Monday, 30 April 2012

Leveson

The testimony of Rupert Murdoch to the Leveson inquiry has been big news in recent days. Journalists have crawled over his recollections, often peculiarly vague, of dealings with British politicians from Sir Robert Peel and Lord Melbourne to the present incumbents. Even Scottish political leaders from Robert the Bruce on seem to have fallen under his spell.

However there is one corner of his testimony that has so far not been commented extensively on. Fantasy Bob thinks the British public need to be aware of it and reprints the verbatim transcript here. For some reason it does not appear on the Leveson Inquiry website, which otherwise is an extremely efficient record of proceedings.
Batter
Bowler
 Murdoch is being interrogated by Robert Jay QC:

Q. Mr Murdoch, may we move on to Fantasy Bob?
A. Certainly. Who? 
Q. When asked in 2006 what you thought of him, you are reported as having said, "Not much". Is that correct? Did you feel that he was lightweight?
A. I can't remember - if anything I thought he could lose a few pounds. He seemed to have an obsession with empire biscuits, whatever they are.
Q. In 2007 the Scottish Sun came out against Fantasy Bob in his campaign to become skipper of the All Star 4th XI of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton? 
A. Did it? I never read it - it's rubbish.
Q. But in 2011 you came out in support of him.
A. Did I? I remember hoping that I might get a game for the Fourth XI. I used to be a pretty mean off spinner back in the days in Oz, I'll tell you........... 
Q.  In your meetings...............
A.  ...................Yes I used grip it and rip it.............
Q   In your meetings..................
A   Had a good change up too.  Should have been a Firsts player
Q. Mr Murdoch
A...................But for the lightweights in the selection committee..........
Q.  Mr Murdoch.  In your meetings and telephone calls with Fantasy Bob you say that you discussed politics and policy. Did you ever discuss broadcasting regulation?
A. I would have been pleased to, but this Fantasy Bob person just kept asking whether Mrs Rebekah Wade could get a horse for someone he called Mrs FB, and then demanded more empire biscuits.  All I said was that I would be available on Saturdays for the Fourths.
Q. Mr Murdoch was there a link in your mind between your support for Fantasy Bob and the BSkyB bid?
A. No, the two things were not linked at all.
Q. Why was the bid announced after it had been confirmed that Fantasy Bob would be leading the All Star 4th XI?
A. Was it? I didn't notice. I must have been at net practice.  I thought Fantasy Bob would ring me for the Saturday game.
Q. Could there have been any expectation of gaining Fantasy Bob's support for this bid?
A. I don't think we gave any thought to that.
Q. How would you describe your relationship with Fantasy Bob?
A. Well he's an amusing guy and I enjoy his company, I enjoy talking with him.......No that's somebody else from Scotland.  But I needed to remind him that I am available on Saturdays.
Q. The general manager of News International Newspapers Scotland, wrote to Fantasy Bob following the Carlton AGM congratulating him on a "quite astonishing result", and points out that it was "born out of a desire for change and the reinvigoration of Scotland".
A. My senior executives don't understand cricket.
Q. Do you feel that there's any validity at least in the perception that there is an implied trade-off here?
A. What trade off? I never asked anything of Blair. I never asked anything of Cameron. I never asked anything of Fantasy Bob. 

Q. You never asked, but it was clear what your interests were.
A.  That is business.  But unlike those two Fantasy Bob didn't get it.  I am more than disappointed not to get the call to play in his All Star Fourth XI. I worked on my flipper all winter waiting for summer and nothing came. That's all the thanks I get. What would you do?  I had to ask Hunt, Salmond, Cameron.  Maybe Fantasy Bob would listen to them. I had no option ....................................................

The session ends.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

A career

Fantasy Bob has never respected those sneering media commentators who mock job advertisements for local authority posts.  Tempting though it is to wonder exactly what the legion numbers of diversity officers, equality support workers, learning opportunity enhancement operatives and all the rest of these grandly titled posts really achieve throughout the working day, FB is sure that they are dedicated public servants who provide valuable services and in many small ways make the grey world that many people have to face each day that bit brighter or more bearable.

When FB was making a career choice things were different.  A fresh faced adolescent would go to the school or university careers advisor who would hand him a plate of prunes.  One by one they were eaten and the stones put on the edge of the plate.  Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor...........when the prunes ran out that was the job for you.

FB is of course still deciding his career choice.    If the truth be told, he entered his present employment only to give him space to decide what he really wants to do.  He is still deciding.  He recognises that he is leaving it a bit late.  The choice will very shortly be limited to one option - pensioner.  All his chosen options seem to have fallen away; from rock star, to film director, to Olympic medallist, to Booker prize winning author.

Although he missed the advertisement for this particular post, he is pleased to learn that there are still positions in the employment market which could make use of FB's skills.  He read today of a local authority who employed someone at a cricket ground whose job was to stand behind a fence and wait for balls to be hit over the fence so he could throw them back.  Apparently the fence surrounded some flood prevention works and encroached on the boundary.  The Council was concerned that cricketers would injure themselves climbing the fence and so the Cricket Ball Retrieval and Restoration Operative was created.  Fantasy Bob could have done that job.

There may be lessons here for go ahead Edinburgh cricket club.  Their Grange Loan HQ is bordered on one side by a hedge behind, which there are gardens of elegant Edinburgh residences.  On the other side is a wall behind which there is a road along which a bus service squeezes its way between the lines of parked cars.  Depending on which side of the square the Doughty Groundsman has determined that play will take place, balls can end up in the gardens or vying with the bus for road space.  Clearly a cricket ball retrieval and restoration operative is required.  FB has considered offering his services for a small stipend.  However he understands that the ball retention committee have reviewed this possibility and determined that FB's arm is so pathetic these days they doubt that he could get the ball back over the hedge or the wall.  He would simply embarrass himself causing more work for the Council's Old Fools Embarrassing Themselves Counter Measures Support Officer, who is already overworked as a result of FB's efforts.

So, another career opportunity goes begging for FB.   Pensioner looks increasingly likely.  Just another couple of prunes and that will the only choice.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A new season

Fantasy Bob wishes all East of Scotland Cricket Association cricketers a successful league season.

Not as successful a season as he wishes himself.  Obviously.  Of course.  There would be no point to that.  No point at all.  In fact he really wishes many ESCA cricketers a conspicuous lack of success, at least when facing FB's bowling or when bowling at FB.  Nothing life or career threatening.  Just a temporary blip in form when FB shuffles to the crease or when he creaks in to bowl.   That would do.  Nothing unkind.  Just enough so FB can persuade himself that he can still cut the mustard.

But FB is a generous soul and these are unkind thoughts.  So without nastiness or rancour he wishes the same lack of success on these cricketers when they come to face his teammates.  Not as much as for himself, for FB needs more assistance but enough to make that difference.  If his mustard cutting days are to continue.

The evening preceding the new season is obviously a highly spiritual time.  Oracles have to be consulted and divinations made.  It is some seasons since FB last sacrificed a chicken and examined its innards for portents of the season ahead.  He never found it all that helpful but it passed the time.  There being no chicken or even goat to hand this year, FB instead examined his Chicken Tikka Massalam thoroughly to see what it might predict.  It remained inscrutable.

The new season is shrouded in mystery, just as all the others in FB's career have been.  Never moreso than in the first weeks of the season.  Finding one boot makes conspicuous the fact that the other is not lying in the cupboard beside it. There is a struggled recollection that the dog was chewing something that seemed vaguely familiar in January.  Did he bury it?  Every corner of the garden is dug up without success whereupon the missing article mysteriously reappears. (Members of FB's world wide readership should not worry that Mrs FB has suddenly acquired one of these little handbag dogs so beloved by the glamorous set to whcih she undoubtedly belongs.  While she has the handbag, indeed she has handbags enough to kennel a pack of hounds, she is disinclined in the canine direction.  This interlude is therefore fiction and will be submitted for the Booker prize for fiction in due course.  Everything else in this blog is fact.)

There is the mystery of the disappearing players.  Establishing that there are 8 players available can be exhausting enough.  Extra biscuits are required to find players 9, 10, 11 - and 12 since there is a call off higher up the club.  The burgeoning membership list that looked so plump and fruitful in the close season can seem a cruel joke as midnight approaches.   Vodaphone profits soar.

But the greater mystery is form - who can tell or explain whether FB will, as it were, hit the ground running (or at least walking fast which is his maximum pace these days) or will suffer an early season crisis of confidence?  Will his new bat and pads make any difference?  There is no knowing.

But FB does not let such minor troubles bother him. As long as there are empire biscuits on the tea table and a cold beer at the bar after the game, the season will be a success.  It would be nice to score some runs;  nice to take come wickets.  Nice to appear vaguely competent.  But you can't have everything and if asked to choose, FB would opt for the biscuits.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Bowl Out

Fantasy Bob is sorry to his worldwide readership to let the subject of football sully these pages.   However his attention alighted on the semi-finals of the Champions League this week.  Penalties were to the fore in these matches, as much for being missed as for being scored.

 The so called 2 best players on this or any other planet both missed.  One during regular play, the other during the penalty shoot out. The convert a penalty you have to kick a ball from 12 yards within a wooden frame 8 feet by 8 yards.  Notwithstanding the goalkeeper attempting to distract this is quite a big target, as targets go.  There are smaller barn doors.  But they missed - Messi hit the cross bar - Ronaldo's effort was saved.  So they didn't miss by much.
Fantasy Bob declines to watch penalty shoot outs.  Some people love them.  They might prefer not to bother with the preceding 90mins plus extra time of toil sweat and rolling around in agony following the merest contact with an opposing player. The penalty shoot out has everything that is needed.  Except half time and the opportunity for advertisements.  Perhaps this will come.

Cricket's equivalent of the penalty shoot out to be used to decide a match which finishes level used to be the bowl out.  This was replaced more recently by the super over.  The bowl out involves players from either side bowling at an unguarded wicket.  The ball must bounce in front of the batting crease.  If it hits the stumps a point is scored.  Each side puts 5 players up for this.  If it is still even it is sudden death.

This was first used in 1991 in a NatWest match between Derbyshire and Hertfordshire. The Minor County won. There have been 2 international bowl-outs, both in T20 matches. In 2006, New Zealand beatWest Indies and in 2007 when India beat Pakistan during the ICC World Twenty20 in Durban. In 2009 a more unusual bowl out took place - indoors. This was needed to decide the English T20 quarterfinal between Lancashire and Somerset which had been rained off on 2 consecutive days. When it was washed out for a third time, the players resorted to the Old Trafford indoor centre where Somerset triumphed.

Alfonso Thomas
winning the indoor bowl out
In 2008 the ICC decided to use the superover instead of the bowl out.  Each side faces one over and the side scoring more runs wins. There have been 2 T20I superovers both in New Zealand. In teh first Chris Gayle blasted 25 runs as West Indies beat the hosts. There was a rumour that Gayle found the new format much to his liking he found 20-20 too lengthy and boring. The second match showed that superovers can be low scoring too. Shaun Tait must have thought he had won the game for Australia when his over went for only 9, but Tim Southee trumped him by restricting the Aussies to 6 for 2.

There were 2 superovers in the same day at the same ground last August.  Both the semi-finals of last year's FriendsLife T20 competition at Edgebaston were decided by superovers after rain had affected both ties.  Somerset and Leicestershire winning over Hampshire and Lancashire respectively.

Fantasy Bob has taken part in 2 weather induced bowl outs. In both he was calm and efficient in the face of the clamour of the crowd. In both ties he hit the stumps and ended up on the winning side. The target is 22 yards away and is 28 inches high and 9 inches wide. No barn door is as small. Could Messi or Ronaldo do better than FB?  (Sadly there is no footage or picture of FB's triumphs).

  

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Watercress

Wonder food
Those among Fantasy Bob's worldwide readership of 3 who have followed these postings for longer than they ever intended, will be aware of the supreme physical exertion, not to say sacrifice, involved in FB completing his bowling spell up the hill and against the wind.  Emergency medical teams are on red alert.  He has at various times worried about the impact on his body.  Hydration, glucose levels, soft tissue strain, joint damage, bone spurs, ligament, tendon and vascular impacts have all concerned him.  He has even fretted about brain damage on occasion.  But he has never worried about damage to his DNA.  He did not think that was possible.  If he had a view about DNA he would have thought it pretty immutable unless exposed to mutation-causing-death-rays from a dalek, or a nuclear attack, or leg spin bowling.

But apparently FB has been uninformed.  Apparently free radical build up is the threat and free radicals can be unkind to DNA.  FB might have though that a free radical was Nelson Mandela, but that might be too obvious a gag so he will resist it.  It is free radicals in sun light that can do the bad stuff to skin.

The skipper in FB wonders how he will respond the next time one of his bowlers, when asked how he feels and if he is good for another over responds, 'Not really FB, I think the free radicals have built up a bit too much.'  A proper concern over health and safety would seem to require FB to respond by removing the bowler from the area of risk.  However FB is more likely to tell his bowler not to be such a big girl's blouse and make sure he puts some effort into the next six deliveries for a change.  Legal action would no doubt follow.

But aid is at hand and it comes in a simple form.  Researchers at Napier University in Edinburgh have announced that they have established that eating watercress (or nasturtium officinale to those in the know) can counter the build up of these nasty free radicals thus forestalling the risk DNA damage.

Fantasy Bob is therefore in discussion with the team of crack sports nutritionists stationed at go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton to ensure that the proper availability of watercress is a priority.   Unfortunately the nutritional team has been unable to source a supply of watercress topped empire biscuits.  But they have suggested that a bowl of watercress soup should made available to FB between overs.  The obligatory drinks break will be complemented by watercress breaks when a small watercress salad will be  served.

However FB's negotiations with the Doughty Groundsman have been less successful. The DG has so far resisted FB's suggestion that part of the square might be given over to the cultivation of this newly identified superfood.  He suggested that should FB repeat this suggestion his DNA might find itself forcibly rearranged through direct contact with the scarifier.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Dull and Boring


There is much mirth on the pages of nation's news organs that the village of Dull in Perthshire is trying to get itself twinned with the town of Boring in Oregon.  Neither location has a cricket team.  Other than that they appear to have little in common apart from the semantic link.  And the weather apparently.  It is dull and boring in both places.  So the twinning might not happen.  That would be boring.  And dull.

The nearest cricket club to Dull is Breadalbane CC who play in Aberfeldy about 5 miles away. The club was established in 1869 and plays in the Strathmore and Perthshire Union.   The nearest cricket club to Boring is in Gresham about 8 miles away.  The club was a founder member of the Oregon Cricket League in 2005.  It now has 8 active clubs.

So which location is likely to be less Dull or Boring for the cricketer?

While the village of Dull has an ancient history and is reputed to be the site of a monastery which in the 11th Century was the first seat of learning in Scotland. The town of Boring is of more recent origin being named after William H. Boring Civil War veteran who had moved out to Oregon after the Civil War. Its name was confirmed when a Post Office was built there in 1903.

Edwin Boring
The name Boring is of ancient origin coming to England with Normans in 1066 when they played a significant role in the Battle of Hastings.   There have been several eminent holders of the name, the most prominent of whom is familiar to Fantasy Bob from his days studying psychology.  Edwin Boring was Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1928 to 1949 and the author of the highly influential book The History of Experimental Psychology.  Having read it, FB has to acknowledge that the name of its author was aptly given.

There is no cricketer called Boring.  Nor is there any cricketer called Dull.  If there were, it would be essential to get them in the same IPL team - so reporters could comment on the 100 runs scored from 40 deliveries in a dull and boring partnership.

However Boring as a name is related to a couple of other names that do mean something to cricketers. One such name is Barrington. The great Ken Barrington's Test average of 58.67 is the highest of any post-war England batsman. His game became increasingly attritional and many might have deemed him a boring batsman, but he saved England time and time again. He was never dull. A related name is Berrington - Richie Berrington is one of the brightest emerging stars of Scottish cricket. The Scottish allrounder is rarely dull or boring.  But do they share some similar genetic material from 1000 years ago?  What did the Borings bowl at Hastings?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Water Saving

Fantasy Bob has undying respect for the labours of doughty groundsmen throughout the cricketing world, on this and other planets where some of them originated.

He is therefore disturbed to learn that in certain areas of the UK, their task is about to become that bit more challenging. For large parts of the south and east of England are facing hosepipe bans in response to the lack of rainfall in those areas.  It has of course rained in Biblical quantities since these announcements but not enough to avert the strictures.  There is no statutory exemption for cricket clubs, or indeed other sports facilities, other than those which stage national and international fixtures. This means that cricket clubs need to secure a specific agreement to water their pitches from their water company.  Another administrative burden on clubs.

Grange Loan wetlands
(thanks to  DG's assistant Russell Weir for picture) 
Droughty groundsmen in the south-east may therefore allow a twitch of ironic amusement to play across their troubled visages as they look at the attached picture of the square at Grange Loan, HQ of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton, last Saturday following the overnight rainfall, which had followed a brief sunny interval of 30 mins in 2 days of incessant rain in Edinburgh. Remarkably, the Doughty Groundsman and his team got this small boating pond dried off and play became possible later in the day. Not for long though, as the rain returned to call an end to Carlton's cup tie early in the second innings. Match abandoned. Thus does nature laugh at the efforts of doughty groundsmen.  Sysiphus had it easy.

Droughty groundsmen on the other hand can turn to guidance from the ECB about how to conserve water in their work.  Alongside this guidance they might also wish to consider FB's specially prepared guidance notes for water conservation in cricket clubs:
  • Significant water savings can be made by not pouring cups of tea for junior players. They never drink them preferring to guzzle Coke or Irn Bru in hyperactivity generating quantities. Where tea is poured but left untouched it can be recycled from the mug onto the wicket.
  • The moisture loss by a fast bowler toiling up the hill against the wind is equivalent to the water content of a small monsoon. This moisture can be captured by encasing the bowler in polythene and letting condensation operate. It can then be stored and used. Care is required during this process to ensure that the player's face is not wholly covered in polythene, since the asphyxiation which follows not only limits their effectiveness as bowlers but also reduces the efficiency of the moisture capture.
  • Most clubs will have senior (not to say geriatric) players who stand under the shower for ages after each match.  They may claim that this has magical restorative powers on their aching limbs and muscles. This is a pretence, they find themselves the shower room and have simply forgotten why they came in. Their excessive use of water can be limited by rigging the shower up on the square - thus killing 2 birds with one stone. Clubs should seek advice on which shower gels are more likely to aid foothold repair.
  • Clubs should put student members in charge of tea preparation. They are congenitally incapable of understanding the concept of washing up and huge water savings are possible.
  • Use of the covers can reduce moisture lost from the square through evapotranspiration.  Members of the First XI fresh from enthusiastically celebrating momentous cup victories should no longer be discouraged from sleeping on the square overnight.  In doing so they will form a useful barrier to evapotranspiration.
FB wishes all groundsmen everywhere, Doughty and Droughty alike, the best of all possible summers.

Monday, 23 April 2012

A team called George

As a proud Scottish person, Fantasy Bob knows that the fact that that today is St George's Day is of no concern to him.  Let Englishmen mark it as they will and raise their glasses to the Roman soldier and dragon slayer.  Good luck to them.  FB must look for other things from this day.  April 23 has also been claimed at Shakespeare's birthday although there is no film or photos which confirm that happy event took place on this day - it's a bit of English PR.  FB stopped sending Shakespeare birthday cards a few years ago - he never got one back.

April 23 is also UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day which was created in 1995 to promote reading, publishing and copyright. UNESCO chose its date partly in honour of St George's Day as celebrated in Catalonia, when sweethearts traditionally exchange gifts of books, which seems a fine idea. But above all, this day is also International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. FB has no idea what this means, but understands that it was devised to encourage members of the science fiction writing community to publish quality work on the internet.

There is little by way of interest in cricket in the Pixel-Stained Technopeasant community and Shakespeare doesn't need any more publicity form FB.  so it's back to St George.  The thought crossed FB's mind that George is not all that common a name. FB is not sure that he knows anyone called George, so he set himself the challenge of finding a team of cricketers called George. The results are quite interesting - to certain types of people admittedly.  A lot of old timers and several connections with Scotland.  Here is the George's XI - not in batting order:

George Headley
1.  George Headley (1909-1983) - the greatest George of them all - perhaps the best batsmen ever to play for West Indies he scored 2,190 runs in Tests at 60.83, and 9,921 runs  at 69.86in all first-class matches. He was one of theWisden Cricketers of the Year in 1933.

2.  George Parr (1826-1891) was known as the Lion of the North, although he only came from Nottinghamshire. He was a right-handed batsman and bowled occasional  underarm deliveries.  He was captain of the first England touring team, which went to North America in 1859. He also captained England's second tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1864, returning home unbeaten.

3.  George Bailey  (Born 1982)  Great-great-grandson of George Herbert Bailey, who was part of the Austrailian1878 touring squad to England,  Bailey was announced earlier this year as captain of the Australian T20 team. He became the second ever Australian to captain an international match, without having played one, after Dave Gregory in the first ever test match.  He is currently in the Australian ODI squad.  He played in Scotland in 2007 and 2010, scoring 696 runs and marking his final appearance by hitting 123* against Warwickshire.

George Parr (front left)
All England XI 1847
4.  George Gunn (1879-1958) played in 15 Tests from 1907 to 1930. His first class career lasted from 1902 to 1932, in the course of which he made more runs for Nottinghamshire than anyone else, before or since: 31,592 at 35.70.  All but one of his 15 Tests were abroad. He was not actually selected for the 1907-8 tour of Australia, but visited the country for the good of his health. Injuries meant he got the call up and  appeared in the first Test at Sydney. He scored 119 and 74 in a dream debut.

5.  George Hirst (1871-1954) - played for Yorkshire between 1891 and 1921 (with a further appearance in 1929) and in 24 Test matches touring Australia twice. One of the best all-rounders of his time and maybe the best ever all rounder for Yorkshire he completed the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets 14 times - the second highest ever. He scored 36,356 runs and took 2,742 wickets in first-class cricket.

George Bailey
in his Scotland days
6.  George Workman (Born 1989) - the New Zealander played in Scotland in 2011 for SMRH and went on to play for Scotland in 3 CB40 fixtures.  He was slated to come back to Scotland for season 2012 but had to pull out after being called up to the NZ Development Squad.  (Wikipedia says that George is also quite a hit with the women of both Palmerston North and Christchurch and can regularly be seen frequenting the upper end of the Christchurch nightlife).

7.  George Dockrell (Born 1992) the19 year old Irish left arm spinner already has 35 wickets in 28 ODIs at 26.62.  He was the youngest player in the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 taking 4 wickets against the West Indies and (as any left armer does) troubling KP in a tight bowling display in the abandoned match with England.  He now plays with Somerset and took 6-27 in their first match of the 2012 season.

George Dockrell
8.  George Lohman (1865-1901) holds the lowest Test bowling average among bowlers with more than 15 wickets.  In 18 Tests he took 112 wickets at 10.75 before his Test career ended following his attempts to increase the pay offered to professionals. His early death at 36 was due to tuberculosis

9.  George Salmond (Born 1969) - captained Scotland in the 1999 World Cup and played for Scotland 146 times top scoring with 181.  He also played at one time for go ahead Edinburgh club Carlton and is now a football referee and school master.

10.  George Ulyett (1851-1898) - played in the first ever Test match at MCG in 1877.  He was also known as Happy Jack, and modestly suggested that Yorkshire only played him for his good behaviour and his whistling. He played a number of seasons as goalkeeper for Sheffield Wednesday.

That is 10 Georges. FB thinks the team needs a bit of strengthening on the batting so he is bending his rules a bit and calling on Donald George Bradman to fill the final spot.

FB is confident this team could give any team of Pixel-Stained Technopeasants a run for its money.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Sudden Call

Fantasy Bob's pre-season preparations are thrown into chaos.

The season's fixtures were set several months ago and he established that his first venture into the field would be next week.  However, at short notice, the executive authorities at go ahead Edinburgh club Carlton have summoned him to play today.  FB assumed at first that this must be because his demonstration of skill in the practice sessions had so impressed new coach Toby Bailey, to the extent that he had advocated FB's importance to the club's developmental plans. After all, a man who bats with his eyes closed should be invaluable.  However long experience tells FB that a late night call means a skipper in anyone-will-do-mode.  Some one to hide in the field at deep fine leg and perhaps scratch a couple of leg-byes at the bottom of the batting order.  Someone to bring empire biscuits for tea.  Even Fantasy Bob will do........... Skippers among FB's world wide readership will recognise this desperate state of call-off-itis - a more intensely debilitating condition is not known to psychological medicine.

Strauss -
always knows
where his sweaters are
So FB's preparations are thrown into disorder.  He thought he had a whole week to relocate his whites and the several base layers, sweaters and other supports that are necessary at this time of year, and at FB's time of life.  He clearly recalls putting them in a special cupboard last September which would be easily remembered and easily accessed.  He has forgotten where this easy to remember place is.  So, every cupboard in the house has been emptied invoking a running commentary from Mrs FB and rejoinders from FB inquiring whether she is sure she didn't give his sweaters to the Scouts' jumble sale.  Is this the challenge Andrew Strauss faces before a Test series?  FB suspects not - Strauss probably has a special cupboard with a sign on it, filled only with cricket sweaters the key to which he keeps on that chain thing around his neck.

FB now has limited time to tour local chemists for the required supply of essential preparations.  Industrial quantities. These are need to stimulate muscular blood flow - a triple layering of linament, Ralgex and Deep Heat usually does the trick.  It also ensures that FB has the dressing room to himself as his teammates exit in fear of crippling lung damage from the fumes.  Other preparations are needed to dull the pain and promote recovery.  FB hears that morphine has some efficacy here and is told it can be found in certain locations around Edinburgh. He has been told,  'Just ask for Davey - he's the boy.'  Failing that he will make do with Ibuprofen and IPA.

Mental preparation is another thing.  Last year FB's start to the season was more carefully planned and he had the opportunity for peaceful contemplation and reconciliation with his maker from whom he requested assistance.  This invocation has been used by religious leaders of all denominations and now appears in the Common Book of Prayer.  FB invites all cricketers to make use of it as they wish.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Play in a Day

Fantasy Bob shares the sadness at the passing of Bert Weedon.

FB's first encounter with Bert Weedon's Play in a Day was less than fully successful.  He took up the slim volume in confident expectation, only to find that after 24 hours in the nets neither his cover drive nor his away swinger was showing any sign of improvement.

Some such as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and Brian May are reported to have made instant progress with the book. What did they have that FB lacked?  No one knows.

As soon as FB recognised that this manual was about guitar playing and not cricket, he began to make progress.  Painfully slow, but progress none the less. Even so his fingers remained stubbornly reluctant to move easily across the finger board. Then he took his batting gloves off. Get Blisters in a Day might have been a better title for that seemed the only product of FB's first efforts. Nevertheless he has successfully found his niche among the great guitar players and remains a guitarist of 4th XI standard.

FB cannot recall any equivalent coaching manual on cricket from his younger days.  He is sure there were copious such manuals but none came his way.  Such knowledge as he gained about cricket came from word of mouth and risked being confused with knowledge about the birds and bees that was similarly communicated between pubescent youngsters.   All full tosses, bouncers and no balls.

1956 edition
For more reliable technical insight he was probably reliant on such volumes as the Big Boy's Book of Sport - or the Boy's Big Book of Sport or these words in some order.  He recalls some such volume having a full spread picture showing every possible fielding position.  Having memorised these at an unnaturally early age, FB felt well qualified to approach the older boys in the school playground as they were engaged in an enthusiastic pre-school game with many of the characteristics of cricket.  At the fall of a wicket and as the tussle for the next turn with the bat threatened to become a stand up fight, FB suggested loudly to the bowler that the field might, with benefit, be adjusted with an additional fielder positioned behind square on the off side.  The combatants for the bat stopped their struggle.  Silence descended on the entire playground - a silence which FB took as impressed agreement.  Until someone pointed out, quietly but firmly, that the wickets were painted on the school wall, which ran the length of the playground, and was 10 feet high.  This rather eliminated the concept of behind square.  It was another year before the young FB plucked up courage to attempt to join the play again. He harbours a fear of behind square to this day - like swimming in very deep water, he just doesn't know what might lurk there.  If there is a point to this long narrative, it is once again to demonstrate that a little knowledge is not so much a dangerous thing as the scope for positive embarrassment.

By contrast with the lack of coaching manuals to assist his cricket, FB has had the benefit of a vast library of instruction on golf featuring advice from every top player and coach of the last 20 years.  The long game, the short game, the tactical game.  Avoid the sand, save from the sand. There is not an aspect of golf that FB cannot quote several authoritative sources on. FB has memorised, visualised and internalised it all.  He can recount it, analyse it, even draw the diagrams.  At one time he was just about competent on the course with a declining handicap, but all this learning has rendered FB completely inept. 4th XI standard is nowhere within reach. A handicap is a thing of the past. So inept has he become, as tournament player's secrets have heaped themselves on tournament player's secrets, that this year he has finally forsaken golf and declined to renew his golf club membership.  So much time and money spent to no avail; he should have stuck with the guitar.

So farewell Bert Weedon - thanks for everything.  Play in a Day, FB wishes it were so.







Friday, 20 April 2012

The Work of the Devil

Fantasy Bob had innocently purchased Edinburgh's Evening News in order to read a much praised interview with Fraser Watts the ever popular captain of go ahead cricket club Carlton.  He was sure that Fraggle would have a few choice remarks which would inspire FB for the coming season.  However, hardly had he opened the newspaper but Mrs FB's eye (trained to pick up any reference to horses at superhuman distances) lighted on the sensational headline 'Satanic Link to Horse Attack' and FB's chances of an evening's quiet contemplation of Fraggle's incisive thoughts had gone.

The story urged all horse owners to be vigilant following an incident in West Lothian in which a horse had its mane and tail hacked.  This is the second such incident within a week - another prize pony had its forelock vandalised at the weekend.  Such attacks are undoubtedly distressing to the owners of the horses which have been attacked - apparently such forced haircuts mean that they cannot be entered in competitions where the quality of the horse's grooming matters.  It is also distressing to the horse - FB would take exception to having his forelock forcibly docked - not that he has any forelock left to dock, but you take the point.  Horses in FB's experience are nervous enough at the best of times and would therefore make indifferent close fielders.  And such attacks give them even more reason to spook and limit their effectiveness in the outfield too.

As a horse owner herself, Mrs FB feels the distress keenly.  She also senses the threat, and even though her horse stays far from where these incidents took place, and even though there is no indication that horse owners are under threat, Mrs FB is now on red alert. She has heightened her state of security so the 7 iron that is customarily kept under the bed has been exchanged for a 3 iron.

The Evening News' article was not clear on what the Satanic link might be, and the headline might reflect an excited journalist's speculation more than any underlying appearance of the Prince of Darkness.  But as Mrs FB says you can't be too careful with this Satan chap.

Cricketers are thankfully not open to such attacks - few of them being left by their owners in fields overnight.  Cricketers, generally, have also evolved to the point that they no longer have tails. In FB's case the progressive disappearance of any forelock also renders him less susceptible to such attack.  So Satan has had to develop other ways of getting at them. How else could leg spin bowling have come about?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Hole

To most members of go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton, last Saturday was notable for being the date of the first friendly of the season. And highly successful for the home side it was too, as they overwhelmed visiting opposition from Northern Ireland.

Carlton's Redoubtable Membership Secretary is renowned for his commitment to Carlton and his concern for the health of Scottish cricket.  Fantasy Bob had never associated him with having a passion for the works of Bernard Cribbins, the celebrated actor and comedian.  But it seemed to FB that this was the only explanation for the RMS's behaviour last Saturday.

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the highest position in the pop charts of the classic song Hole In the Ground sung by Bernard Cribbins. Hole in the Ground reached number 9 on 31 March 1962 and held its position for 2 weeks. The song was written by Ted Dicks and Miles Rudge and produced by none other than the man about to become the 5th Beatle, George Martin. It was released on the Parlophone label, as were the Beatles' records. Noël Coward chose Hole in the Ground as one of his records on Desert Island Discs, saying he would pass the time on his desert island by translating it into French. While the popularity of the song may have been overtaken by its follow up Right Said Fred, there is therefore a link with musical greatness.

So, as Carlton's batsmen refamiliarised themselves with the work of Carlton's Doughty but nameless Groundsman, FB and the other hardy spectators watched as the club's Redoubtable Membership Secretary went to work in what seemed to FB extreme lengths to mark the anniversary of the song. He took up his shovel and in a strategic position on the boundary carefully began to dig.

Several spectators admired the RMS's excavations and offered the passing suggestions that he shouldn't dig it there but elsewhere, and observed that it was round when it should have been square. But the RMS is nothing if not resolute and he persevered until his hole had reached what he deemed to be the requisite depth.  At the end of the day, a very satisfactory hole emerged - for in the words of the song, you can't put a hole where a hole don't belong.
There was I diggin' this hole................
As usual, FB had got the wrong end of the stick, for which he apologises.  The RMS's efforts had nothing to do with any regard for the works of Bernard Cribbins but were for a serious and excellent purpose.  A lime tree has now been planted in the hole in memory of Alistair Scott, a longstanding member of the Grange Association.  It joins a number of young trees that have recently been planted round the ground which complement the longer serving trees and provide so much of the character of the ground.  Well done RMS.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Pads

The ceilings in Fantasy Bob's modest domestic premises do not want for visual inspection.  Many times the eyes of Mrs FB are raised to those ceilings in response to FB's excited descriptions of success or failure on the cricket field. Admittedly, there is more of the latter than the former, but the ceiling gets the same treatment.  Mrs FB is surely the model for Kipling's celebrated poem If - for she will, on these occasions, meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two Impostors just the same.

New pads for FB
So it was the other evening when FB returned breathless from cricket practice.  Not that that in itself denotes anything, even thinking about practice leaves him breathless.  But when he excitedly confessed to his true love that he had just purchased a new pair of cricket pads, the ceiling got it.  Both barrels.

After a few moments, various observations followed.  FB was sure he imagined  the suggestion that at his age perhaps incontinence pads might have been a more worthwhile purchase.  Nor did he think there was justice in the complaint that this now meant that there were at least 3 pairs of cricket pads cluttering the house up, to which had to be added at the last count 5 cricket bats and goodness knows how many bags, gloves, helmets and other things.  Mrs FB was about to go on to list the growing collection of rugby boots, but FB was able successfully to divert this thrust by pointing out that these were all the property of son and heir whose skill in placing them exactly where Mrs FB is likely to put her feet when she comes down stairs in the morning has reached Olympic class.  Mrs FB's last thrust was to point out that the Scouts' jumble sale was last week and might FB not have thought of unloading some of this jumble then.  FB had to sit down for several long minutes on hearing these valuable items described as jumble.

The mood lightened as Mrs FB expressed the hope that the new pads were a nice colour - maybe gold like that Chris Gayle chap wears.  FB let her down lightly by saying that he had not been picked up in the IPL auction this year and so was not on the Royal Challengers Bangalore roster.  He quickly pointed out that this was no disgrace since the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann had also been overlooked in the auction.  Mrs FB remained sceptical.

FB is confident that Mrs FB will come round and come to love these pads as her own.  Champagne may be necessary to assist this reconciliation.  But FB reckons further outlay will be worth it. His pads are a new Scottish brand who have recently entered the market. They will transform FB's game. He was assured by the salesman that these pads have been treated with a special anti-LBW coating.  Wearing them that dismissal will be a thing of the past for FB.

That's how special they are.....................meanwhile he understands that the ceiling needs painting.


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Conspiracy

For many years of his student and subsequent life, Fantasy Bob practised psychology. When he says practice, he means it roughly in the same sense that he practices batting and bowling. That is without any expectation that it will lead to any useful practical outcome, far less any kind of gainful employment. Rather, as with cricket practice, it seemed the best thing to do at the time.

So FB notes with interest that the British Psychological Society holds its Annual Conference this week. On its programme is a session on the psychology of conspiracy theories. Professor Chris French of the University of London, who will lead the session, is quoted in the programme as saying, "Conspiracy theories are attractive because they provide some kind of explanation for what's going on in the world around you, especially if you feel marginalised. And we seem to have a bias that big events need big causes."

FB is at one with Professor French.  This is an important subject for cricketers, for whom all events are seen to have big causes.

For many years the most compelling overarching conspiracy theory has been New World Order theory, which states that a group of international elites controls and manipulates governments, industry, and media organizations worldwide. They are said to have funded and in some cases caused most of the major wars of the last 200 years, they carry out false flag attacks to manipulate populations into supporting them, and deliberately cause inflation and economic depressions.

Hitherto the people behind the New World Order are thought to be international bankers, in particular the owners of the private banks in the Federal Reserve System who control organisations such as the European Union, United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the proposed North American Union.  Operatives working for the New World Order are said to be placed in high positions in government and industry.

Cricketers may once have been sceptical of this theory, but they now know that this is only part of the truth. The reality is far more sinister. For behind these shadowy figures is a set of even more shadowy figures who are exerting supreme power and influence over all that cricketers hold dear. It is now clear that this organisation is responsible for
  • The assassination of President John F Kennedy
  • Faking the Apollo Moon landings
  • The car crash that killed Princess Diana 
  • The 9/11 attacks
  • The viral spread of T20 throughout the cricket world
Previous clues can no longer be ignored.  There is only one organisation powerful enough to bring all this about. FB is sure that this week's conference will finally lead to the unveiling of this organisation which has hitherto been referred to as the BCCI.  For big events need big causes.




Monday, 16 April 2012

Mars

When Fantasy Bob was recently in Madrid he enjoyed visiting the Museo del Prado.  He recommends it to all art loving cricketers, or cricket loving artists for that matter (to the extent that there is a difference).  The Prado is Test Match Quality, indeed a cricketer could spend a whole 5 days in it and still leave much to be seen.  Surprisingly, given that its collection is dominated by Spanish work, there are occasional cricket related works on display.

For example - or por ejemplo as the locals would put it - the great Spanish artist Diego Velazquez may have lived and worked in the 17th Century, but he was obviously familiar with the game and its personalities.  How else would he have achieved this notable picture?  The catalogue names it simply as Mars.  But cricketers will see it for what it is - a portrait of the great moustached Australian paceman Mervyn Hughes.   Merv poses fresh from the showers, having demolished English batting with a mixture of bouncers and invective. A towel is delicately draped over his googlies. For some unexplained and artistic reason, he has forgotten to take his batting helmet off.

Mervyn Hughes by Velazquez

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Mixed Blessings?

Fantasy Bob poses the question as to whether or not 15 April 1963 was a good day for cricket in Edinburgh.  For, remarkably, it was the birthday of 2 Test players who played for Edinburgh clubs in the course of their careers.  Was this a blessing or a curse?  Sadly neither club is the force it was at that time.  What about the players?

Royal High First XI 1995 - Elahi front second left
Manzoor Elahi played for Royal High in 1995 and 1996.  In 1995 his top score, 128, was against Carlton; in 1996 he top scored with 156 against Falkland.  He played only 6 tests for Pakistan - 2 in 1984, 2 in 1987 and 2 in 1995.  He also played 54 ODIs.  Fantasy Bob played for Royal High until 1994 when he left to assume parental duties.  But even Elahi's skills could not cover the loss to the club that FB represented and Royal High found it had to merge with neighbouring club Stewarts-Melville in 1996.  Manzoor's brother Zahoor Elahi played for Stew-Mel-Royal High following the merger from 1998-2000.  His top score in 1998 was 170 against................er Carlton. He played 2 Tests for Pakistan in 1996.

Prabhakar
Manoj Prabhakar played for Leith Franklin in the1980's. (FB's team of researchers have been unable to pin down the years but he is sure some assiduous member of his worldwide readership will enlighten him). He played 39 Tests for India between 1984 and 1995. Prabhakar has had what might be called a colourful subsequent career - his Test career ended with his attempts to implicate others in a match-fixing controversy which did no more than getting him banned for alleged involvement. He then stood unsuccessfully for Parliament in India. He later took to coaching, and served as Delhi's bowling coach before taking over Rajasthan in the 2009-10 season.  He returned to Delhi but was sacked by them last November. He also runs Naturence Cosmetics, a firm making herbal beauty products.  they might the kind of thing that could sell very well in Leith.

Cricket on Leith Links -
pity about footballers in the way
but they are only one of the distractions
Leith Franklin were a competitive East League First Division side in the 1980s - they had a bit of the people's team about them - and FB can remember seeing Prabhakar bat and bowl them to victories. But they are not the force they were and have been forced into mergers so that they are now Leith Franklin Academicals Beige - or Fabbies.

FB regards their home ground Leith Links with some affection - it is one of the oldest sites of cricket in Scotland. It has several charming features - one being a path which cuts inside the boundary and which is regularly used particularly by pram-pushing mothers leading to extended interruptions in play. The other feature is a short boundary on one side with a bowling green populated by curmudgeonly bowling club who frequently refuse to return balls hit over the fence for 6.

So was 15 April 1963 a good day for cricket in Edinburgh or not?

Footnote - keen eyed Carlton readers may also note former GL heroes in the RH photo.



Saturday, 14 April 2012

A Bowl of Cherries


Cherry Ripe

A cricketer hearing the word cherry will automatically think of that shiny new ball, red lacquer gleaming and the gold letters of the maker's name proud in the sun.  So firm is that term in the cricketer's vocabulary that it is used even to describe the white ball used in ODIs.  Fantasy Bob has a bit of a problem with this loose talk - in the fruit trade white cherries (usually an early season fruit) are actually pink so the pink ball can justifiably be called a cherry......... but a white ball is just a white ball.  

Anyway, cherries, as in cherries and not as in new balls white pink or red, are the latest fruit to be given superfruit status given the growing evidence of their many health benefits.  Cherries have extremely high antioxidant content and have 19 more times Vitamin A than blueberries or strawberries. Yoh for cherries! Tart cherries in particular help to improve sleep quality, reduce inflammation, speed muscle recovery and can help combat arthritis and reduce the risk of gout.

As skipper of Carlton's All Star Fourth XI, FB fears that the risk of gout is ever present in certain members of his team, arthritis is a constant subject of conversation before, and of occasional practical demonstration during and after, matches.  Muscle recovery is a thing of the past, a distant memory.  Sleep quality is uncertain - particularly in those who are asked to field in the deep.

For medical purposes - new superfood
Now FB sees the solution. As part of his rigorous preparation for the new season he will ensure that the empire biscuits he consumes are adorned with a cherry rather than the increasingly common, but unhealthy, jelly tot.  He recognises that a glace cherry may not quite have superfruit status but it should be enough to guard against the risk of gout.  In order to speed his muscle recovery, his training regime will  increase his consumption of cherry cake.  Once the season is underway selection will depend on a willingness to supply an adequate quantity of  Mr Kipling's Cherry Bakewells for the tea table.

Life will be a bowl of cherries and a successful season assured.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Derek

Fantasy Bob is no great fan of Ricky Gervais.  This is a pity because he believes that Gervais numbers himself among the keenest members of FB's world wide readership.

FB acknowledges that The Office was a quality production but Gervais' subsequent efforts have left him cold and the stand up sets that have been televised unwatchable.  A parade of the smug and the snide, devoid of wit or invention.  But Gervais is in the news again; for his latest production is causing controversy because disabled groups consider it makes cruel fun of disability.  Gervais denies the charge.  FB has no view on this, not having seen the show, but he notes that any publicity is good publicity.

Whatever the case may be as to whether the show ridicules disability, Gervais is to be congratulated in one important respect.  The show is called Derek.  So Gervais has performed a valuable function in rehabilitating that fine name.  For Dereks have become exceedingly thin on the ground.  There is nothing wrong with the name - it is the English language version of an old Germanic name Theoderic, which originally meant people-ruler.  But it is out of favour.

When Dereks were kings
Time was when Test cricket was a Derek rich environment.  It may actually have helped to be called Derek: Derek Underwood, Derek Randall, Deryck Murray, Derek Pringle, Derek Stirling, Derek Shackleton.  The Derek XI had the makings of a decent side.

But now cricket is Derek free.  Other areas of endeavour are similar - in football Derek Dougan, Derek Parlane, Derek Johnstone are all of a vintage.  Actors Derek Jacobi and Derek Nimmo similarly.  Where are the Dereks de nos jours?

Perhaps if Ricky Gervais' show is hugely successful, the world will see the return of Dereks to their rightful place in the batting orders of the future.  Then FB might revise his opinion of Ricky Gervais.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Handbags

Fantasy Bob begins to recognise that there are many kinds of cricketers in today's high pressure 24/7 environment.  The cricket world now has specialist limited over players, and within that specialist T20 players.

Just as there are many kinds of cricketer, so there are many kinds of artist, some of whom may be looked on as Test players and others specialists in shorter forms.  And then there are the conceptual artists - for whom the ideas or concepts behind their efforts take over from any more traditional aesthetic considerations.  No longer is  skill with paint and brush or chisel and marble of any importance.  Many critics who have observed Fantasy Bob's efforts on the field of play may be inclined to suggest that FB himself is the embodiment of the conceptual cricketer - that new kind of cricketer, post modern, ironic and situationist, for whom the idea of cricket being played has taken over from any of the more traditional considerations, such as skill in batting or bowling. 

So, as a conceptual cricketer, FB is greatly interested in the work of German conceptual artist Hans-Peter Feldmann, whose latest exhibition opens this week at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Feldmann has a long history of presenting works which the art critic, if not the cricketer, in FB would describe as rubbish: for example 11 Left Shoes presents 11 shoes borrowed from gallery employees in a row on the floor; Que Sera has the words of the song of that title handwritten on the wall; Bed With Photograph simulates part of a hotel room with a slept-in bed, a side table and a framed photograph of a woman in leopard-print pants. FB observes that Feldmann has made no attempt to include cricket as a theme in his work (none of the borrowed shoes was a cricket boot).

Handbag by Hans-Peter Feldmann
But an item in his latest exhibition caught FB's attention. The contents of the handbags of 6 women are emptied and displayed in glass cases. Feldmann says that the women were specially selected, but FB says that about the batting order of his All Star Carlton Fourth XI so that says nothing. Of more interest is that the women were offered 500 Euros to turn the contents of their bags over to Feldmann.  Mrs FB has pointed out that it would take more than 500 smackeroos to get her to turn over her handbag's secrets to such a shyster. But then again Mrs FB is a woman of many handbags so getting the full picture could cost the conceptual artist more than he bargained for.

But FB is not so sure.  FB is prepared to make a supreme sacrifice in the cause of art.  He has therefore written to Feldmann suggesting that he should take up the opportunity for a companion piece to this undoubtedly major piece of art. FB has offered to turn over the contents of his cricket bag to the artist for a similar sum.  He is sure that the artist is already familiar with FB's previous post on his cricket bag which reveals how powerful this new work could be. This could be the perfect marriage of conceptual art and conceptual cricket.  The critics would be lost for words.  

He is confident that there will be other cricketers, conceptual and otherwise, with a commitment to the cause of art similar to that of FB, who will ensure that Feldmann produces a supreme masterpiece. FB therefore expects a positive response.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

First Performance

Fantasy Bob has often wondered what it would be like to have been in the audience for the first performance of a truly great work. For example, had he managed to get to the St Thomas Church in Leipzig 285 years ago today, what would he have thought?

Bach's incomparable St Matthew Passion is believed to have had its first performed on 11 April 1727, Good Friday. Had FB missed it though he would have had to wait 4 days for its next performance on 15 April 1729. And that was it for another 9 years when it was next performed on 30 March 1736. The work was not heard outside of Leipzig until 1829, when Mendelssohn performed an abbreviated and modified version in Berlin to great acclaim.  Now it can be heard dawn to dusk on YouTube.

What did those first audiences hear? Did they recognise the greatness pouring over them, or did they just think that the background music was an inoffensive accompaniment to their slumbering in the church pews? FB has been in the audience on several occasions to hear new commissions. He regrets that none of them have been memorable, such is the nature of modern music. Some will have been atmospheric and been effective in their own way. Perhaps in 100 years these works will be revered.  But FB has yet to feel that he has been bathed in newly formed greatness.

Is there any correspondence with this in sport - does an audience recognise greatness immediately? The great batsmen and bowlers have all made a debut - many would have been lauded as greats from the start of their careers. But many debuts were unsucccessful, and indeed given the greatness that was to come, embarrassing. FB noted a few of those disappointing debuts a few months ago and they are all interesting stories.

Tip Foster
But there have also been highly successful debuts. The highest innings scored on Test debut was in 1903 by Tip Foster who scored 287 against Australia at Sydney. This is still the highest innings by an English player in Australia despite Cook and KP's efforts last year. Foster is the only man to have captained England at both cricket and football. His business commitments restricted his test appearances to 8 and his soccer caps to 6. He died at the age of 36 from complications associated with diabetes. FB thinks that the crowd in Sydney surely would have recognised Foster as in the St Matthew Passion class.
Narendra Hirwani
The highest aggregate score in a debut match belongs to West Indian Lawrence Rowe who in 1972 against New Zealand in Jamaica followed up his first innings 214 with 100* in the second innings. Rowe had an interesting handicap for a cricketer - he was allergic to grass.  He saw a lot of it in that match - he is one of only 2 players to score centuries in both innings on debut, the other being Yasir Hameed of Pakistan against Bangladesh in 2003.  While Rowe's average in 37 Tests is a respectable 43.55,  it is not quite the St Matthew Passion grade.  Hameed similarly has not confirmed the St Matthew class of his debut.

Albert Trott
But what about bowlers? The best figures for a debut match are Narendra Hirwani's 16 for 136 against W Indies at Chennai in 1988, closely followed by Bob Massie's 16 for 137 at Lords in 1972. They both took 8 in each innings. There have been 4 other 8 wicket hauls by debutant bowlers - the best is Albert Trott's 8 for 43 against England at Adelaide in 1895.  Neither Hirwani nor Massie went on to true greatness, although Trott's claim to St Matthew class is strong.

Trott played Tests for both England and Australia and is the only player ever to have hit the ball over the pavilion at Lords.  He was the best all rounder of his day by a long way. In his benefit match in 1907 he took four wickets in four balls, and then followed up with a second hat trick later in the innings.  One of only 2 instances of 2 hat tricks in an innings in First Class cricket. But his life ended in tragedy - he died at his own hand in 1914.  Ars longa vita brevis.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Helmets

Returning from Spain Fantasy Bob finds his in-box cluttered with messages offering him a deal on a specially commissioned Carlton .  And very handsome it is too with the Carlton crest prominently displayed and the option of a titanium grill.  But FB is of an antiquity that to whom helmets were unknown.  He is of the Brian Close mentality and generation.  Close famously faced a devastating barage from Holding Roberts and Daniel at Old Trafford in 1976 at the age of 45 with none of the protective gear modern Test players don to face even the gentlest spin bowling.  After 80 minutes of teh short stuff he had 1run to his name and bruises covered his body.  

'They were a bit sharpish,' he said some time afterward.'You had a job to do and you just had to take it.''

However FB passed an attractive window of a sports shop in Toledo last week.

Crciket section of Sports Warehouse, Toledo

The sharp eyed among FB's world wide readership will note an attractive display of batting helmets at the bottom of the window.  Might Close have been tempted?  Never.

None of these fine pieces of equipment bore the Carlton crest, so FB did not invest.  And he will therefore continue to  stride out, Brain Close like, bare headed to face the demon bowlers of the lower divisions of the East of Scotland league in the coming weeks.  'You have a job to do........................'

Monday, 9 April 2012

What happened to spring?

Fantasy Bob has been allowed by the UK Border Agency to re-enter the country.  There is always that moment at the airport when the passport checker looks down at the passport photo with a slight flicker of incredulity that anyone would present such an appalling photograph for inspection.  The passport is then scanned and there is a moment during which fate hangs in the balance.  All it needs is for a computer with a mind of its own and FB could be turned away at the door.  But not this time.  The computer has been properly programmed with the imminent needs of the Carlton All Star Fourth XI for FB's services and it has responded positively.

FB returns but discovers he must apologise to his world wide readership for his presumption that it would be appropriate to celebrate the arrival of spring.  Snow and blizzards have been prominent in the weather reports - a bit early FB's first cricket match is still a couple of weeks away.

Indeed it was also decidedly winterish in Madrid for much of FB's stay there.  So poor was the weather that some of the Holy Week, processions which are a feature of Spanish life at this time of year had to be cancelled. A case of rain stopped pray - and a situation with which any cricketer can sympathise.

FB returns to find the world differently ordered.  England have won their first test match for many month.  Swann has restored his reputation as has KP.  So much has the world turned on its head that Michael Vaughan has been sent to interview golfers at the Masters.  FB has yet to understand why this has come about but he is taking great consolation in this bizarre appearance - he could never be as hopeless at it as Gary Lineker.

Would he bowl left arm?
There are 2 left handed players well up the leader board in this year's Masters.  FB supposes this is a record.  For he can count the number of left handed golfers on the fingers of one hand - probably his right. Handedness is an interesting thing. Statistics suggest that across the population as a whole about 11% of people are left handed.  This proportion is rising as in older generations many naturally left handed people were forced to do things right handed. The proportion of left handed batsmen to right handed batsmen at the top level seems higher than this and FB suspects it is rising.  Some bat left handed but bowl right handed - Stuart Broad for example.  Fewer bowl left and bat right (Zaheer Khan).  Tendulkar writes with his left hand;  Gower with his right.

But golf retains a huge right handed dominance.  Something to do with the availability of equipment, presumably, forcing natural left handers to play the wrong way round.  FB remembers playing with the occasional cack handed player who used right handed clubs but played with the left hand below the right.  Their swings were never things of beauty and FB has never seen this at the top level although many players put cack handed for psychological reasons.  Some day one of them will put left handed for a similar reason.  But there is probably no great advantage to playing golf left handed - unlike in cricket where left handers can make things a bit difficult for right handed players - particularly FB.