear anything - except the whole range of background noises that are usual in open public spaces - anyone of which could rouse Snickometer from its slumbers.  Well maybe, was there a  wooden sound?  FB accepts this could be a hugely relevant criterion, but he has no idea what it means.

More nano seconds pass.  The batsman has proceeded to mark his guard again, but has not caught your eye.  You know that batsman well.  You have played with him for 25 years.  To you he is a person of outstanding integrity.  You would trust your life savings to his keeping.  You are sure that if he knew he hit it, he would not be looking down at his left boot as if it was a photo shoot of Cameron Diaz in beach wear but would be in the pavilion already cursing his rotten luck.

Suddenly, what we started thinking of as the batsman's categorical imperative becomes your categorical imperative.   Read Kant's footnotes in the Critique of Practical Batting carefully, and you will find his suggestion that you must give someone out when they look too shifty.  As he said, tricky things these moral concepts.

As skipper, Fantasy Bob encourages all his players to walk when they know they have hit it.  He uses the argument above - to do otherwise puts undue pressure on the umpire who is their colleague and friend (at least he was at the start of the afternoon).  The umpire may be short sighted, deaf, incompetent or simply not paying attention.  He may indeed be all of these things.  He is not a snickometer.    If you don't walk you drag a team member into the same moral quagmire as yourself.  You are a corrupter and defiler of a colleague who only agreed to umpire for a few overs because the alternative was washing the tea things.  This is why walking in lower league cricket should be considered a categorical imperative.

Ah but FB recalls with shame he is an imperfect example.  He can recall many times being thanked by the opposing team for walking immediately - and this is a courtesy all fielding sides should adopt.  But a moment's hesitation can lead to the slippery slope.  It allows wished for uncertainty to become real uncertainty. FB recalls with shame a couple of occasions when he failed to walk because there was a hesitation.  Neither time was it part of a deliberate policy, but that shows the challenge of the categorical imperative.  Moral lapses just happened by accident.

While no plea of mitigation should be accepted, FB will recount the incidents to illustrate how narrow the path of virtue is.  He is prepared for the condemnation in the comments of readers.  He assures them that he has already paid his moral dues in sleepless nights.

On the first occasion, FB had an uncharacteristically huge swish at a ball a bit wide of the off stump.  FB generated more bat speed than Afridi or indeed at any time in his career before or since, so much that it took him off his feet.  There was a huge appeal.  FB took time getting to his feet and dusting himself down.  In those moments the categorical imperative was lost.  Watching this piece of slapstick, the umpire forgot the appeal had been made.  His finger did not go up.  He called over instead.  FB found himself in Ponting territory.  The umpire had not triggered him, so he cannot have hit it after all.  (As philosphers will know this is an instance of the fallacy of the undistributed middle).  There was a mild expression of disapproval and disappointment from the fielding side, which deepened as FB uncharacterically went on to score a few.  Tainted runs - but they are in the book for ever.  If FB could, he would remove them every one.

On the second occasion, FB again pushed outside the off stump but lost any kind of concentration as the bat began its downswing.  Fugue, the psychiatrists would describe it as.  Anything could have happened and FB would not have noticed.  Again the appeal came and brought FB slowly back to the real world.  FB looked at the umpire with a shrug.  He had no memory of who he was or how he got there. The umpire looked at him with disdain.  FB looked at his bat not really recognising it - as if it might tell him what had just happened.  The umpire looked at FB again.  Askance.  The emptiness in FB's mind was rapidly being filled, largely with an awareness of extreme aggression from behind him.  The umpire's  finger slowly went up.  After the game there was one of those conversations......'well I wasn't sure..............well, you effing middled it...............'  FB could only recoil in shame.  Again that small moment hid the categorical imperative.  In such a moment anyone can rationalise that maybe they didn't hit it after all.  Don't let that moment intrude!

Of course as a bowler, FB has been on the receiving end of batsmen brazenly standing their ground and blind, deaf and incompetent umpires looking the other way.  Of course, steam has seeped from every pore as a result of these decisions.  Some of these decisions might have been game changing.  But he reconciles himself with the thought that over a season or a career decisions even themselves out, and the momentary feeling of moral superiority.

We know how we ought to behave.  That is how we should behave.  Good on Tendulkar, good on Gilchrist.  And now from the Pavilion end, Immanuel Kant......................

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A national symbol

Fantasy Bob has noticed that Utah has become the first US state to designate an official state firearm. The Browning M1911 handgun joins the state fossil (allosaurus), fruit (cherry), gem (topaz), bird (sea gull) and other symbols with official designation.  FB is unsure why the seagull is the official bird of Utah a state he recalls as being nearly 1000 miles from the sea.  No doubt there is some made up historical reason to do with the Mormons or the native Americans or both.
Is this decision further confirmation of the great cultural divide between the US and Great Britain?  The advocates of this designation say that the firearm symbolises freedom and empowerment - which seems to FB all to depend on what end of the barrel you are standing.   FB has never faced the business end of any firearm but he imagines it is a less than empowering experience.  He attributes this disturbing obsession with guns in the USA almost entirely to the nation turning its back on cricket shortly after the American Revolution.

However he will not let this strange decison depress him - instead he will seek inspriation from it. 

Elections for the Scottish Parliament are about to get underway.  Scotland may have an official plant (thistle), and offficial gemstone (cairngorm aka smoky quartz) and an official bird (not Jackie but the golden eagle).  But so far it has lacked an official weapn.  For such a bellicose nation, this is a lamentable oversight. This must be put right as a matter of priority.  He will therefore challenge all candidates in the coming election to support his petition to adopt as the official weapon of Scotland FB's cricket bat of choice the Gray Nicolls NitroThis weapon is a true symbol of freedom and empowerment.  

The official weapon of Scotland
- freeing and empowering


Saturday, 19 March 2011

6 nations musings part 5

Super full moon influencing events.
Tonight the moon is closer to earth than it has been for 20 years and it is 14% bigger and 30 times brighter.   What does this rare event mean humble earthlings?

A marathon session slumped athletically on the sofa today suggests some clues to Fantasy Bob.  The curtain crashing down on the 6 nations championship with Pakistan ending Australia's 12 year 34  World Cup match unbeaten run and Bangla imploding again. Stranger than fiction?

Meanwhile in the cricket, Scotland had the wooden spoon cruelly wrested from their grasp by the Italians and England lamely surrendered their chance of the grand slam, yet again, by going down to Ireland, yet again.  As a Scottish person Fantasy Bob feels great sadness at England's failure.  But stranger than fiction?

Unnatural - a Scottish try
Fantasy bob suggests the additional gravitational pull of the moon so close to earth must have something to do with these events.  Even more strange was the fact that Scotland scored 2 tries - such a rare event in the history of the universe that can only happen with the most exceptional alignment of heavenly bodies - er well Nick de Luca and Nicky Walker anyway.  Obviously, Andy Robinson has been at fault for not selecting enough players with the Christian name Nicholas, but this can be corrected by the time of the World Cup. 

The championship was hardly a classic.  The best moment was Italy's victory over France. It looks unlikely that any Northern Hemisphere team will really challenge for the World Cup Trophy.  for all their potential France stuttered and still don't know who their best XV is; England looked bright for 2 games at Twickers but were easily beaten by Ireland and should have lost to Scotland.

Gray on the rampage
As far as players go, it was again Sergio Parisse of Italy that contributed consistently in everything he did.  What a star.  The new wunderkind Ashcroft looked pedestrian today, now defences know he will track inside, and has a tendency for head high tackles that may well get him in trouble.  The brightest new player to come into the scene is actually Scottish - Richie Gray.  Again for a Scottish player to make such a significant impact reflects the extraordinary impact of the moon's close orbit.

And so on to the quarter finals of the Cricket World Cup.  Richie Gray will be sitting them out.  It looks like England could face Sri Lanka.  FB wouldn't back them.  Pakistan remain the real dark horses.  But of course England are the new Pakistan.

Afridi is still a strong candidate for player of the tournament - he is the leading wicket taker so far with 17 at 11.47 and a economy rate of 3.54.  Leading batsman is Sangakarra with 363 runs at 121.  Top strike rate of leading bats is Sehwag whose 327 runs (ave 65.40) have come at 125.28.

Now the games get serious.  Fantasy Bob's previews are the only ones to ignore.

215

This is Fantasy Bob's 215th post.  215 was the top Test score of David Gower - FB's all time favourite English batsman.

117 Tests, 8231 runs at 44.25, Gower lights up FB's memories of the 1980s with his will o' the wisp cutting and driving.  The word languid was invented for him.  None can compare.

His 215 was at Edgbaston against Australia in 1985, a match England won by an innings and 118 runs.  Gower's effort did not even get him the man of the match award which was given to Richard Ellison who took 10 for 104 in the match.  But Gower was on fire that series with 3 scores over 150 in the 6 Tests.   He scored 732 runs at 81.33.  England took the series 3-1 under Gower's captaincy.

Shamefully YouTube is not awash with Gower innings - this is the best that FB can find - his innings in the Trent Bridge Test in the 1985 Ashes series.  Gower scored 166.  Watch for the unlucky dismissal of Mike Gatting - run out backing up at the bowler's end.  Listen also for how many times the commentators say 'All the time in the world........'  Says it all really.

Incomparable
PS - FB recognises that this is the second posting in 2 days in which FB eulogises about particular cricketers.  This was not planned and he apologises to all those who have turned to these pages looking for insights into biscuits.   Too much hagiography is bad for a man and FB will return to his usual inconsequential nonsense as soon as possible.

Friday, 18 March 2011

The age of steam

Fantasy Bob shares the sadness of trainspotters the world over at the announcement yesterday that no longer can they stand at the end of the platform expectantly waiting for the Rawalpindi Express to roar into the station.  The railway authorities have announced that the Express will be retiring from service at the end of the Cricket World Cup.

The Rawalpindi Express has been the fastest engine in the shed for many years, the last of the great steam engines, but a series of technical problems requiring surgery on his pistons and discipline problems when he refused to stop at all the stations required by various Fat Controllers, limited his international service to 46 Test outings and 158 one day trips to the seaside.  But what outings.  For Pakistani engines, his strike rate is second only to Younis.  But there was always a doubt in Controllers' minds whether this engine would oblige them by pulling the carriages, but at his peak he was magnificent regularly topping 90mph and recording 100mph in 2003.  There was no finer sight to trainspotters than the Rawalpindi Express him pounding the rails up to the wicket, steam streaming behind him, balanced and coiled, all raw power and aggression.

His very first appearance on the international track was exceptional - bowling Dravid and Tendulkar in successive balls.   Many similar demolitions followed, and when fit and focussed the Express was truly destructive. 

FB hopes that trainspotters will be lucky enough to see one last burst from this magnificent old engine in the next stages of the Cricket World Cup before he joins all the other giants of the golden age of steam as fading memories.  Trainspotters will just have to make do with a bland diet of diesel and electric units from now on.  It is the passing of steam, the end of an era.

Passing of the age of steam

Thursday, 17 March 2011

England v W Indies - that's entertainment

A telephonic communication
apparatus such as used by FB
to interlocute with Mr Strauss
This is the transcript of Fantasy Bob's telephone conversation with Andrew Strauss (at least he said he was Andrew Strauss) last night.

........................So, Straussy old chap, now we can find what your team is made of.  All this being entertaining and bringing life to a dull tournament is very worthy - a very British thing to do.  But now you're at the money end of the deal.  Must win.  But even if you win, you might not make it should results later this week go against you.  What's it to be?

Maybe you all just want to get home.  Those March winds and gales that you see on the weather channel must be quite appealing compared to the hot steamy subcontinent.  In 9 weeks you've played cricket on 16 occasions.  Blimey, what a work load no wonder you poor dears are tired. 

It's must win.  So how is it going to go?  What are you thinking?  Dare you open with Prior again?  Will he be briefed this time about how he can be stumped?  Yes, it might well have seemed a reasonable assumption that as a keeper he might have been familiar with it already.  But look what happened. 

And have you noticed that Benn has opened the bowling for W Indies repeatedly.  So don't be surprised when the slow bowler comes at you from the off and try to slap him out of the ground for the hell of it.

And can you think a bit about the batting powerplay?  It's been a bit of a Horlicks for you so far.  It would be better if Morgan were at the crease during it - and perhaps it doesn't always have to be at over 40.

 The best that you've managed against the Test teams in the group is a pathetic 33 for 2 against Bangladesh, while against India you courted disaster with a collapse of 25 for 4. In the low-scoring game against South Africa, you left it too late.  So get some thinking done.

Chennai is a bowlers' wicket.  So what about Jimmy Anderson?  Are you going with him or not?  You can't afford another 9 ball over from him like against Bangla.   And get Swann take his anti-whinging pill before the match.  Balls get damp - deal with it.  Shazhad will bowl 3 pies for every jaffa - you need better.

Coolest cricketer ever
 And what are you facing?  Gayle is the main man - the coolest cricketer in the universe averages 56.52 in ODI in India.  Pollard is a pie eater  94 off 55 balls against Ireland but he lacks consistency.  Roach has looked hostile and Benn top drawer and hard to score off, but the rest is effective but not threatening.

Danger - explosion
You've been better chasing, so win the toss and bowl.
You have by far the better record in head to head ODIs - even if the last world cup encounter was a scrambled one wicket win with one ball to go affair. 

Mind you on this competition's form that is a huge margin of victory for England..............................So what's it to be?..................Straussy Old Chap.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

LBW

Bell saved by the bell
FB looks forward to how lower league umpiring will be transformed this coming season by the UDRS framework seen in the Cricket World Cup and the 2.5m rule in particular. 

In the lower leagues inhabited by FB, being on the front foot, even 6 inches from the crease, is always a convincing reason for an umpire to deny a perfectly good appeal.  Streets and years ahead of the ICC.

Readers will be familiar with the fact that in these leagues it is the batting side who share out the umpiring duties.  It would be fair to say that there is demonstrated an ever widening range of abilities.  Many struggle to count to 6.  Some take great pride in a highly inventive set of signals - most of which would have coastguards scrambling the lifeboat service were they seen on the deck of a ship.  Some opt to stand because they are hugely fed up of the constant chat in the pavilion and wish some peace for contemplation.  They are the ones who will respond to appeals with the vague  mumble, 'Sorry I wasn't watching' a confession which has saved as many a stumpee  as 'Couldn't see for the sun in my eyes'.

But it is the LBW law presents these temporary officials with their greatest challenge.  The law is on the face of it deceptively simple - if the ball is going to hit the wicket then the batsman is out.  But this requires a visualisation - an inbuilt Hawkeye able to make 3 million calculations in a nano second.  This can be difficult for some people who have no concept of a straight line, or who have no depth perception or who may well struggle actually to see the other end of the wicket.  As if these debilities did not make the simple principle challenging enough, the law makers have added some complications. 

The ball cannot pitch outside the leg stump.  Unfortunately the batsman is usually obscuring leg stump so there can be a bit of a guess involved.  Oh, that there were those purple bands down the wicket that are on the TV replays.  The comfort of this part of the law that it rules out appeals from most left arm bowlers unless they can really straighten it Akram style.

The next complication is that the ball must be hitting in line.  Unless of course it hits outside offstump and no stroke is offered.  Since in lower league cricket the concept of a stroke can be somewhat obscure, this can lead to difficulties.  The greatest dissent that FB ever had to endure as an umpire was when he gave not out to a batter who padded up.   The bowler was incandescent in his assertion that no stroke was offered.  FB had to agree, but pointed out that the chance of the ball hitting the wicket was zero - or less. The words hell ball and snow might have entered the discourse in an appropriate order. Like the previous 30 deliveries the ball bowled was a big away swinger and was well on a trajectory aiming for second slip - not that there was a second slip but you get the point.  For the bowler this counted for nothing against the fact that no stroke had been offered. FB's view also particularly offended those fielders best placed to make a judgement on the ball's line - point and midwicket.  FB had to show strong moral resolve to maintain his not out verdict.

Height is another dodgy concept for a ball can be rising or falling at the point of impact.  However the stumps stay the same height throughout the match which can escape the notice of the part time umpire.  Many times FBs own appeals have been dismissed on height grounds implying that the stumps had just been screwed a further 2 feet into the ground from when he started his run up.

FB finds excessive appealing tiresome.  In another incident that provoked a gentlemanly exchange of views on the field, FB denied a bowler the umpteenth appeal when hitting 2 feet outside the leg stump with the light hearted response 'you must be joking'.  FB was disappointed to discover that that the bowler, a serious minded young man, did not share his sense of humour and forcefully advised him of this fact with a series of nautical epithets.  A further series of epithets followed when FB no balled the next delivery.  But there is nothing to be done to stop appealing at every ball pad contact since many umpires transparently adopt the 3 strikes and out approach.  There are some critics who suggest this is a practice that extends well into the upper reaches of the game.

In general FB is given out LBW once or twice a season.  Regrettably, these dismissals are always to balls swinging wildly down the leg side and obviously they would fall were the UDRS available to him. But UDRS does not apply in lower league cricket because the average phone camera firing from the square leg boundary provides uncertain evidence.  Besides, it is likely to be switched off or out of battery when the most pressing decisions would stand to be reviewed.

So we are left to the judgment and good sportsmanship of the players.  The ICC has said that the UDRS has ensured that over 97% of decisions are correct.  In lower league cricket that good judgement and sportsmanship ensure that 100% of decisions are correct.

Graham Gooch was LBW a record 50 times in Tests, 23.92% of his dismissals.  But the record holder, in terms of proportion of dismissals, is W Indies Daren Ganga who was triggered 25 times in his 84 dismissals - 29.76% 

Ganga - World LBW champion
 - but he hit this one

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Some thoughts about pies

The Scotch pie - not available this World Cup
Fantasy Bob has been struck during the course of the CWC of the range of pie brands that have been on offer from time to time.

English pies have been well to the fore, the Anderson pie in particular is a delicacy that has been enjoyed by Irish and Bangadeshi diners.  This is fusion cooking at its most sophisticated.

A more exotic delight is the Akhtar pie.  Definitely spicy but washes down well with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  The Razzaq pie is a cut price alternative.

Pies from the associate nations have largely been Kenyan, some being of a width that have been very hard for diners to get their jaws round.

Had Scotland been competing  in the tournament, diners could have enjoyed the distinctive Scotch pie - illustrated above.  The traditional filling of mutton is often highly spiced with pepper and other ingredients and is placed inside a shell of hot water crust pastry.  The delicacy is commonly sold at football matches and fast food outlets and one of its great attractions is the river of warm grease that flows up the diner's arm as (s)he takes the delicacy to the mouth.    FB would rather eat worms.

Whereas the diner can knock the Anderson and Akhtar pie for 6, exactly the opposite is the case for the Scotch pie - it well and truly knocks its diner for 6.  Each pie offers 500 calories and a respectable amount of saturated fats.  Scotland is generally regarded as the heart attack capital of Europe.

Monday, 14 March 2011

A Last English Summer and a Carlton Friend

Fantasy Bob has been spending the ever lengthening bus journey to his place of work reading the excellent A Last English Summer by Duncan Hamilton.  A fine read in which Hamilton recounts his thoughts as he tours cricket matches across the length and breadth of England and considers the present state of health of our wonderful game.  Village cricket and Tests, and all formats in between:  nostalgia, worry, optimism, despair all mix in a mixture of criticism, reporting, reflection and anecdote. Test Match Quality.

In chapter 11 - On the Shoulders of Giants - Hamilton finds himself in Hampshire - in Hambledon in fact - the cradle of cricket.  He reflects on the origins of the game and how Hambledon beat the All England side on 29 occasions in the late 18th Century. He describes the charm of the Ridge Meadow ground to where they moved in 1850 from the poetically titled Broadhalfpenny Down.  The club is more modest than in the 1700s, competing in Division 2 of the Southern Electric League, and he recounts their league match with rivals Hook and Newnham Basics. 

As the bus bumps and grinds across the pot holes into Princes Street, FB's pulse suddenly quickens as a name he recognises leaps from the page. 
'Hambledon have a new overseas player this summer too: Australian all-rounder Blake Dean, hired from Grade Cricket in New South Wales.'
Blake Dean came to Carlton as overseas amateur for the 2010 season and a fine chap he is too.  Hamilton describes with relish Blake's innings:
'If as Shakespeare insisted a rose is a rose is a rose then a back foot drive through the covers is just as supremely elegant whether Dean executes it at Ridge Meadow or at Lords.' 
After a compelling innings Blake is bowled for 70, top scoring in the Hambledon score of 187 for 8.

There then follows an extended interval for rain - something that Blake saw relatively little of in Edinburgh last summer since the weather gods were saving themselves to inflict on Scotland the worst winter since 1963.  Blake then opens the bowling and takes 2 for 19 in the Hook innings as they fail to get their rain adjusted total.

Blake was a fine asset to Carlton - particularly helping the go ahead Edinburgh club to reassert thier dominance in the T20 format in Scotland.  In the national final against Forfarshire Blake topscored with 52 off 35 balls in the Carlton total of 152.

FB has recounted in these pages the challenges Carlton have faced in recruiting an amateur for the 2011 season.  Readers maybe amazed to learn that these reports were wholly made up.  The pandas will not be coming to Carlton.  However in the real world, FB understands that a player has been identified and a deal is done, but he will not divulge any more until the club make their own announcement.  FB looks forward to meeting the new arrival.

Until then he sends his best wishes to Blake Dean.

Blake Dean giving it some