Saturday, 30 June 2012

Product News

Apple led the way with the i-Pad. Then there was Blackberry. This week Google has announced its Nexus device. And Microsoft are developing their version called Surface with a view to an early launch.

Tablets are everywhere. But none of them commends themselves particularly to cricketers. So FB went back to the design desk and with the highly qualified research team at the technology laboratories of go ahead Edinburgh Cricket Club Carlton came up with something special.


FANTASY BOB'S TABLET
New and improved it is based on a traditional Scottish design. It has been brought bang up to date. This is the only Tablet on the market with a full range of apps which includes FB's Empire Biscuit app. A vision of tomorrow today.
What more could a cricketer want?

Friday, 29 June 2012

Team GB Shock

Man with beard and Olympic torch
Sports fans the length and breadth of Great Britain were stunned yesterday by the news that the most iconic player of recent years has not been selected for the final squad for the Team GB Olympic soccer team.

Fantasy Bob had been desperate to play.  He thought that his display of midfield skills on Tuesday when Carlton nets were washed out and an impromptu football match was organised would have clinched his place. However the lone spectator watching the performance was not Team GB manager Stuart Pearce as he had been led to believe, but one of Carlton's many dog walking members.

FB told reporters that he was 'gutted that Pearcey hadn't turned up'. He went on to say that this was the biggest opportunity for cliches in his career. He was as sick as a parrot.

Gary Lineker Tweeted that that he felt for FB. 'He's given so much to the game and to the Olympics,' he said in total ignorance of who FB is. Other football pundits were quick to criticise Pearce suggesting he could not cope with a player of FB's global standing in the squad.  They also noted that many teams were now playing with a withdrawn centre forward which is known as the false number 9. FB would be a natural for this position - all his positions are false.

Lord Coe, the Olympics heid bummer, said he would look for a special role for FB during the Olympics. He said, 'With any luck we can keep him as far away from the action as possible.'

David Beckham was not available for Carlton All Star 4th XI this weekend.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Rousseau

'Cricketers are born free but are everywhere in pads.'

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1778
This is the opening line of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s most celebrated coaching manual The Social Contract, one of the most influential texts in political philosophy. J-JR was born on 28 June 1712 – so today is his 300th birthday and cricketers everywhere will join Fantasy Bob in wishing him many happy returns. The Social Contract, which was published in 1762, explores the nature of man and his relation to society and government and was a fundamental stimulus to the French Revolution.  It remains an essential text.  J-JR's writings on education also remain radical to this day, focussing on developing the pupil’s character and moral sense. But on cricket his work seems to have little to say.

This is disappointing and a great oversight on his part. He might have emphasised the need to play straight in his educational theorising, since only by doing so can character and moral sense develop. But he did not.  The excuse that he was French does not stand up for Rousseau may well have been exposed to cricket, when he spent some time as a refugee in England as the guest of David Hume in 1765. He is reported to have hated England.  Perhaps he discounted cricket’s relevance because of this. But did he miss something?

For there is a historical view which suggests that had the French in the 18th Century embraced cricket, the Revolution might not have happened. The suggestion is that in England cricket provided some social stability by bringing the toffs and the not-so-toffs together under common activities and purpose.  They all ate cake at tea.  With this happy familiarity between classes the impetus to revolution was averted. Why would you send a toff to the guillotine, when you could bowl him a couple of bouncers?

Supporters of this view point to the fact that at Hambledon cricket ground on the afternoon of Tuesday 14 July 1789, the Earl of Winchelsea was clean bowled by William Bullen for a duck in Hampshire's second innings against Kent. At the same time, some 300 miles away, thousands of Parisians, having been starved of cricket for too long, surrounded a prison in the Rue Saint-Antoine. At roughly the same time as Hampshire's last wicket fell to give Kent victory, they stormed the gates of that prison, the Bastille. The French Revolution had begun.

The French Revolution - just not cricket
Fantasy Bob is not hugely convinced by this view. He notes that cricket was present in France in the 18th Century. For example, Horace Walpole, mentioned seeing cricket in Paris in 1766. In addition in 1789 the MCC were due to make the first ever international cricket tour of France. The tour was cancelled due to the French Revolution - a case of Reign of Terror Stopped Play.

This match was finally played in 1989, as part of the bicentennial celebrations of the revolution. France beat the MCC by 7 wickets. To FB’s polyglot sense, the scorecard does not show the French team was awash with overly French names. They owed their victory largely to the innings of their skipper, Irishman John Short. The English team was led by former Surrey skipper Roger Knight. No guillotines were allowed in the ground.

Had Rousseau embraced cricket and exhorted its virtues to his countrymen, might history have taken a different course? Who knows? Certainly not Fantasy Bob, but it is an interesting subject to contemplate while enjoying and empire biscuit. Speaking of which, FB is confident that Rousseau would have approved of empire biscuits.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Come Outside

Fantasy Bob is sure that his world wide readership are aware that 50 years ago to this very week, the number one spot in the hit parade was occupied by a minor masterpiece. Come Outside featured Mike Sarne pleading with his girlfriend to leave the dancefloor for 'there won't be any time left for romancing.' From the middle of the song on there are interjections from his girlfriend 'Wot for?' she flatly enquires. "Get lost.' Says it all about relationships.

The girlfriend is voiced by Wendy Richard - who got a princely 15 quid for the session and no royalties.

Mike Sarne went on to greater things including directing a couple of movies and having a fling with Brigitte Bardot. He failed to grace the cricket field.
Wendy Richard became Miss Brahms in the sit-com Are You Being Served?   This was never a favourite show of FB's who never understood why she was called Miss Brahms - she bore no resemblance to the great German romantic composer.  But Wendy Richard achieved Test Match Status as Pauline Fowler in Eastenders.  From glamourpuss to harridan.  And what a miserable harridan she was.

His worldwide readership may find it surprising to learn that FB was a fan of this show for many years.  However after many years of grinding misery, many accidental and improbable deaths, many inexplicable returns of characters best forgotten, he gave it up.  He had been waiting too long for a cricket based story to emerge.  It never came and FB gave it up.

Wendy Richard in Eastenders
After all, other soap operas had their cricket themes - and the fate of the cricket team in the Archers is part of the story line that Mrs FB keeps FB fully up to date on.  He is sorry to hear that the team is struggling for numbers this season.  This is the kind of real life or death experience that soap operas should depict.  Cricket had featured in Emmerdale Farm also.  So there was absolutely no excuse for Eastenders, they just weren't trying hard enough.

In 1962 though, things were different.  Cricket would have featured. The lyrics of the song tell us that.  But cricket was very different too as can be seen from 2 developments that happened that year.  1962 saw the last ever Gentlemen v Players fixtures - one at Lords which was a draw and one at Scarborough which the Players won by 7 wickets. The  Gentleman's teams in these fixtures were high quality outfits with Ted Dexter, MJK Smith, Trevor Bailey, David Sheppard and Tony Lewis in the team.  Fred Trueman, who played in both fixtures as a player said that the fixture was a ludicrous business and was thankfully abolished.  It is hard to disagree.

Northants victorious
But there was also another harbinger of the future in 1962 in the form of the first one day tournament.  This was an experimental tournament featuring four counties to test aspects of the format.   It was a 65 over tournament for the Midlands Knock Out cup and was won by Northamptonshire who beat Notts by 5 wickets.  Issues still to be resolved were the limits on bowlers and the nature of the fielding restrictions.  While the semi finals had 15 overs a bowler this was not applied in the final.   The Gillette Cup got underway in 1963, bowling limits and restricted fielders on the leg side in place - still features of the one day game today.

Come outside, there's a lovely moon out there.


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Ashleys

'Ashley, tell me you love me.......'
'Oh, Ashley', said Scarlett O'hara with a passionate sigh several times during the epic movie Gone With the Wind. For she pined for her Ashley with all her heart.  But it was not to be.

'Oh Ashley,' sighed millions of English football fans on Sunday.  Not once but twice.  With passion.  They pined for success with all their heart.  But it was not to be.  Scarlett O'hara did not know Ashley Cole, far less Ashley Young, but she too might well have sighed even more forlornly as these two Ashleys missed their penalties to leave England the losers in their Euro quarter final on Sunday night.  Gone With the Wind.  Now Fantasy Bob is not one of those small minded Scottish people who don an Anyone But England tee-shirt for major tournaments, so he feels the disappointment of his neighbours.  In consolation, he reminds them that in the years when Scotland used to qualify for these events, they developed a tradition of going home early despite never having been beaten.  FB is pleased to see that this exemplary mode of behaviour is now being imitated by his southern neighbours.

Two Ashleys too many?
But FB is left with the question as to whether it was it not unduly risky to select a team with two Ashleys in it.  For Ashley is far from a common name. Fantasy Bob is fairly sure that he has never met anyone called Ashley, boy or girl. And that is one of the things about the name. Ashley may well have started out as a boy’s name, hence the object of Scarlett Ohara's passion, but it is now significantly more popular as a girl’s name.   It reached its height of popularity in the 1990s. It is less popular now and probably no male child will ever be called Ashley again following the failures of Messrs Cole and Young.

So if Ashley's is not a good name for a footballer, what of cricket's Ashleys.  FB can think of two Ashleys who have played Test cricket in relatively recent years.

Mallett - still a high action
Ashley Mallett was an off spinner who played 38 tests for Australia between 1968 and 1980.  He was regarded for a time as the top spinner in world cricket.  His high action gave him lots of bounce and got him 132 wickets at 29.84.  His best figures were 8 for 59 against Pakistan at Adelaide in December 1972 to give Australia an innings victory.  This match was reported to have been bad tempered with the Pakistan management complaining afterwards about the home umpires  It is also in the record books for the first century scored by an Australian wicket keeper - Rod Marsh scored 118 including 4 sixes - shades of things to come for Australian keepers.  Mallett continues to write about cricket and has been spin bowling consultant to various teams, most recently Sri Lanka.


The other Ashley is also a spinner - England's left armer Ashley Giles.  Giles was always a committed performer but had to fight the critics throughout his 54 Test career many of whom were far from convinced that he was a Test quality spinner.

the King of Spain
But Giles had the last laugh being an essential component of the 2005 Ashes winning side to which me made a significant contribution both with the ball and with the bat contributing valuable lower order runs on more than one occasion, and he achieved folk hero status when he hit the winning runs off Shane Warne for England to win the Nottingham Test.  His 5 wickets at Edgebaston were also critically important to the overall team effort.  Giles could rip it as both Inzaman and Lara in particular found out to their cost, but his overall figures do not confirm the consistency that wuld give a place in the spinners hall of fame.  In his 54 tests he took 143 wickets at 40.60.  Giles  also nicknamed the King of Spain following a misprint on a souvenir mug he commissioned a mistake which added to his popularity with England supporters.

But what of Scarlett O'hara? How she pined for Ashley, but he was destined for another. How Scarlett comes to recognise his loyalty and honesty is one of the main devised to show how she grows through the course of the story. Ashley Wilkes was played by the fine English actor Leslie Howard. A cricketer? The character in the movie has all the characteristics of loyalty and firmness that would make you think that he must be a cricketer, and a set of cigarette cards of Hollywood greats issued in 1935 describe him as 'a tall Adonis a strong swimmer a keen cricketer and a polo player'. Perhaps this is PR puff for although he was a member of the celebrated Hollywood Cricket Club, he says he joined it for social reasons due to 'his dislikin' of cricket.' What a disappointment. Perhaps Scarlett got off lightly. Oh Ashley indeed.

Lesley Howard - title from Gone with the Wind

Monday, 25 June 2012

Sgt Pepper

Fantasy Bob sends his congratulations to Sir Peter Blake who celebrates his 80th birthday today.  45 years ago Blake was devising one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century, the album cover to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, an image he painstakingly prepared with his then wife Jann Haworth.  A wide range of famous, and infamous, persons are on the image, a collection prepared in close consultation with the Beatles.

A cricket free image
But it is disappointing that there is no cricketer among the 50 and more people featuring in the collage. Indeed there are only 2 sportsmen, Johnny Weismuller, an Olympic swimmer and subsequent movie Tarzan and Albert Stubbins, a footballer who played 159 games for Liverpool between 1946 and 1953 and presumably a boyhood hero of the band. The story has is that when Stubbins signed for Liverpool from Newcastle for a then record fee of 12,500, he had also been approached by Everton and decided which club to go to by tossing a coin. How simple things were before agents were involved in such matters.
David Sheppard on the left -
 opening the batting
with Don Kenyon in 1950
It is a tragedy that cricket is not represented in this familiar work. Blake updated the collage twice - once earlier this year, when again there were no cricketers, and once for the Liverpool City of Culture exhibition in 2008. The latter featured famous Liverpool characters.

FB has been unable to establish whether any cricketers appeared in that version. Indeed, FB is struggling to think of famous cricketers from Liverpool, but there is one cricketer who should certainly be on the revised version. Although he was not a native of Liverpool the Rt Rev David Sheppard was certainly a highly effective advocate of the City and its people. Prior to his prominent role as Bishop of Liverpool, which he assumed in 1975, he played 22 Tests for England and skippered Sussex. He retired in 1997 to enter the House of Lords. He died in 2005.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

That Flintoff Outburst

Flintoff - hung out to dry for his outburst against FB
Fantasy Bob had always thought his relationship with Andrew Flintoff was firmly based on mutual respect.

But Freddie went off at the deep end at a reception this week and let a Sky journalist know what he thought of FB in very direct terms.  He said,   ‘He’s a p****, a f****** p****. He sits there making judgements on players that are much better than he ever was. Believe me, he’s a p****.'

Apparently the cause of this outburst was a comment FB had made some time ago that Alistair Cook was not a natural ODI player.  FB was not the only one to make this observation at the time last year when Cook was appointed England ODI Captain.  Indeed had FB been the only one to venture this opinion, there would have been cause for alarm in medical circles, because FB has never had an original thought.   But such respected commentators as Michael Atherton also expressed scepticism.  With some justification: Cook at that point had seemed not to feature in England's ODI plans. He was not in the 2011 World Cup and his record in the format was less than compelling: in 23 innings he had a strike rate of less than 70 and a modest average of 30.52.

Since then, both FB and Atherton have been proved wrong, for the appointment of Cook has been a success and his batting has been transformed to the extent that among openers only Hashim Amla has an equivalent record over the last 2 years. In what can be considered Cook's second ODI career, he averages over 54 with a strike rate of 91.47 in 24 innings. A fine achievement - not only has Cook been a success as a batsman but also as a captain.
Cook -
thanking the powers that be
for being on  a par with FB
Some commentators have rushed to FB's support saying that to make a simple comparison of Cook's and FB's averages is misleading.  For Cook's success has been achieved against attacks that are past their best and on helpful wickets.  FB's runs have however been made against powerful attacks at the height of their powers in the lower divisions of the East of Scotland league and more often than not on bowler friendly surfaces.  It is striking that Cook has never scored runs on Edinburgh's Meadows.   Taking these factors into account statisticians can suggest that, contrary to Freddie's supposition, FB and Cook are more or less on a par as players.  In any case, FB is entitled to his view; as is Atherton; as is Flintoff.

FB would like to assure Freddie that he bears him no ill will for his outburst.  Freddie would be more than welcome to turn out for the All Stars Carlton 4th XI this season.  In fact he may find the dressing room environment much to his liking as crocked knees, backs, shoulders and hips are the dominant subject of conversation among the senior members of the squad.  Should Freddie turn up with a couple of empire biscuits as well as his cricket gear, his remarks will be overlooked and he will be made most welcome.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Without a Ball Being Bowled

The Headingley ODI - not the only event to suffer
There is nothing so forlorn as a match abandoned without a ball being bowled.

Fantasy Bob doesn't like to harp on about single issues.  Other than empire biscuits of course.  And the iniquity of leg spin bowling. And his declining prowess in the field.  He may occasionally repeat himself on these issues.  But otherwise he feels he provides to his world wide readership of 3 a varied and wide ranging service dealing with the key issues of the day.  Even if that day was many years ago.

However things are getting a bit repetitious in these British Isles and it is hard even for FB to avoid repetition.  Lots of balls are not being bowled.  A month's rain falling in half an hour in Edinburgh today (FB's world wide readership will understand that this is an artistic measurement not a scientific one and may well therefore be an underestimate) wiped out any prospect of FB gracing the field of play at the weekend, without a ball being bowled.   The third ODI between England and West Indies at Headingley was only one event to fall foul of the weather.  Other events to suffer include

  • The opening night of the London 2012 Festival in Birmingham has been cancelled without a ball being bowled due to heavy rain; 
  • The Hutton horse trials near Penrith have been cancelled without a ball being bowled due to heavy rain 
  • The Grand Parade at Edinburgh's Royal Highland Show was cancelled without a ball being bowled due to heavy rain; 
  • The Olympic torch relay in Blackpool will now take place indoors without a ball being bowled due to heavy rain; 

But there is some good news too:

  • Fantasy Bob's blog has been abandoned without a ball being bowled due to heavy sarcasm.............................

Friday, 22 June 2012

Rain Song CC Thirds

Last year Fantasy Bob reported his correspondence with the Secretary of Rain Songs CC and how following the success of the club's First XI it had found itself able to field a Second XI.  FB is pleased to learn from recent contact that the club continues to prosper to the extent that they are now fielding a Third XI.

As with the other 2 teams this side shows the intoxicating mix of youth and experience that is the club's hallmark. Their only problem is finding pitches to fulfil their fixtures. They are all waterlogged.

Here is the Rain Songs CC Third XI. Not in batting order. Given the weather so far this season FB will not be surprised if they manage to field a Fourth XI shortly.

Fire and Rain - James Taylor
Rainy Days and Mondays - The Carpenters
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 - Bob Dylan
I'll Do My Cryin' in the Rain - The Everly Brothers
Rainy Day People - Gordon Lightfoot
Who'll Stop the Rain? - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Rain - Status Quo
I Set Fire to the Rain - Adele
Rhythm of the Rain - The Cascades
Why Does it Always Rain on Me? - Travis
Let it Rain - Eric Clapton
There is talk of a junior section with Itsy Bitzy Spider being approached to act as convenor.

The club continues to be thankful to its Honorary President Mr Murray who set the standard with the ever wonderful Down Came The Rain. A cricketers' version is in preparation.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Integrity

There is a splutter of indignation that the England selectors intend to 3 players for the final ODI against W Indies. According to some this is undermining the integrity of the sport, as the strongest possible team should always be fielded.

Fantasy Bob pricked up his ears at the word integrity. As the opening extravaganza of the Olympics gets ever closer, there is an energetic discussion about the concept of sporting integrity going on. But for once the Olympics, and its commercial overkill or the treatment of known performance enhancing drug takers, are not in the eye of this moral storm.

Instead the vortex is to be found in the corridors of power of Scottish football, never previously noted for a commitment to integrity and, in recent years, only barely connected with anything recognisable as sport. But following the financial irregularities which led to the recent liquidation of the once mighty Glasgow Rangers, and the formation of NewCo FC (identified as Club 12 in the recently published Scottish fixture list), the chairmen of various Scottish football clubs face the decision as to whether to admit NewCo FC into the Scottish Premier League notwithstanding that the rules would suggest that any new club should start at the bottom and work their way through the leagues.

Supporters of NewCo FC observe that this course of action might presage financial disaster for those clubs (who NewCo’s supporters imaginatively characterise as Diddy Clubs) who would lose revenue both from the big games with NewCo FC (or Club 12) and reduced broadcasting revenue. But many Chairmen have publicly pledged that their decision will be governed by sporting integrity. When the vote comes they will be true to their word?

As all close fielders know, integrity can be a slippery concept, and the moral compass can waver – Chairmen may well find, come judgement day, that compassion is a virtue of a higher order. There is talk of restructuring the league so that NewCo FC don’t have so far to climb. They may well find that it will be wholly consistent with sporting integrity to ensure that the league has the highest level of competition possible, that the best players are seen by the highest number and so on. So the outcome is not certain.

Cicero
For it is an endless challenge to philosophy to know how to behave virtuously. And one of the factors that intrigues FB is how supporters of NewCo assert they are being victimised by, well everyone, particularly in, as they say, the diddy clubs. In this attempt to assert that they are on the moral high ground, they forget that Rangers as was had a record of financial mismanagement that was capricious to say the least and may well be found to be criminal. This was someone else’s fault, apparently. Perhaps contrition and remorse on their part might assist their prospects of enlightened clemency – for as Cicero remarked virtue is its own reward. But then he also said, ‘Nothing is so strongly fortified that it cannot be taken by money.’ Moral philosophers should keep this issue in their sights.

Cicero’s writings are not noted for a highly developed analysis of sport. Scholars do not therefore know what view he took of underpants being put on show. But to preserve the integrity of football and the Euro championships, a player was severely punished for showing his pants. FB has no problem with that as such but the scale of his punishment 100,000 Euros would appear to make other offences in football of lesser significance – particularly racism. The Croatian FA were fined only 80,000 Euros for racist chanting at Mario Balotelli by their fans. What price integrity?

FB knows that cricket’s claims to present itself as a game of high integrity are questionable and his rose tinted spectacles are overly focussed on a nostalgic picture which may never have existed. Cricket has had to work hard to recover from the spot betting scandal. And still FB and his type believe. FB has written before of the moral quagmire that is walking or not walking. The issue arises again.

Fallen Idol
FB has long been an admirer of Ian Bell and was pleased that his merits as an opener in the ODI side were recognised and appeared to have been a master stroke by the selectors when he scored 126 in last Saturday’s match at Southampton. However in a subsequent interview with Vic Marks, FB was disappointed to see him say in relation to a big appeal made when he was on 23 that he felt a thin edge, only for the umpire to give him not out. 'I guess I was worried then,' he said – not 'I guess I was out' which is the correct deduction. What makes it worse is that Marks reports he said this with ‘engaging candour’. This is not good enough. If Bell had to say anything he should have said it with shame. He should surrender his match fee and the ill gotten runs removed from his record. Integrity, lost forever. Fallen idol.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Jennings

Fantasy Bob would like to take a small moment to celebrate the 100th birthday of Anthony Buckeridge who was born on 20 June 1912.  He died in 2004.

Anthony Buckeridge
Buckeridge was the author of one of FB's favourite childhood reads, the Jennings books.  In all there were 25 Jennings books, the first in 1950 and the last in 1994, which followed the misadventures of Jennings and his chum Darbishire at their minor preparatory school Linbury Court.  Jennings was an imaginative and impulsive boy whose fancifulness got him into many a scrape, usually in the reluctant company of the more phlegmatic and dogged Darbishire.  The stories were comic, verging on farcical with comedy of character incident and language.  Test Match Quality in its genre.

FB was not a public school boy - even though, in an interesting facet of the difference between the English and Scottish educational systems, his first school in Aberdeen, Ashley Road Primary, proudly bore the legend Public School carved into its granite facade.  He barely knew what a preparatory school was.  So there is some mystery in how he engaged so strongly with the characters in this series.  But the stories were about boys attempting to make sense of the adult world in their own environment and about how they found degrees of freedom within the constraints that seemed to bind them tightly. And they were funny.

Cover from one of the Jennings books
As might be expected at a prep school, cricket was obligatory and featured from time to time in the tales.  If FB recalls correctly, Jennings had some proficiency although inclined to the big shot when something more controlled was required, but his chum Darbishire was not made for cricket or any other sporting activity and hilarity always followed when he found himself roped in.

FB might have though that the boarding school tale was a thing of the past, reflective of another world and another set of values.  He has no idea whether the institutions still prosper.  However as a literary genre it is still significant, as the Harry Potter stories show. What are they but a juiced up series of school tales - where Quidditch has, to the eternal shame of all involved, replaced cricket?

Happy Birthday Anthony Buckeridge.  Thanks for the fun.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Underpants

Fantasy Bob has circulated an emergency message to all members of his All Stars Fourth XI of go-ahead cricket club Carlton.  This is not a course of action he has embarked upon lightly, but external events have forced his hand.

Shame
In his message he has reminded his players of the sanctions regarding the inappropriate display of underpants at moments of triumph such as scoring a six or taking a catch, or in FB's case surviving a dot ball with his wicket intact.  He has stressed that there is no place for this in East League cricket, even when playing on Edinburgh's Meadows where many of those engaged in other park type pursuits are blatantly showing their pants.  Whatever the pressures, cricket is not a pants showing environment.

FB's action follows the fine and ban imposed on Danish pace bowler Nicholas Bendtner who gave an shocked worldwide TV audience a gratuitious display of his pants in a recent Euro 2012 match.  Bendtner explained that the pants, which were a lurid green colour and advertised an on-line betting firm, were lucky pants which he had also worn in the previous match. The luck presumably comes from the large fee he might have attracted for wearing and displaying them. But even worse, there was no indication that he had washed the pants in between wearings. No punishment is therefore too high.

FB has failed throughout his long career to find a sponsor for his pants, neither Marks and Spencer nor Anne Summers expressed any interest, although he did get an interesting range of free samples from Anne Summers. He found they were not ideal for cricketing purposes, there being no natural place where his box could rest while in his normal stance. Since throughout his career FB and luck have been ships that pass in the night, FB has to assume that he has never had a pair of lucky pants. Or maybe his rejection of any opportunity to wear bright green pants has caused Lady Luck to turn her back on him.

In any case, his players are now fully aware of the rules and no gratuitous pants displays are expected for the rest of the season.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Bowlers to the Signet

Fantasy Bob was concerned to see a story in the weekend press describing how Edinburgh's Signet Library is under financial pressure to the extent that it is proposing to install a permanent cafe on its premises open to the public.

The Signet Library is on Edinburgh's Parliament Square and has claims to be the site of the oldest professional society in the world, the Writers to the Signet, Edinburgh's association of lawyers which has 500 years and more of history.  Its quaint name refers to its origins as a society of those legal eagles who prepared official documents which would be sealed with the private seal of the Kings of Scotland.  The buildings themselves are a high expression of Georgian elegance, and George IV described the upper library as the finest drawing  room in Europe.  And he knew something about drawing rooms.

Upper library - perfect for a cricket net
The rooms have long been available for hire for various purposes and at various times FB has attended in his official capacity dinners, lunches and lectures there.  It is also a popular venue for weddings.  So the cafe proposal is not a surprising development.

But FB thinks that in their search for additional revenue the Trustees have missed out on one obvious opportunity.  The Upper Library is a long rectangular box structure of delightful proportions.  Proportions which would lend themselves exactly to a cricket net.  FB is confident that a walk-up cricket practice facility in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town would be a welcome hit with tourists.

He is also sure that, should the Writers of the Signet so wish, he could persuade Carlton juniors to operate as net bowlers to tourists for a small supplement to their pocket money.

Now there's a business proposition.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

RNLI

As an occasional sailor Fantasy Bob approves wholeheartedly the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. He is very relieved never to have been in the position of calling for its services while at sea, but he has heard he radio traffic of the lifeboat being summoned.  High drama.

Founded in 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, the charity now operates from 235 stations around the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. In 2009 RNLI lifeboats launched 9,223 times and rescued an average of 22 people a day from the perils of the deep. It is funded exclusively through donations and legacies and all its crews are volunteers.  Long may it continue to prosper.

FB is therefore well pleased that the executive authorities at go ahead cricket club Carlton have decided to install a lifeboat station at their Grange Loan Headquarters. A spokesman for the club's prestigious future planning committee told FB.

A practice run at Grange Loan -
 on the way to help deep fine leg
'The ground has been underwater for most of the year. There is a real risk that fielders could get in trouble in deeper water as the currents can be unpredictable, particularly when FB is bowling. It is better to be safe than sorry.'

RNLI station 236 will be placed at the bottom end of the ground adjacent to the nets.The club will also be taking the imaginative step of replacing its current stock of plastic flags with a series of life belt stations to mark the boundary.

Sponsors will be approached to assist the funding of these essential initiatives.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Simply the Best?

And suddenly we are in ODI land.  And suddenly the West Indies find themselves as favourites to beat England in their coming 3 match series which gets underway at the Ageas Stadium.  The Ageas Stadium was known as the Rosebowl until not so long ago.  For those who think that the stadium is now named after a proud Greek hero, think again.  Ageas is Belgium's largest insurance company.

Prodigal returns
Anyway the West Indies find themselves favourites because their ranks are strengthened by the return of players who were elsewhere when Test cricket had to be played.  As they showed in taking 335-4 off Middlesex in their warm up game last week, this gives their batting line up some depth.  It may still be brittle but it is packed with flair.

The game marks the return to the maroon of West Indies greatest prodigal son, Chris Gayle.  There is an irony in his return at the same time as England's star batsman Kevin Pietersen is notable by his absence having retired from all but Test cricket, either by his own stubbornness or the inflexibility of the ECB contract or both.  Pietersen seemed to have found the spot that suited him in the ODI batting order and England face  a challenge without him.  A test for Bell in opening and a test for Bairstow or Bopara down the order.

But Gayle is a name to put an additional few thousand on any gate. West Indies' coach Otis Gibson has been loudly and proudly claiming that he is the greatest One Day player in the universe, if not beyond.  Now   Fantasy Bob is not so naive that he does not understand that there are reasons why Gibson wants to make Gayle feel good and talk up his team, but he wonders how strong that claim is in fact.  FB accepts that it more than likely that had FB charge of the World XI to play the touring Martian XI, he would include Gayle in the team.  But is he the best?

Gayle's overall ODI figures are 228 matches in which he has scored 8087 runs at 39.06. He has a strike rate of 83.95 and 19 centuries. This is respectable but hardly world beating.  How does it compare?

In the last year Pietersen has been one of the most effective ODI bats. His career statistics are 127 matches, 4184 runs at 41.84 with a SR of 86.76 and 9 centuries. This year he scored 281 runs in 4 innings.  He therefore goes out at the top.  Other contenders on recent form for the crown are AB de Villiers who this year in 8 innings has scored 475 off 409 balls with a top score of 125* and Hashim Amla, currently the ICC ODI Player of the Year, who in 5 innings has 343 off 392 deliveries and top score of 112. Another contender is Virat Kohli whose 11 ODI innings in 2012 have produced 670 runs off 752 balls with 5 tons and a top score of 133*.   Each of these bats has career statistics better than Gayle with Amla topping the list with an average of 56.49.

Even looking at the sides that will take the field at Ageas tomorrow, Gayle does not top all the other players. Amazingly Jonathan Trott is has the best ODI average on display tomorrow at 48.31 and Darren Sammy the top strike rate.

Boom Boom - the best?
But there is one thing that Gayle has a real claim to be the world's best on. Of the 9633 balls he has faced in ODIs, 946 have gone for 4 and 169 have cleared the ropes.  There are only 2 who can compare with this power - Virander Sehwag has faced 7723 ODI deliveries, 1110 have gone for 4 and 136 for 6.  but the champion 6 hitter is the crowd pleaser beyond all - Shahid Afridi faced 6202 ODI balls.  He hit 298 of them for 6.  And he bowls a bit.

By contrast Jonathan Trott has faced 2361 balls in ODIs.  He has hit 2 sixes.  Gayle or Trott?  FB knows who he would rather watch.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Opening Ceremony

Fantasy Bob is still coming to terms with the news.  He is completely disoriented by it.  He is trying hard to understand.  Details of the Olympic opening ceremony were unveiled earlier this week together with a model of what the arena will look like for this history making event.  It is, as many observers have pointed out, a comic book representation of a green and pleasant land that is barely recognisable as modern Britain. In fact it is completely unrecognisable - no windmills, motorways or IKEAs. The more cynical commentators have dubbed it Tellytubby Land.  FB understands their drift.

But FB rejects this cynicism.  For what he sees is the attempt by the Olympic Organisers to redeem themselves in FB's eyes.  Long has he criticised the event not only for its special capacity to waste vast sums of money for little positive lasting outcome, but for its inexplicable refusal to place cricket in its schedule in favour of pseudo sports not native to these isles.

The opening ceremony scene
However someone in the creative team has shown more imagination than the scheduling team, for in the images so far released of the arena can be clearly seen a cricket match.  It is taking place in the shadow of a very large daffodil.  FB wonders which ground this is modelled on; he has experienced many sights behind the bowler's arm but never a 30ft daffy.   FB hesitates to say that the match is in progress, for there is no bowler or wicket-keeper, far less umpires, but even so it cannot be denied that this is cricket.  Adding to the reality is the fact that specially designed clouds are rolling in over the match and the Director has promised that rain will actually fall from them.  So the crowd will be treated to a representation of that proud British tradition Rain Stopped Play.

FB has yet to establish whether the cricketers who will populate this part of the display will be real cricketers.   Since the other parts of the display are said to be populated with real sheep and chickens, it would be disappointing if the cricketers were just actors or, even worse, dancers dressed up as cricketers.  It is therefore still not clear whether the Olympic Committee has done enough to be redeemed in FB's eyes.  They need to keep trying.


Torchlight

Sole cricketing torchbearer?
The Olympic Torch came to Edinburgh yesterday.  It was put about that it would pass iconic locations.  But by some piece of misorganisation it failed to pass the iconic locations of go ahead cricket club Carlton's HQ at Grange Loan or FB Towers, head of his worldwide media empire.  It went to places of little interest including the Castle and the Scott Monument.

Long standing, and by definition long suffering, members of Fantasy Bob's worldwide readership will recall his excitement last year when the process was announced for identifying bearers for the Olympic torch on its unnecessary journey around the British Isles.  FB presented his highly credible credentials for this accolade which immediately met with the endorsement of a staggering 33% of his worldwide readership of 3.  He imagines that this alone would have commended itself the committee as guaranteed to bring to the streets an enthusiastic crowd of supporters.

Yet despite this overwhelming claim the organisers of the Torch Fest saw fit to deny FB his rightful position and instead have identified a series of minor celebrities and nonentities of whom FB has never heard to wave madly at the crowds while bearing the sacred flame on its journey.  It is as if the organisers have attempted to   prepare a list of people of whom FB has never heard as the exclusive criteria for the role.  So on the Scottish leg FB has been introduced to such as Emele Sande and John Legend, who FB assumes is a legend for being a legend (ho ho).  FB accepts it could have been worse, Jedward have also been involved for some reason.

As far as FB can see the only cricketer to have been involved in the relay - and since FB has been paying no attention to it he may well be wrong - has been Marcus Trescothick, the English opening batsmen of not so long ago.  Hail to Marcus a hero of our times.

Perhaps the lack of cricketers is because there is little affinity between cricket and torches.  But this can be overcome.  FB is about to seek the approval of the ICC to his new form of the game Cricket by Torchlight. The game is based on many that FB has played in his career.  In its purest form it should be played in Edinburgh's public park pitches at any time between the middle of April and the end of September.   The playing area should be surrounded by dark trees or hedges.

Organisers should ensure an overcast evening is chosen ie any evening in that period.  Teams will be invited to arrive in time to commence play at 6pm.  There is no specification of which time zone this relates to.

By 7pm team one will ensure that it has 4 players and team 2, 6 players so that the toss can be considered.  When the full complements arrive, play will be delayed while barbecuers are asked politely to reposition themselves out of harm's way and the wickets are pitched.  There will be a further official delay while the fourth bail is found at the bottom of the team kit bag.  It will disentangled from the cajun chicken wrap that has encrusted it since it was put aside the previous week.

The match itself will get underway at about 7.30pm and players will be allowed to adopt a leisurely approach to changing ends, setting the field and getting the ball back to the bowler.

Cricket torches
will be developed in a range
of sizes to enable the
junior form of the game to be played
This will ensure that the final 10 overs have to be played in darkness.  It is then that the FB's innovation will come to the fore.  All players will be required to carry a torch and deploy it.  A team without the requisite number of torches will be penalised by having runs deducted from their total and a team who turn up with the requisite number of torches but whose batteries have run down so that there is nothing more than a mere glow from the bulb will be penalised even more severely.  Any bowler who shines his torch directly in the batsman's face as he bowls will be deemed to have bowled a no ball.

FB expects the ICC enthusiastically to endorse his new form of the game and the Maglite Premier League may well be a suitable replacement next season for the ailing English T20 competition.  He understands that there may some concern among ICC members that the new form of the game could give distinct advantage to cricketers of Viking extraction, accustomed as they are to doing things by torchlight (see illustration).  But at the very least if these rules had been observed players could have stayed on the field when they were nonsensically taken off by the umpires for poor light during the recently washed out Edgebaston Test.

A team takes the field for Cricket by torchlight
Cricket by Torchlight - you heard about from FB first.



Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Welcome Home

Fantasy Bob assumes that a week or so without his shambling presence in the house must have been a pleasant break for Mrs FB.  For one thing the teeming bag of cricket kit would stay where it was put for day after day, unlike most days when FB finds he has to dive into it apparently for the purpose specifically of removing an item to place in the exact position that Mrs FB is most likely to trip over it.  It has taken many years of their maturing relationship for each partner to anticipate the needs of the other in this charming way.

Nor would Mrs FB's dedicated listening to The Archers be interrupted by some mumbled comment from FB that if only he had left that short pitched ball outside off stump everything might have been different.  Mrs FB is never sure if this lament refers to a recent event, or is a recapitulation of an event that she first heard about at least a quarter of a century ago.  In that case there are many possible ways of interpreting how everything might have been so different.  It is possible in the chaos theory way of thinking that if FB had not nibbled outside off stump in June 1985, the atrocity of the Olympics would not be about to impose itself on Britain's unsuspecting population.  FB should therefore hang his head and concentrate on getting into line.  Yes, a week or so without FB's distractions could only be bliss for Mrs FB.

But it would be crushing to FB's morale if she were to show this.  It was necessary therefore that she make every effort to welcome him back  She would be up to date with the significant events that had occurred while FB was away and had prepared a speech on the issue of the rotation of seam bowlers by Andy Flower - a policy with which she fully agrees.  She might also make sure that none of FB's cricket socks had accidentally made its way into her drawers, knowing that for FB to find an odd number of cricket socks can ruin his equanimity for longer than a grown man should care about things.

Yes, there were numerous ways in which she could prepare for his return from his Indian trip.  But something special was also required.  And FB's pulse quickened when she slowly and seductively came up to him on his return and with a far off look in her eye hinted that unknown pleasures lay in store for him.  She would make him a very happy man.

FB lay back and closed his eyes in expectation of the bliss to come.  He was not disappointed.

For Mrs FB had found the perfect homecoming present for FB - a cinnamon flavour empire biscuit from Goodfellow and Steven.  If this is the reward FB might have to go away more often.

The homecoming present


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Biodiversity

There was concern in the scientific community that the species might be extinct.  It had not been spotted for a long time - nearly 2 years.  Papers were being written.   The foremost experts in biodiversity were mystified. A campaign was being developed by the RSPB. Research was being commissioned. What could explain the sudden disappearance of this once familiar species?  Perhaps climate change was to blame; perhaps the encroachment and degradation of habitat; perhaps a virus; perhaps a new predator had entered the food chain. The search for an answer was intense.

Parents struggled to understand how they could tell their children that this once delightful creature had now vanished and would be seen by future generations as a myth and legend on a par with the dodo.

But then a miracle.  It seems the species is more resilient than it has been given credit for.  It has been spotted again.

Fantasy Bob's Duck is back.  Lesser Spotted Tufted and Crested, the Duck is back. If mystery still surrounds is sudden disappearance, then there is no mystery in its return.  An ungainly lunge at a full length ball outside off stump on Sunday.

Nature lovers can rest easy in their beds.  The RSPB is now considering the extent to which FB's efforts at the crease could restore other imperilled species.  The man deserves an accolade - no praise is too high.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Red Fort

The restaurant in Soho.....
Many years ago, Fantasy Bob's employment took him to London for the middle part of every week. Once a month or so, he and colleagues would go for dinner together en masse. A favourite location for this celebration was The Red Fort restaurant in Dean Street in Soho. And very fine it was too, and FB has noted that it is still in business and going from strength to strength. Presumably it is a relief to the owners that FB and his colleagues are no longer to darken their door from time to time. So it is many years that FB was last in a Red Fort.  To his shame FB has never visited the Red Fort restaurant in Edinburgh.  He is sure that it is excellent.

Not the restaurant in Soho...........
Last week however he was back at the Red Fort, with a difference. During his engagement in Delhi, he managed to escape briefly from the conference room to make a fleeting visit to the real Red Fort situated in Old Dehli. It is a UNESCO world Heritage Site and one of the prime examples of Mughal architecture. The Fort was built by Shah Jahan who was emperor of the Mughal Empire from 1628 until 1658. Shah Jahan comes from Persian and means roughly Ruler of Everywhere.

Shah Jahan was perhaps the most cultured Mughal emperor and possibly one of the most cultured leaders of any great regime anywhere.  When he was Emperor the Mughal Empire was the wealthiest on the planet.  He left behind an incomparable legacy of buildings which are the highest expression of Islamic architecture. His most famous building was the Taj Mahal, now a wonder of the world, which he built out of love for his wife the empress Mumtaz Mahal.  Agra Fort, Lahore Fort and the Shalimar Garders are among this great gift.

However he notably failed to deliver any cricket stadia or indoor practice areas to his people and so the Mughal Empire declined, until it finally came to and end under British rule in 1857.  Cricket came to India shortly after, building steadily to become the dominant force it is in the country today, Mughals or no Mughals.

FB  approaching
the Hall of Grievances
with a full career's worth
of incidents to raise
Sadly, FB's visit was only short, as dusk fell and he was unable to see all the marvels of this the site. However he did see the exterior of the building known as the Diwan-e-aam, which is where the Emperor would address the grievances and other issues directly from the public.  The building is also known as the Hall of Grievances. Any member of the public could attempt to bring his grievance before the Emperor.  rhaps this is why Shah Jahan, though cultured enough and more to have been a cricketer did not press the early development of the game across the Empire.  He was worried that there would be too many crowding into the Diwan-e-aam every Monday to complain about shocking LBW decisions.  FB would have been at the head of the queue.  Jahan clearly thought that his time would be  better spent building the Taj Mahal.

Posterity judges him to be right.   Cricket came in any case and flourished.  But without Shah Jahan, the world's heritage of wondrous buildings would be considerably less.  

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Streets of Delhi

MS Dhoni's fans besiege his home
Fantasy Bob has returned from Delhi much chastened.

FB recalls that one of the factors that Raul Dravid says he particularly enjoyed during his time playing for Scotland was that he could walk down Scottish streets unrecognised and undisturbed.  He was a private citizen again.  FB understood from this that in the streets of India, major cricketing figures, such as he, are mobbed and adulated.  He was disappointed to find that this is not the case.  He stepped out from his hotel and conference suite on several occasions during his brief visit and no crowd gathered. No one paid him any attention at all.  Just like at home.  Only more so.  How could this be?  Did the Delhi masses not know that a cricketing superstar was among them?  Surely they were closely following the fortunes of FB's Carlton All Star Fourth XI now that the IPL had finished.

FB now understands from a comment on a recent posting on this blog that he is being deliberately ostracised by the otherwise adoring Indian crowd for failing to identify Sachin Tendulkar as one of his favourite five Indian cricketers.  The Little Master's many fans have decided in consequence to boycott FB - in particular they have decided to ignore him completely should he walk down the street and they will take no further interest in empire biscuits or other such trivia.  (FB doesn't have much by way of defence here but points out that Tendulkar has not listed FB in his 5 favourite bloggers).

Tendulkar
composing fan letter to FB
after being sworn in  to Indian Parliament
FB notes that on the day he arrived for his visit to India Tendulkar was sworn in as a member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament, the Rajya Sabha.  Of the 250 members in the Rajya Sabha, 12 are nominated by the President for 'special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.'  Tendulkar is the first sportsperson to be nominated and in his acceptance speech spoke of wanting to create as positive sporting legacy for all sports in India. There is some concern that, in accepting the nomination, Tendulkar will be seen as aligned with the ruling Congress Party and there is a continuing campaign for him to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian honour. Fans therefore had things to preoccupy them rather than mobbing FB.

FB was not asked his views on this issue by the Indian media during his visit.  Indeed the Indian media failed to seek his views about any issue.  But, for the record, FB would like to make clear that he is sure that Tendulkar well deserves India's highest honour.  And other honours should be available too - arise Sir Sachin has that ring about it...............

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Visit to Pakistan

FB is on a short assignment in India.  While he is away he has left a few posts in the bowling machine summarising some of the things India means to him. 

Picture perfect
Fantasy Bob has never been to India before this trip.  However he visited Pakistan twice in the early 1990s on consultancy assignments. It is the only Test playing nation that he has visited, other than England.  And fascinating it was too.  He spent time in Islamabad and Lahore - it was highly fascinating with cricket played on every street corner and waste ground.  The early matches of the 1992 World Cup were being staged in Australia while he was on his first trip - interest was keen everywhere - for good reason, Pakistan went on to win beating England in the final.

When he was in Lahore he wandered out of his hotel on a leisurely stroll between meetings.  Close by, he chanced upon the green of an elegant cricket ground with a match in progress.  It looked a high quality match.  The pavilion was elegant the outfield smooth and green.  The outfield was lined with mature trees.  A picture perfect cricket ground. Regretably he could stay only to watch a few balls.

Subsequent research has suggested to FB that the ground was within the Bagh-e-Jinnah which is the Kew Gardens of Lahore, the most pukka of public parks. There is apparently a magnificent colonial-era library but the centrepiece is said to be the Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Club, which is where FB arrived by accident all those years ago. Picture perfect it may be but the ground has staged some important matches in its history. Pakistan's first unofficial Test Match was played there in 1948 against In fact in the 1950s 3 Test matches were played against India, New Zealand and West Indies. Modern tests in Lahore have been played at the Gaddafi Stadium - and FB hopes the stadium will see international action again in the not too distant future.

England last played there in November 2000. The match ended in a draw with the PCB XI holding on valiantly at 71 for 6 at the close. In the subsequent series, England clinched victory in the final test in Karachi after 2 draws. A tense finish took place in the gathering gloom and many in the crowd, or the outfield did not actually see Graham Thorpe edge the winning runs.


Glories yet to come as FB strolled the perfect cricket ground.

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Apu Trilogy

FB is on a short assignment in India.  While he is away he has left a few posts in the bowling machine summarising some of the things India means to him.  

For a fleeting moment, Fantasy Bob is going to revert to one of his previous enthusiasms.  He is a lapsed film buff.   What does India in the movies mean to him?

India has not been a dominant force in international cinema.  FB acknowledges that Bollywood is a genre in its own right and there must be many fine entertainments within it.  He also accepts that western directors have made compelling films about Indian subjects, Attenborough's Gandhi, David Lean's Passage to India, John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King for example.  The work of Merchant Ivory contains some fine films set in India - Shakespeare Wallah and Heat and Dust in particular.  Slumdog Millionaire had something to say.  And some contemporary films such as Monsoon Wedding by Indian directors have also been big hits in the west.

So there are many representations of Indian subjects, but as far as FB is concerned there is only one Indian director who makes the premier division.  Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy made between 1955-59 is Test Match Quality. The 3 films tell of the the childhood, education and early maturity of a young Bengali named Apu (Apurba Kumar Roy) in the early part of the 20th century.  There are no cricketing scenes or references but FB is sure cricketers will find them compelling.

The first film Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) is about Apu's early experiences in rural Bengal, as the son of a poor but high caste family. His father Harihar, a Brahmin, has difficulty in supporting his family. After the death of Apu's sister, Durga, the family moves to the holy city of Benares.

In the second film Aparajito (The Unvanquished), the family's finances are still precarious. After his father dies there, Apu and his mother Sarbajaya come back to a village in Bengal. Despite incessant poverty, Apu manages to get formal schooling and turns out to be a brilliant student. The growing Apu comes into conflict with his mother. Later, when his mother dies too, he has to learn to live alone.

In the third film Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), is attempting to become a writer, Apu accidentally finds himself pressured to marry a girl who has rejected her mentally ill bridegroom. Their blossoming marriage ends in her death in childbirth, after which the despairing Apu abandons his child, but eventually returns to accept his responsibilities.

This is real world cinema.  Try it.


Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Sitar

FB is on a short assignment in India.  While he is away he has left a few posts in the bowling machine summarising some of the things India means to him.  


Ravi Shankar
Fantasy Bob's knowledge of Indian music is hugely limited.  He can recognise the sitar and the tablas.  He has heard of Ravi Shankar.  He has enjoyed the occasional snatch of Bollywood and Banghra.

But like many cricketers of his particular vintage, he became familiar with Indian sounds when western rock musicians discovered them and incorporated them into their tunes.  This influence also extended to muzak - FB also remembers how at one time background music in Indian restaurants which were based on sitar versions of such western classics as Yellow Bird or As Time Goes By.

So while FB wouldn't really know Raga from Ragtime, and in tribute to the 1960s, here are his 5 top tunes with Indian sounds in them.  Like Far Out, Man.
  • Hole in My Shoe - Traffic
  • Paint it Black - The Rolling Stones
  • WithinYou Without You - The Beatles
  • Norwegian Wood - The Beatles
  • And one song that makes fine use of the tabla - Little Cloud by the Incredible String Band
And for those who yearn for the real thing, here  is an example of the real thing Ravi Shankar's Raga Miniature

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Reading India

FB is on a short assignment in India.  While he is away he has left a few posts in the bowling machine summarising some of the things India means to him. 

India is known to Fantasy Bob only through books films and second hand accounts.  Here are his favourite books about India - a fairly conventional set, and overly focussed on the British and the Raj and all that, but that's FB fairly conventional.

A Passage to India - EM Forster - a classic presentation of the clash of the imperial and traditional cultures - prejudice and repression - what happened in the Mulibar Caves?

The Raj Quartet - Paul Scott - four novels describing a series of incidents at the end of Imperial India from several points of view.  Compelling reading.

Staying On - Paul Scott - a follow up depicting how teh end of Empire affects some of the colonial characters.  Nostalgic and sad.

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie - a complex multi layered telling of aspects of the traumatic birth of modern India - this was a controversial and exciting debut by Rushdie but not as controversial as his subsequent Satanic Verses which led to a Fatwah being declared against him.

The Siege at Krishnapur - JG Farrell - a story about the impacts on the settler community of the Sepoy rebellion in 1857

Heat and Dust - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala - an Englishwoman finds the truth about her long dead aunt and her passionate relationship with an Indian prince

The Last Moghul - William Dalrymple - a history of the early colonialists and how they embraced Indian culture, until the Victorian State and the missionaries intervened

An Indian Summer - James Cameron - FB's favourite journalist of all time, who died in 1985, An Indian Summer, tells about his relationship with India; his marriage to Moni, an Indian; and his serious car accident and near death in Calcutta.


FB is aware of such titles as A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy but to his shame he has not read them. He will be reading White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, the Booker Prize winner in 2008, on the trip.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Five Indian Cricketers

FB is on a short assignment in India.  While he is away he has left a few posts in the bowling machine summarising some of the things India means to him.  

Fantasy Bob always found it a joy to watch the Indians when Test match cricket used to be available on the BBC.  He shared their joy at the first series victory in England in 1971and their first World Cup triumph in 1983.  Each touring side had special players who would go on to join the greats.  It is a hard choice, but here are Fantasy Bob's 5 all-time favourite Indian cricketers

Bishan Bedi -  67 Tests 266 wickets at 28.71.  He captained India on 22 occasions.  For FB Bedi is eternal, the epitome of the Indian spinner. A smooth effortless action that was a thing of beauty in itself and that kept the ball on a string. Bedi has referred to T20 cricket as 'the most vulgar expression of cricket' another factor that endears him to FB. He finished his career with 1560 in first-class wickets — more than any other Indian.

Kapil Dev - 131 tests 5248 runs @ 31.05; 434 wickets @ 29.64.  Kapil retired in 1994 as one of the great all rounders, holding the world record for the most number of wickets taken in Test cricket, a record subsequently broken by Courtney Walsh in 2000. At the time, he was also India's highest wicket taker in both major forms of cricket, Tests and ODIs).  He is the only player in the history of cricket to have taken more than 400 wickets and scored more than 5,000 runs in Tests. On 8 March 2010, Kapil Dev was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.  He captained India to their first World Cup vistory in 1983.

Farokh Engineer - 46 Tests 2611 runs @ 31.08; 82 dismissals  India's first-choicewicket-keeper during the 1970s and a Lancashire favourite.  An ebullient cricketer, a highly useful, stylish and very aggressive batsman.


Mohinder Armanath - 69 Tests 4,378 runs @ 42.50, with 11 hundreds and 24 fifties.  Rated by many of his oppnents as the greatest batsman they faced although he was in and out of the Indian side.  In 85 ODIs, he scored 1,924 runs at 30.53. Mohinder Amarnath is also the one and only Indian who has been dismissed on handling the ball and obstructing the field in One-Day Internationals.



Raul Dravid - 164 Tests, 13288 runs @ 52.31, 36 centuries, also slip supreme with 210 catches.  Of all the great talents in the recently passed and passing golden generation, it is Dravid that FB admires most.  Others may take the limelight but Dravid delivers for the team. And he played for Scotland.  On 14 December 2011, he became the first non-Australian cricketer to address at the Bradman Oration - his speech is well worth reading for his open and convincing analysis of the issues facing the modern game.