Friday, 31 August 2012

Top Attraction

Executive chiefs at go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton met in emergency session yesterday following the news that Stirling Castle has topped a poll to find the UK's favourite visitor attraction.

A spokesperson for the club said, 'The club is disappointed to have missed out on this top award. Our Grange Loan HQ must have been a close second. Visitors always commend the playing surface and our teas are legendary.  As far as we understand it the wicket Stirling Castle's leaves a lot to be desired.

'We recognise that Stirling Castle can boast of its association with Mary Queen of Scots.  Carlton too has links to important historical figures and visitors can still thrill to the sight of Fantasy Bob flashing outside off stump.  It is a unique experience.'

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Resignation Shock

The cricket world has been rocked by a completely unexpected announcement.

Fantasy Bob told an astonished world that he was not resigning from any form of cricket with immediate effect.  There had been speculation that the under pressure captain of the Carlton All Star 4th XI might step down from the skipper's role in an effort to restablish his waning form.  But he dispelled these rumours in a dramatic statement today, 'Form is temporary,' he said, 'but class, in my case, is non-existent.'

Few would have foreseen the great achievements when FB took up the captaincy of a troubled side several years ago.  At that time he had a great future behind him.  Now that future is even further behind him.  However grateful cricket fans will not forget his great achievements, once they remember what they are.

In a direct answer to the question FB said that the KP incident had nothing to do with his non-decision.

In an emotional post-script to his press conference, FB did express his regret that Andrew Strauss had resigned from the England captaincy and paid tribute to his achievements as the finest captain that the All Stars never had.  No cricketer could receive greater commendation.

Strauss lets the news of FB's non-resignation sink in

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

More on Amla

Lower league cricketers like Fantasy Bob have experienced the phenomenon many times.  The cricketer from a higher grade who turns out in a lower team and effectively ruins the game by a  prodigious display of batting or bowling beyond the skills of the 21 other players on the field.

With Carlton's Grange Loan being one of the finest wickets in Scotland Fantasy Bob has got used to top team batsmen from opposing clubs who note that their 3rd or 4th XI is destined for the hallowed ground in couple of weeks.  They find themselves injured,  unable to play and as the Grange Loan fixture approaches they suggest to their skipper, quietly but firmly,  'Not sure about the leg, skip, better not risk me in the ones.  But I could test things out with the Fourths.'

They will duly turn up at Grange Loan and on a fine batting track take a century off the assorted infants and geriatrics who have assembled under FB's leadership.  The majority of those runs will in all probability be taken from FB himself.  To add insult to injury, while the star player will not bowl he will stand at slip and with unnatural athleticism will pouch one of those delicately glided edges with which FB garners the majority of his runs.  Never will the cold beer after the match be sweeter consolation to FB than on these occasions.

This is the feeling that England bowlers now have when they see Hashim Amla line up against him.  'Surely,' they say, 'he should be playing for the ones today,' forgetting that they are, for these purposes, the ones themselves.  Right ones in fact.

Amla seems to have reached another level. FB can only stand back and gasp in admiration. In the course of  his 150 in yesterday's ODI he became the fastest ever player to 3000 ODI runs. But he didn't just break the record he smashed it to smithereens.  It took him 57 innings.  The previous record was held by Viv Richards who took 69 innings - no slouch.  The fastest English player to this mark was Graham Gooch who took 76 Tests, closely followed by he who can't be named who took 78.

It is also worth noting that in this match  AB deVilliers became the 4th fastest to 5000 ODI runs which has taken him 124 innings - but he is speeding up for he took a leisurely 88 innings to get to 3000 runs.  Amla is speeding up to - he took 40 innings to get 2000 runs.  By contrast Viv Richards slowed down - he took another 45 innings to get from 3000 to 5000 ODI runs, eventually crawling  to 6721 off 162 innings.  Only one English player has topped 5000 - Paul Collingwood with 5092 in 181 innings.  The batsman who cannot be named was on course to top this, with 4184 from 116 until recent events.  It is hard to see Morgan, Bopara or Kieswetter getting anywhere near that.  But one of them needs to.

In the meantime, England have to worry about Amla again on Friday when they return to the Oval.  On Amla's last visit there he scored 311.  FB understands that a letter to the league secretary complaining about higher grade players being played against lower league teams is being drafted by Andy Flower.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Selection Dramas

There has been further controversy over the future of Kevin Pietersen following his shock omission from the European Ryder Cup Team which was announced yesterday.

Newspaper reports carried speculation that this was the latest consequence of a long standing series of tensions in the dressing room between Pietersen and his skipper that began in 2003 when they played against each other in the Seve Trophy.  Pietersen asked the referee to rule on whether the future captain was entitled to repair two pitch marks on his putting line. Despite insisting he wasn’t questioning his integrity, his opponent angrily picked up his ball, conceded the hole, stormed to the next tee and played the rest of the match in silence.

Pietersen and Strauss
Meanwhile the ECB has yet to confirm the date and time of a clear-the-air meeting between Jose Maria Olazabel and Podraig Harrington.  Harrington is believed to have texted opposition players referring to the Ryder Cup Captain as Spanish.  In further revelations, attributed to senior players, Harrington is also alleged to have called a former team mate diminutive and unable to see over the thick rough.  Harrington was not named in the England selection for the forthcoming T20 World Cup.

Olazabel and Harrington
Lots of air clearing is required.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Elgar

Dean Elgar
Fantasy Bob is sure that the music lovers among his 3 strong worldwide readership will have noticed with enthusiasm that another celebrated musical name has entered the lists of international cricketers.  South Africa's all rounder Dean Elgar has joined the party for 5 match ODI series against England.  He follows hard on the heels of Wagner whose debut for New Zealand was celebrated by FB earlier this year.

There is no indication that Dean Elgar might be related to Sir Edward Elgar the celebrated composer, owner of one of the proudest moustaches in musical history and  the composer of Land of Hope and Glory.

FB has nothing against Elgar's moustache, but feels that it is a shame that his popular reputation rests on Land of Hope and Glory.  It is a fine rousing tune, but spoilt by the overtly imperialist words written for it by A C Benson in 1902.  Elgar himself became concerned about the assertive stance of the lyric and during the First World War tried to ensure that less nationalistic verses were made available.  However Benson's words persist and will be launched again shortly at the Last Night of the Proms. Land of Hope and Gory has never been used as an anthem at international cricket matches, but it is used at Twickenham prior to England's matches. It also seems bizarre to FB that until 2010 it was used by the English team at the Commonwealth Games - presumably there was thought to be some merit in reminding all other nations of the imperial origins of the event.  It has since been replaced by Jerusalem.

Sir Edward Elgar in 1900
But Elgar has many other fine works which confirm his status as a great musician and not just an Edwardian imperialist crusty.  From miniatures like the charming violin piece Salut d'Amour to the grand choral masterpiece Dream of Gerontius, his work continues to grow in reputation and popularity.  His Second Symphony and Cello Concerto are mainstays of the repertoire and deservedly. Cricketers should make an effort to become familiar with these works. Elgar still may still be regarded as the quintessential English composer and be performed more in British concert halls than abroad, but few now dispute that he is Test Match Quality

Elgar was born and brought up in Worcester in the 1850s, at the time when Worcester CCC was formed.  Elgar was born in 1857; Worcestershire CCC was formed on 4 March 1865 at the Star Hotel.  The club moved to New Road in 1896 although it was not until 1899 that it entered the County Championship.   1899 was the year that Elgar produced his first truly great work - the Enigma Variations which established his reputation as the leading British composer of his generation. The variations are inspired by a number of Elgar's friends, but none of them is a cricketer.  Nor is the enigma a speculation a wry comment on the LBW law, but refers to a disguised theme in the piece.  Indeed cricket does not seem to have been part of Elgar's life, which may or may not have been a source of disappointment to him.  He was keen on racing and supported Wolverhampton Wanderers which seem scant consolations.

FB welcomes Elgar who joins Strauss and Wagner in the Musician's XI.  FB looks forward to the time when Shostakovich opens the bowling at some Test ground somewhere.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Brave

Fantasy Bob has noticed that there has been much excitement around the film Brave which is now on general release.  This computer animated film by the makers of Toy Story is set in medieval Scotland with the voices of the characters supplied by what the press calls a galaxy of Scottish talent.  VisitScotland has dumped a small fortune into associated marketing in the belief that the movie will inspire people to come to Scotland.  Fantasy Bob bows to the superior knowledge of VisitScotland in these matters, but a presentation of Scotland as a mist covered landscape populated by kilted beardies with a heroine modelled on Rebecca Wade doesn't really do it for him.  Besides, the film makes no reference to the jewels in Scotland's landscape such as go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton's Grange Loan HQ - where, to adopt VisitScotland's strap line, legends, such as FB, really do come to life. How can it therefore attract anyone to Scotland?

What has caught FB's attention in the film is that the fictional castle in which some of the action takes place is modelled on Dunnottar Castle.    Dunnottar is a truly impressive fortress, a set of ruined buildings on a clifftop promontory about 15 miles south of Aberdeen.  Amazingly enough, is still in private ownership and is open to the public.


Fantasy Bob has a long association with Dunnottar Castle.  Many years ago, about the time the action in Brave is set, FB had a summer job at the Castle as senior assistant to the full time Doughty Groundsman.  FB's important role in preserving the heritage of Scotland was to cut the grass in all areas of the castle, sweep out certain areas, cut the grass again, admit visitors on  payment of the requisite number of groats, and cut the grass again.  There was a lot of grass.

Occasionally FB would be called upon to guide visitors around the castle.  Dunnottar has lots of history and lots of gore  -Wallace,  Edward III, Mary Queen of Scots, James VI, Charles II, Cromwell, the Jacobites all have associations with it.  Among its most stirring episodes is when during the English Civil War the honours of Scotland were kept there and smuggled out while the castle was under siege to remain hidden for many years in a neighbouring parish church.

So there was a lot for FB to tell - and FB felt justified in making up what he didn't know (which was most of it).  To this day there are folks in Texas and California, Tucson and Carolina who recall fondly their visit to Scotland many years ago and recount how they stood where the battle of  Bannockburn really took place, hard by where Bruce consorted with the spider and Bonnie Prince Charlie rowed ashore.

For a while, cutting grass and taking tips from visitors seemed a viable career option for FB and he aspired to the status of Doughty Groundsman.  Together FB and the Doughty Groundsman would take the sunshine sitting on the battlements and, in the slow and deliberate manner of folks of the North East of Scotland discuss weighty matters of state - or the performance of the grass cutting equipment.   No words were ever wasted. In FB's mind it is perpetual sunshine during that summer.  One afternoon after guiding an energetic Scandinavian gentleman around the castle and responding as best as his imagination could to detailed questioning on all matter of historical detail, FB joined the Doughty Groundsman on the battlements.  It was hot. Together they watched the visitor of Viking descent toil up the cliff path away from the castle.  FB turned to his superior,  'You know his English was perfect.  He must be bilingual,' he said.  'Aye,' responded the Doughty Groundsman, 'I'll bet he is, in this heat.'

There is no reference in the histories to cricket having any presence at Dunnottar.  One of the large expanses of grass which FB tended was named the bowling green, and with a little use of the heavy roller could have made a fine net practice area.  Except for the fact that any well struck ball would have careered over the cliffs, to the frustration of all and the particular wrath of the club treasurer.

It is many years since FB visited Dunnottar Castle, but it remains in his mind bathed in sunshine and the model of all that any ruined castle should be.  Test Match Quality.




Saturday, 25 August 2012

Boosting

With the imminent staging of the Paralympic Games attracting the media’s attention, Fantasy Bob has been interested to see reports about the growing concerns over the practice of boosting among athletes. FB understands boosting to mean that an athlete inflicts an injury upon themself with the objective of increasing blood pressure, thereby blood flow and thereby performance. The injuries mentioned include breaking toes, sitting on drawing pins and scrotal constriction. (On the last mentioned, FB’s experience leads him to be sceptical of any alleged performance enhancing effects  – all it is likely to do is make the eyes water.)

FB has not heard of this practice before. He is uncertain if the performance enhancing impacts of raising blood pressure is confined only to elite paralympic athletes but is considering the implications in areas familiar to him. He has concluded that lower league cricketers, such as FB, do not need to break their toes to raise their blood pressure.  There are many such incidents in any match - whether such leads to enhanced performance is open to discussion.  In FB's case something needs to enhance performance.  He may then have to resort to boosting. To assist his worldwide readership understand the issues further, here are a number of boosting tactics which FB has seen adopted.

Scoring can have boosting impacts. An enthusiastic but innumerate junior takes up the scorebook, but attributes the 4 runs which flowed from FB’s sumptuous cover drive to his batting partner. When FB notices this on the scoreboard, his performance is enhanced to the point that he swings wildly at the next ball. The scorer makes no mistake in identifying the dismissed batsman.  Further performance enhancement follows.

Catching can lead to perverse boosting impacts. For there to be one catch dropped off FB’s bowling is only to be expected, and there is no boosting impact. But things can progress from that modest start.  FB has suffered from serial drops – his highest total was 5 drops in a 6 over spell. The second time his butter fingered teammate grassed a dolly catch was a boosting event, which lead to an enhancement in his performance and another 3 chances. This is completely counterproductive – the more catches are dropped, the more chances come and the more catches are dropped.  This is one of the reasons that the legislators limited the number of overs for any bowler.

Any LBW decision in lower league cricket is a boosting event. The provision of the availability of defibrillators for triggered batsmen should be considered as a priority.

Boosting - FB expects new rules for next season's competition - or his blood pressure will suffer.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Photos

Go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton has confirmed that it has contacted the Press Complaints Commission over the possible use of naked photos of Fantasy Bob.

The club had heard suggestions that several UK newspapers were considering using such photos. Not one has done so. A spokesperson for the club said ‘We wish to commend the good taste of editors. Any photos of FB are pretty gruesome, these must be particularly so. Readers should not have such horrors inflicted on them. We are sure there are lots of photos of members of the Royal Family that they could use instead.’

However the spokesperson was unable to confirm or deny whether the club was considering a strip billiards evening as its next fund raising event its Grange Loan HQ.  Sources suggest that the club's globetrotting social convenor has been tasked with integrating such an event with the club's annual ceilidh.

Speaking on behalf of Fantasy Bob, Fantasy Bob said nothing of interest, relevance or consequence. No change there.

Grange Loan last weekend

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Broccoli

Nutrition experts at go-ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton have welcomed the news that a supersweet brand of broccoli has been developed on farms in Fife and is now on the market.

Hitherto broccoli has been the object of disgust to President Bush and all Carlton juniors who have rejected its evident health benefits.  Carlton skippers have therefore been reluctant to allow broccoli on the tea table since it leads to tantrums and tears.  Even senior members, who should know better, have left it on the table.  As a result malnourished sides can take the field with consequent impacts on performance.  Analysis by the club's prestigious research team has suggested that the debilitating effects of avoiding broccoli on team members is worth about 15 runs to the opposition.

The new sweeter broccoli will mean that this risk is a thing of the past.  Juniors and senior members alike will be keen to get their full share of the delicious new vegetable.  The club's nutritionists are working on guidance which will require skippers to replace unhealthy chocolate cake for equivalent amounts of broccoli.  In their new guidance they point out that 'Carlton has been associated with lashings of chocolate and cream cake for too long.  Opposition teams may see this as something to look forward to.  But a go-ahead club should take more responsibility for the health of its juniors and the waist lines of the opposition.  Superweet broccoli is the way forward.  Skippers should ensure that it takes the place of all cakes and biscuits from the next home match.'  Skippers have also been advised to avoid the temptation of covering broccoli in chocolate since this has no evident nutritional benefit.

However, in a significant concession the nutritionists accepted that when Fantasy Bob is in the team there will be an allowed quota of empire biscuits.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Debussy

Claude Debussy
French composer Claude Debussy was born on 22 August 1862, 150 years ago today.  Fantasy Bob acknowledges that there is not much to interest the cricketer in that fact.  Nor indeed is there much to interest the cricketer in Debussy's musical output.  There is not much evidence that Debussy took any interest in cricket himself.  Being French, he was more interested in symbolist poetry and the like than swing bowling.

However Debussy may well have had some exposure to cricket.  In the summer of 1905, he spent some time in Eastbourne putting the finishing touches to one of his most important works La Mer, which received its premiere later than year.   He stayed at the Grand Hotel.  At exactly the same time as he was in Eastbourne, Sussex played Surrey in the County Championship at the Saffrons Cricket Ground in Eastbourne.  Surrey were skippered by Lord Dalmeny, who in 1906 became MP for Edinburghshire.  He succeeded to the title Earl of Roseberry in 1929 and served briefly as Secretary of State for Scotland.

Lord Dalmeny
It is hard for FB to imagine Lord Dalmeny staying at anywhere other than the Grand Hotel during his visit to Eastbourne, unless he had a convenient country estate hard by.  Debussy may well have encountered him in the dining room and politely asked about the prospects for that day's play.

In the Surrey team was Jack Hobbs who had received his county cap from Dalmeny earlier that season, his first in First Class cricket.  As a professional, there is no way that Hobbs would have stayed in the Grand. Hotel, so a meeting between him and Debussy is unlikely.  Had that taken place, his Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune would surely have been renamed Prelude a l'apres midi d'un opening batsman.

Surrey won the match by 7 wickets.  Sussex may have been handicapped by the absence of their greatest player C B Fry, still reputed to be England's greatest ever sportsman.  Fry topped the First Class averages that season making 2801 runs at 70.02, with 10 centuries.  Hobbs scored 1317 at 25.82 and Dalmeny 1141 at 24.80.

A match at the Saffrons 1910
Saffrons is a splendid name for a cricket ground.  Alas it is no longer a First Class Ground but between 1896 and 2000, 226 First Class matches were played. Had Debussy been aware of such a mellifluously titled ground, FB is sure he would have been inspired to a couple of piano miniatures.  For these were also on his mind in Eastbourne.  In 1905 he significantly revised his Suite Bergamasque which contains his best known piece Claire de Lune. It is hard to believe that this piece was not inspired by Hobbs' batting - Angela Hewitt plays in beautifully on this link.   Perhaps he played it to the guests in the hotel, Dalmeny and gentlemen players included.  Perhaps it was the inspiration for their triumph on the field of play that week.

So Debussy is may be not of such little interest to the cricketer after all.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The X Factor

The Ex Factor is back on British TV screens.

England are ex number one test team after losing the series with South Africa despite a spirited rendition of their final song at Lords yesterday. But the panel of judges was clear that the team could not go forward to a big recording contract on the basis of their performances this year.

Gary Barlow commented that the quartet of Strauss, Cook, Bell and Taylor only got 12 runs between them in the second innings which wouldn't sell many records.

Louis Walsh noted that over the whole series the singers had dropped 9 catches which might have cost them something like 600 runs. This suggests that lessons in the boot camp part of the show have not been learned.

Tulisa admired Johnny Bairstow's efforts and thinks he may be one for the future, but is still worried about his technique facing the short pitched key change. And guest panellist Mel B joined other voices which suggested that the balance of the group was wrong and an extra bowler might have improved the overall harmony.

Many viewers phoned in to complain that programmers had made a big mistake by timing the celebrity knock out show I'm Kevin Pietersen Get Me out Of Here prior to the Lords fixture which had unsettled the team.

Meanwhile Simon Cowell counts his money and watches how the rival show South Africa's Got Talent (and Amla) has moved up in the ratings.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Swimming

Diana Nyad taking off for Florida
Fantasy Bob had never heard of Diana Nyad until her name popped up in the news today.  FB's world wide readership can be comforted that she has nothing to do with England's impending misfortune at Lords, and FB will not be dwelling on that subject today.  Nor is she an Olympic heroine of any sort, which is as well for there has been more enough worship of those golden victors.

At present Ms Nyad is bobbing about in the Atlantic Ocean attempting to be the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida.  The distance is 103 miles.  It will take her the best part of 4 days, almost as long as a Test match.  She is 63 years old and this is her 3rd attempt at the feat.

It is no walk in the park.  She is being stung by jellyfish.  But she is swimming without the protection of a shark cage although it is reported she benefits from an electronic shark repellent device.  There is also a team of divers on her support craft who have the job of diving in and drawing any sharks that are looking for lunch away from her.  Not a job that FB would put himself forward for.

FB is not sure why anyone would want to swim this channel, or indeed anywhere similar.  As far as he knows there is a perfectly good ferry service.  But open water swimming seems to be all the range.  FB read of a woman who recently swam  the Bering Strait between Russian and Alaska.  Apparently when this was attempted in the Cold War, the swimmer was considered by the Russians as an invading naval force and all manner of emergency.  This swim is less than 2 miles - but the water temperature is 4 degrees.  It is considerably warmer off Florida.

FB swims regularly ploughing up and and down the pool for a mile.  In his highly inefficient breast stroke this takes about 45 minutes.  Regular observers at Grange Loan will note that this is significantly faster than he runs between the wickets.  But he is pleased to say that he performs this feat of endurance without the protection of a shark cage.

Will FB ever venture out into open water?

There is as much chance of him getting onto the honours board at Lords.

Good luck to Ms Nyad.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Kallis

Unhappy Jacques
Fantasy Bob has never really warmed to Jacques Kallis.  He recognises his status as a great player, but he finds something cold about him.  But even FB had a small measure of sympathy for Kallis as he left the crease at Lords yesterday in a foul mood having unsuccessfully referred his LBW dismissal.  Kallis was convinced that he got an inside edge on the ball before it hit his pad.  The technology said not - but suggested that he clipped his pad with his bat instead.  Out and off he went with steam coming out of his ears.

Kallis had more cause for steam in the first innings when he was again given out following review after the third umpire said that the ball hit his glove on the way to Prior.  Pictures suggested that his hand was off the bat handle at the time.  (FB makes no comment to the effect that Kallis would not have felt the ball strike his glove by contrast to feeling the inside edge.  Highly trained top class cricketers have these extraordinary perceptions.   They always feel the inside edge prior to an LBW shout, but never feel the outside edge prior to the caught behind.  Or perhaps it is the bats.)

Kallis' disappointment was real though but not really what draws FB's small measure of sympathy.  for as a long serving pro, Kallis will have got the rub of as many decisions as have gone against him.  It is only FB who is on the wrong end of every decision, batting and bowling.  FB's sympathy is for the fact that Kallis will not have his name on the honours board.  Nor will FB, much as he would like to - so FB feels for a fellow sufferer.

He looked well set in the second innings and about to overturn the unfortunate statistic that prior to that innings his average at Lords was a mere 5.75.  Even FB has a higher average than that at most grounds, and he is far from being one of the greats.  Kallis' second innings 31 meant that he very nearly doubled his average at Lords - it is now 10.80.  Still on the low side, but exactly the same as West Indian Ramnaresh Sarwan, 0.2 above former Australian skipper Bobby Simpson and only 0.8 behind Javed Miandad who are alongside him in a large group of high quality batsmen who have never cut it on cricket's most famous stage.  Nor is it only overseas players who have struggled here.  Mark Ramprakash played 13 Test innings at Lords and averaged only 10 - and as a Middlesex player he was as familiar with the slope as any player could be.  Kallis was also on the Middlesex staff at one time.  So local knowledge may not be too much of a help.

Other players find it a happier hunting ground. Both KP (the batsman who must not be named) and Ian Bell average well over 60 at Lords, but leading the averages by a mile is Steve Waugh whose 5 innings come at an average of 115.50. But overall top visiting run getter at Lords is Gary Sobers with 571 runs in 9 innings.

Bairstow - so near
So Kallis has a lot to be disappointed about at Lords. he may well be disappointed that he was never in the position of Johnny Bairstow, out in the 90s with a place on the honours board in reach. Records tell that there are 44 occasions on which a batsman has fallen in the 90s at this ground. some batsmen, including Alistair Cook have been stranded on more than once occasion. Cook has more than compensated for these misfortunes. But what about Brendon McCullum?  The Kiwi has played two Tests at Lords and made it to the nineties both times. Even more frustrated must be 1920s hero Frank Woolley - in the same match against Austraila in 1921 he scored 95 and 93.

There's disappointment and disappointment.  With a career such as his behind him, Kallis has nothing to moan about.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Dandy

Fantasy Bob sees that The Dandy will shortly cease to exist as a printed comic.  There are obituaries in every newspaper for Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat.   Neither was a cricketer of any merit.

FB was never a great consumer of the DC Thomson comics as he was growing up.  He most frequently saw the Dandy or the Beano at the barbers as he waited his turn for the short back and sides.  They were among a carefully selected set of reading material which also included the long lost newsprint weeklies Titbits and Reveille.  As FB approached adolescence these seemed a bit on the racy side containing as they did the occasional photograph of a young lady in a swimsuit.  He still recalls them with that faintly erotic nostalgia.  Times have moved on - on his visits to the barbers nowadays all that is on offer is the Scotsman which, try as he might, FB can never classify as racy.

In his younger days FB was prescribed improving literature rather than comics of little educational merit like the Dandy.  At first this was in the form of a magazine for very young children called Robin.  But then he graduated to Look and Learn, which was very earnest and contained all manner of information about stuff and not a hint of Desperate Dan or Bash Street Kids.  Not much of a hint of cricket either.

Occasional concessions allowed FB to peruse The Eagle, which was an adventure comic and lead with the stirring tales of Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future.  Dan Dare has been described as Biggles in Space, so stiff were the upper lips of he and his colleagues as they vanquished interplanetary foes in particular the Mekon (who bore a slight resemblance to Mornie Morkel).  The Eagle had high standards in art work - among those who were first published in it include Gerald Scarfe and David Hockney.  But it went into decline and ceased publication in 1969.  Perhaps some cricket stories would have helped it.

After tiring of Look and Learn, FB subscribed for many years to a magazine called Finding Out - which was superbly illustrated and was indexed and came with binders to form an encyclopaedia.  It was  dominated by scientific articles, but had its leavening of history and geography.  FB probably still depends on what he read in Finding Out for all he knows about most branches of science.  But he cannot recall any articles of cricketing interest.  Finding Out and Look and Learn merged in 1967.  FB would be surprised if it still was published.

For a short period, FB also took the Hotspur, a more traditional boys comic.  There were football and school stories but also a character called the Wolf of Kabul.  This was set in the North Western Frontier of times passed - the wolf was an undercover British officer but his manservant Chung used a cricket bat (Klicki-Ba) as an offensive weapon when cornered, as he was every week, by bandits and the like.

The Little Pudlington XI

The Hotspur eventually merged with The Victor which carried dedicated cricket stories about the team from the village of Little Pudlington who got so far as touring Australia.  The side was hardly an expression of Britain's drive to modernity in the 1970s - it was run by Colonel Clutterbuck (the Squire) whose gardener, Sid Crocker, was skipper. Among the many challenges it had to face were biased umpires. An original story of The Pudlington side can be found on the excellent website on this link.

Peter Green
Eventually FB tired of all this kids' stuff and moved on to music magazines reading for many years Beat Instrumental which was a monthly glossy publication with extended reviews and interviews with musicians from more progressive bands.  While it had a lot about Fleetwood Mac (in their original incarnation) and guitars and amplifiers, it had precious little about cricket.

In that respect, it and the Dandy had much in common.

Beat Instrumental disappeared in 1980 or thereabouts.


Friday, 17 August 2012

A Parade

Fans are already queueing to cheer Team FB
There is controversy following the decision of the Scottish Government that the victory parade will be in Glasgow.  Most commentators expected that it would be in Edinburgh with a reception at Edinburgh Castle.

Instead Fantasy Bob and the All Star Carlton Fourth XI will be taken through the streets of Glasgow.  The government also confirmed that junior members, who have dominated Fantasy Bob's side this year, will only be charged half fare for the planned bus ride.

Sports fans in the capital have expressed disappointment that they will not be able to cheer Team FB who have done so much to inspire them in this summer of rain, rain and austerity.  Sources suggest that consideration is being given in the City Chambers to an alternative event involving minor figures such as Chris Hoy who will pedal through the old town on an open topped bicycle.  

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Glasgow said, 'See Fantasy Bob, see open top buses, see me, see you, pure dead brilliant an' that.'

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Lords

Famous Archery Venue
to be adapted for other sports
Fantasy Bob understands that the authorities are investigating the practicality of playing cricket on the site of the Olympic Archery Stadium.  Significant adjustments are having to be made to the venue which had to be abandoned for Olympic purposes due to the severe absence of British medals being delivered.

How will cricketers prosper in such unfamiliar surroundings?  There are reports that the South Africans have trained for the extreme challenge posed by the slope at Lords under the guidance of explorer adventurer Mike Horn.  Horn's idea of a gentle stroll is a 2 year walk round the equator, followed by a trek round the Arctic Circle to cool off.  Under his instruction the Saffies hung off various mountains in the Alps and mountain biked up slopes almost as severe as at Lords and were generally very outdoors and very extreme sports.  All about fitness, resilience and team building apparently.  This type of venture seems to be the vogue  for elite performance squads these days.  So much so that  Fantasy Bob has noted Horn's address and may be getting in touch with him to arrange some similar pre-season toughening up for his All Star 4th XI next year.  It is clear that the team's performances have not benefited from the lax pre-season regime although several players underwent extreme resilience training during weekly visits to IKEA.

The Test match, which should be the grand climax to the season has been overshadowed by the Pietersen soap opera.  As far as FB is concerned the ECB did right by dropping him.  But while the affair does not reflect well on Pietersen, he might well be asking what kind of friends his S African textees are who would shop him in such a cowardly way.  Far from honourable.

For this reason FB hopes that England can put the nonsense behind them and get a result.  He congratulates Strauss on his 100th Test appearance and hopes that he can get another century to equal England's record, held jointly by Boycott, Cowdrey and Hammond.  FB assumes that the no spinner idea was Headingley specific.  Swann must be due a 5-fer to add to the one he got at Lords 2 years ago.  FB wishes good luck to Johnny Bairstow in particular - found wanting against W Indian pace it is a big ask for him to step in against Steyn and Morkel who must be licking their lips.

England's backs are against the wall.  Each of them must play to their full potential to come away with a series squaring result.  Just like FB's All Star Fourth XI this weekend.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Macbeth

The Edinburgh Festival has swung into action.  Fantasy Bob is missing net practice to sample the cultural delights.  Later this week he will view the Scottish Play in Polish.  Mentioning the name of the Scottish play in the company of actors is a bit like a cricketer leaving both feet on the ground when Nelson comes up on the scoreboard.  A wicket is bound to fall.  Actors among FB's world wide readership may therefore want to tread delicately over what comes next.
A scene from Macbeth at this year's Edinburgh Festival

Thanks to Shakespeare, Macbeth gets a bad press.  He is the KP of Scottish Kings whose overweaning ambition gives him a propensity for texting insults about his colleagues, leading to blood lust and tyranny.

Shakespeare's account  is wildly innacurate in many respects.  In the true history of Macbeth, today's date, 15 August, is an important day, for it is the day in 1040 he became King of Scotland following his victory over King Duncan on the battlefield during the endless wars and skirmishes that formed Scotland's early history.  17 years later, in 1057, on this same day he was in turn defeated by Malcolm.

Shakespeare has Macbeth murder the sleeping Duncan while a guest in his castle.  It is at this point that the cricketer's ears prick up.  There has until then been nothing of interest to the cricketer, just a lot of stuff about witches and Thane of this that and the other.  Lady Macbeth is also introduced and makes it clear that she is there for more than just making the teas.  She is quite keen that Macbeth be skipper and she proposes to murder old Dunc herself, but cannot do it as in his sleep he looks like her old Dad.  So Macbeth takes up the knives and does the deed.  On returning to his wife, he asks whether she heard anything - she says she that she heard 'an owl scream and a cricket cry.'

Interpreting this passage has its challenges. Shakespeare does not elaborate why a game of cricket was being played in the castle in the dead of night, far less what stage the game had reached. Some commentators are sceptical that there was actually a game in progress and suggest that it was no more than indoor net practice. If this was the case, then what would be the cricket cry - for 'Howzat?' is not uttered at nets with any regularity.

Added to the mystery is that Macbeth was written between 1603 and 1607 some years before cricket is thought to have begun. There is no Wisden for these years. FB has seen many great versions of Macbeth in his career, but none has helped him interpret this passage and no director has been imaginative enough to show any of the cricket to which Lady Macbeth makes reference.

FB is looking forward to the Polish account of this great tragedy to see whether they can shed any light on this sporting mystery.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Closing Ceremony

Fantasy Bob has noted that commentators are divided on the spectacular closing ceremony that took place on Sunday.

Some wonder whether it was necessary to mark the end of Kevin Pietersen's Test career with such an extended presentation in which much of the content bore little apparent relation to any of his major innings.  Others thought that the confusion, the endless noise and the taking itself a bit too seriously evident throughout the show, was a fitting tribute to the troubled star batsman.  Some others said it was all just banter and wondered what the fuss was about.

Some parts of the show were beyond explanation.  The performers strutted their stuff on a floor decorated with words.  FB assumes that some of these were selected from Pietersen's calamitous text messages, but there was no confirmation from any S African source on this.

For Fantasy Bob, the show peaked at Ray Davies' performance of Waterloo Sunset, presumably reminding KP that he seems to have reached his Waterloo; and then briefly again with Eric Idle encouraging Pietersen to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life; before reaching its cacophonous climax in a series of fireworks which reverse swept their way round the stadium.   By contrast, for the Spice Girls to regale KP by asking him What He Really Wants, just seemed cruel.  But a wider sadistic streak was not far from the surface when Russell Brand appeared for no good reason.  However spectators sighed with relief - it could have been Piers Morgan.

So after 2 momentous weeks of interviews, texts, YouTube presentations and a monumental innings at Headingley, the circus is over.  It is up to others now to ensure that the legacy is fulfilled.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Team FB

And suddenly it's gone in a puff of fireworks and Spice Girls
So the Olympic Games are now over and Fantasy Bob, along with the rest of the population, must turn again to face the challenges of everyday reality.  FB is still sceptical as to whether £9bn truly for a scintillating fortnight of action represents value for money, and will wait and see how all the talk of legacy turns out.  But it has been a great occasion with great achievements.  So no moaning at the back please.

FB says well done to all those medallists and to those who got so near to but so far from glory and to those who got personal bests.  The hard work starts now for the next event.

Here is Team FB, a select XI drawn from 2012's 29 British gold medallists each of whom has given FB particular inspiration.

Team FB

Mo Farah - 5,000m and 10,000m - in FB's mind the outstanding achievement of the Games  - 2 hard races where the mind game and knowing what to do and when to do it was as important as the stamina and the speed over the ground.

Kathleen Grainger - women's double sculls (with Anna Watkins) - a latter day Robert the Bruce - try try and try again.  Virtue finally rewarded.

Jessica Ennis - heptathlon - took the additional pressure of being the face of the games in her stride - supreme performance in several of the events the hurdles in particular

Timothy Baillie - C-2 slalom (with Etienne Stott) -  FB's fellow-Aberdonian canoeist who dominated the white water - then had a memorable victory celebration in the water.

Ben Ainslie - Finn Class Sailing - 4 golds in a row - match racer supreme - needed to get angry by being cut up in an early race in the series.

Jade Jones - Taekwondo - FB has never seen Taekwondo before - but the Headhunter got him engaged.  But if he tried the reverse spin to the head himself intensive medical treatment would be required.

Alistair Brownlee - Triathlon - stamina itself and what a come back from a severe achilles tendon injury earlier this year - apparently a pool built in his garden was an essential to his recovery.  FB is investigating the potential for a similar installation to assist his recovery from a long spell up the hill against the wind.  He has bought a spade.

Sophie Hosking - women's lightweight double sculls (with Katharine Copeland) - bubbly young presence - the look on her face after winning told it all.

Greg Rutherford - long jump - unexpected and triumphant - the most open and excited post event interview and it sealed the wonder of the first Saturday of competition.

Laura Trott - cycling women's omnium, and team pursuit - another bubbly youngster who could end up with more gold than Hoy and Pendleton combined.

Chris Hoy - cycling, keirin and team sprint - no more to be said - the supreme competitor of his time.

Close to selection were all the other medallists, the equestrians and the boxers were supreme.  Andy Murray and the feisty Nicola Adams who make the squad of 13.  They will face FB's XI selected from previous Olympians in a 29 over match some time before 2016.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Too Fast to Tax

Fantasy Bob is pleased to note that the UK Government has confirmed that non resident athletes coming to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will benefit form the same tax exemption that has applied to athletes at the Olympic Games.

Under UK tax rules, any non-resident athlete is subject to income tax on their appearance fee and any associated worldwide endorsement payments. But the Government waived the rule to attract the best talent to the Olympics and has revealed the tax break will be available for Commonwealth Games competitors and those taking part in the World Championships in London in 2017.

Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander said: "Everyone wants to see the best athletes compete at Glasgow 2014 and this exemption will make that more likely."

Fantasy Bob is not a resident of Glasgow therefore he is pleased that this exemption will mean that he is now able to make himself available for the 2014 event.  Of course, like all other elite performers money is not his primary motivation, he is concerned only about performance.  Unlike some stars, such as Usain Bolt, he has never missed an athletics meeting in London because of tax laws his advisers believed were too restrictive.

Too fast to tax

Commentators have said that it is essential that FB appears at the Commonwealth Games to inspire a generation of children.  A spokesperson for the Games said 'There is so much he can show them about eating empire biscuits.  It will be an essential part of the legacy.'

Fantasy Bob understands that there has been some confusion as to whether these tax breaks apply in the Ibrox area of Glasgow.  Some commentators contend that no tax law was ever intended to apply in this area.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Call Off

Anton Late Call-off
Perhaps it is the fact that at this time in the season the Edinburgh Festival is about to get under way and Auld Reekie’s atmosphere is heavy with anticipation of the international drama programme. Perhaps it is the fact that at this time in the season Fantasy Bob is growing weary of the Friday night scramble to complete the line up for the pressing weekend fixtures. This year, many players seem to have been lost in the floods of the wettest summer on record and rescue parties have yet to reach them.  There is no more telling expression of the human condition than to believe at 6pm that he has a full team to receive at 10pm texts from 2 players saying that they are no longer available.

Whatever the reason, it is at this time of the season that FB seeks inspiration in the works of the great Russian dramatist Anton Late Call-off.

Call-off is frequently confused with his great contemporary Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904), perhaps FB’s all time favourite playwright even though cricket is not featured in his work. But Call-off’s work, if less well known than Chekhov's, is worthy of a cricketer’s attention. His plays are tragic and comic, stuffed with character studies and redolent with descriptions of societies in transition. They provide profound insights into the human condition and the circumstances facing every cricket club. Here is a summary of his greatest plays:

The Three Sisters – The sisters are bored in a provincial town and dream of life elsewhere where they will be fulfilled. ‘Next year Moscow’ they say to each other at various points throughout the play as the everyday reality of their situation and the social nexus in which they live conspires to make escape impossible. Their house is mortgaged by their brother and his wife asserts domination of the home. The officers and soldiers who made their lives entertaining leave, there is a fire in the town. At repeated points in the action the sisters receive texts from friends and possible lovers to tell them that they are no longer available and have to call off from tomorrow’s fixture.

The Cherry Orchard - The play concerns an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to the family's estate (which includes a large and well-known cherry orchard) just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. While presented with options to save the estate, the family does nothing for reasons of misplaced pride in their status or apathetic procrastination. The play ends with the estate being sold to the son of a former serf, but just as he is about to chop the cherry orchard down he texts them say he is no longer available and has to call-off from tomorrow’s fixture.

The Seagull  - Why is it you always wear black? - I’m in mourning for my life. I’m unhappy.

Perhaps the greatest opening lines in drama, but they were discarded by Call-off who revised them to say Why is it you always wear pads? – I want to bat number 3 but am always 11. I’m unhappy.
In this play Constantine Treplef, seeks new forms of expression. He is tired of the old academic ways, dismissive of convention and despairs that no one apparently capable of an original thought. He has written a play; the principal part is to be acted by Nina, a beautiful girl with whom he is in love. He arranges the first performance to take place on the occasion of his mother's, a famous actress, holiday in the country. There is tension between her superficiality and Constantine’s earnest vision. At the climax of the drama just as his play is about to get underway, Constantine receives a text from Nina in which she says she is no longer available and has to call-off from tomorrow’s fixture.

Anton Late Call-off – Test Match Quality

Friday, 10 August 2012

Bolt


The race for the coolest man on the planet was won in style last night by Usain Bolt.  He won by a significant margin from Chris Gayle with Fantasy Bob a distant third.  A fantastic performance (Bolt's that is not FB's).

Both Bolt and Gayle come from Jamaica.  Fantasy Bob visited Jamaica some years ago, but very little of the coolness rubbed off on him.

It is well known that Bolt showed promise as a teenage cricketer, before his huge potential at coolness was discovered.  Indeed Bolt has the distinction of dismissing Chris Gayle in  a charity match in Jamaica.  However Chris Gayle has never managed to beat Bolt in a footrace.

An all time Jamaican XI could well be the coolest team ever:

Chris Gayle
Lawrence Rowe
George Headley
Marlon Samuels
Jeff Dujon
Wavell Hinds
Jackie Hendricks
Michael Holding
Jerome Taylor
Alf Valentine
Courtney Walsh

Cool enough not to need Usain Bolt as a runner.

Jamaica - one love.


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Larrikins


Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin was born 90 years ago today, 9 August.  In 2008, The Times identified him as Britain’s greatest post war writer.  (Fantasy Bob’s career was still dormant at that time which gave them a restricted choice of nomination).  He died in 1985.

Larkin’s most celebrated works are 2 collections of poems, The Whitsun Wedding and High Windows which speak with a distinct voice of nostalgia and disappointment, identifying the everyday through a distinct gaze of pessimism.  His most famous verse is found in a poem called Annus Mirabilis published in 1967

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Given his poetic voice it is a surprise that cricket, redolent as it is with nostalgia and disappointment, did not feature as a subject in his poetry.  Fantasy Bob is aware of only two cricketing references in his work. The first comes in To the Sea, a poem in the High Windows collection.  In this poem he describes his idealised memories of being on the beach as a child and comparing them with the less idealised beach he encounters now. Among the childhood memories he records ‘As when, happy at being on my own,/I searched the sand for Famous Cricketers,’ a reference to finding cigarette cards discarded on the beach by careless adults. (Litter was an issue even as he recalls it. ) Famous Cricketers cards originated in the late 1890s and different series ran up until the Second World War when they were discontinued to save paper and were never reintroduced.  Valued then, they are highly collectable items now but for Larkin a symbol of a past disappeared.

The other cricketing reference in Larkin’s work that FB is aware of is in his poem MCMXIV which describes a photograph of a scene on the outbreak of the First World War with the men waiting to sign up for the Forces ‘Standing as patiently/As if they were stretched outside/The Oval or Villa Park’ What they were about to encounter was no sporting activity, they were embarking on.  As the poem’s devastating last line says ‘Never such innocence again.’

Larkin’s reputation remains a subject of disagreement. Some find his poems too downbeat and too conventional in form. Others objected to the racism seen in the post-mortem publication of his letters (though not evident in his poems). More information about his serial womanising also came to light and put the lie to the claim in his most famous lines quoted above that ‘it was too late for me’, for he had been at it since well before 1963 in a manner that would have left him little time for net practice. But he remains a great writer – even though having little to interest cricketers.

Wayne Larkins meanwhile is not a poet of any merit, but a fine cricketer. The former Northants opening batsman is another player of the 1980-90s who might have achieved more than he did.  His Test call ups came at the wrong time.  In all he had 13 Test matches scoring a modest 493 runs at 20.54, and 25 ODIs. In his First Class career he scored 27,142 runs in 482 matches, with 59 centuries and a highest score of 252. His first spell in the Test side ended when he ill advisedly went on a rebel tour to South Africa. He was brought back in 1990-91 to partner Graham Gooch in the West Indies and Australia but with limited success. But Larkins could demolish any attack - he was Sehwag before Sehwag had been invented. His nick name was Ned and county bowlers of the period referred to being Nedded when he took them apart - as he frequently did.

Always a bit of a lad, a smoker and bar room stalwart throughout his career, Larkins' post cricket life is not particularly edifying as he was convicted of illegally gaining a mortgage for which he received a suspended sentence.

Larkin and Larkins – in many ways a couple of Larrikins.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The difficulty of being FB


Fantasy Bob could have written his last match report for go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton.

"I can't give any assurances that the next match report won't be my last," he said. "I'd like to carry on but there are obstacles that need to be worked out.'

While there has been speculation for some time that FB has found the demands of the Carlton schedule unsettling, particularly the expectation that he completes a match report for matches that are not played or are abandoned. But with vital match reports coming up, Carlton's management have stood firm and said that he cannot pick and choose what match reports to complete.   There are unconfirmed reports that disciplinary measures are being considered which would see FB deprived of empire biscuits for the rest of the season.

Views are divided in the cricket world on this issue. Many think that this is just another temperamental outburst by FB, drawing attention to himself at a time when the Carlton 4th XI should be working together for the vital last matches of the season. They consider that no one match reporter is bigger than the team.  They suggest that FB's endless variations on the joke of how little, or great, was the margin of his winning, or losing, the toss, or his speculation about Gustav Mahler's bowling action does nothing for team morale.   Others have noted his world class match report for Saturday's cancelled fixture confirmed his true class. Not only was the match cancelled, but FB was not in Edinburgh and he still completed a stunning match report - after a quiet paragraph, FB upped the jokes to words ratio and was totally dominant at the close.  To them his joke about the toss is critical to the team's performance.

Carlton's management were mystified by this latest controversy concerning their blogging superstar.  A spokesman for the club said, 'Who does he think he is?  Kevin Pietersen?' 

Who does he think he is?  Fantasy Bob
FB was unavailable for comment last night.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Monte Cassino

Monte Cassino after a bombing raid
Fantasy Bob notes with interest that a feature film based on the Second World War battle of Monte Cassino is about to enter production. The film will be directed by John Irvin who has previously directed a number of action and war films including Hamburger Hill and The Dogs of War, although FB mostly remembers him for the excellent TV adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the 1970s.

Monte Cassino is considered to be one of the bloodiest battles of the war.  It took place in 1944 when the Allies were moving through Italy pushing the Germans back. They held the hilltop Abbey against repeated assaults and bombing for almost 6 months. In the course of the battle there were 20,000 German and 55,000 Allied casualties. It still raises controversy today - particlarly about the Allied decision to bomb what was regarded as a jewel of architectural heritage and the extent of casualties attributable to friendly fire. FB is only glad he was not called to upon to bat on such a wicket.

Reports suggest that the film will be based on the story of an American soldier who survived the battle and the nurse who cared for him. Some displays of emotion can therefore be expected unlike the stiff upper lip approach preferred in British war films of the middle of the last century.  Where is Jack Hawkins when you need him?

Cricketers may regret that the producers of the film seem to have fallen for the need for romantic and sentimental interests in this way. For there is a side to Monte Cassino which is of interest to the cricketer.

There is a long list of Test and First class Cricketrs who fell during the Second World War. A number of those fell in the Italian campaign of whom the most reknowned is the Yorkshire and England slow bowler Hedley Verity. No First Class Cricketer fell at Monte Cassino, but cricketers were involved in the battle.

Alexander Wilkinson DSO, MC and Bar, GM was born in 1892. He had a long and productive cricket career. While he never played county cricket, he played 89 First Class matches scoring 4785 runs at 31.48. His last First Class match was for MCC against Oxford University in 1939. He was a career soldier and served in the First World War gaining the Military Cross in 1917. He was also shot in the hand, narrowly avoiding having it amputated. Although it remained greatly weakened subsequently he could still hold a bat and limited his fielding on his right side. The vast majority of his First Class appearances were subsequent to his injury.
The Distinguished Service Order

He had retired in 1933 but was called up again at the beginning of the war with the rank of Lt Colonel. He gained the George Medal for rescuing an injured man from a mine field. At Monte Cassino he gained the
Distinguished Service Order for singlehandledly restoring a smoke screen across a bridge being used by the attacking forces. He was then aged 50. He finally retired from the military in 1947 and died in 1983.

He sounds to FB like a bit of a hero - and a decent bat.  Just the subject for a blockbuster.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Tattoos

Nick Symmonds
Fantasy Bob is not a great fan of tattoos.  In fact he generally recoils from the thought or sight of them.  Participants in many sports seem to take a different view and heavily inked bodies and limbs are continually on display. During the recent Euro 12 football tournament, he supported the less tattooed team playing in any particular match, and there seemed some correlation between success and level of tattooing, for the eventual winners Spain were one of the teams with cleaner skin.  He expects managers to take account of this in future selections.

Cricket too is infested with this peculiar taste.  Dale Steyn too sports some peculiar design on his upper arm and KP's art work has been on display for some time.  The arms of Jade Dernbach or Mitchell  Johnston really shouldn't be shown on prime time TV.  In FB's view things would be a lot better if they were required to play in long sleeves and it si about time the ICC acted o this issue.

Repelled as he is by the practice, FB nevertheless notes the approach of US 800 metre runner Nick Symmonds who auctioned space on his left arm for a temporary tattoo to advertise a sponsor.  The winning bidder was a Milwaukee advertising agency, which paid $11,000 for the space to advertise its Twitter handle.  Symmonds will be competing in London - he reached the semi final in Beijing - will his sponsorship assist him in getting a stage further this time round?  The heavy branding restrictions of the Olympic Games mean that he has to tape over the tattoo but it has been seen at other events where Symmonds has run this season.

Having considered the matter carefully, FB thinks Symmonds may be on to something and has decided to auction space on his body to a commercial sponsor in a similar manner.  With the cricket season rapidly reaching its final stages, there are limited opportunities to exploit FB's exposure to the vast crowds who follow the fortunes of his Carlton All Star 4th XI, so he expects competition to be keen to secure this prestigious.  There are no branding restrictions at Grange Loan or other grounds that FB can be expected to play.  FB would particularly welcome bids from manufacturers and purveyors of empire biscuits.  There is a natural partnership which will be to mutual benefit.  For the information of bidders, FB is willing to accept payment in empire biscuits. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Headingley

Headingley Carnegie Cricket Ground
Fantasy Bob is at Headingley.  His worldwide readership will be familiar with the progress of the Test Match so he will not dwell on it here.

Here are some facts about the famous old ground.

Of the 26 innings over 300 in Test cricket 3 have been scored at Headingley.  This is a distinction it shares with St Johns in Antigua.  Bradman scored 300 twice in Headingley - in 1930 and 1934.  John Edrich scored the third in 1965.  Bradman's Test average at Headingley is 192.

Fred Trueman took 44 wickets here in 9 Tests, but the most successful bowler could be considered to be Malcolm Marshall who played 4 Tests here and took 23 wickets.

Pure Gold
The area of Headingley provided the locations for one of Fantasy Bob's all time favourite TV series, the Beiderbecke Affair,  the Beiderbecke Tapes and the Beiderbecke Connection.  This trilogy was produced by Yorkshire TV and scripted by Alan Plater.  James Bolam and Barbara Flynn were the leading actors.  FB cannot recommend it too highly (the episodes are available on YouTube).  It is pure gold.

The cricket ground itself featured as a location in Episode 4 of the Beiderbecke Connection with a match proceeding in the background.  FB suspects the match was Yorkshire v Sir Lanka which was played between 10 and 12 August 1988.   Sri Lanka are seen batting.  The match itself was drawn - Martin Moxon scored 132 and Kevin Sharp 128 for Yorkshire; Amal Silva got 112 for the Sri Lankans.  In those days Sri Lanka were only granted one Test match which duly took place at Lords 2 weeks later.  England won by 7 wickets.  That match saw Jack Russell make his Test debut.  Put in as night watchman he scored 94, his highest first class score and the highest innings in the match.


Saturday, 4 August 2012

Grainger

Fantasy Bob welcomes the gold medal all supporters of Team FB wished to see.  Many congratulations to Katherine Grainger and her partner Anna Watkins as they led from start to finish in the women's double sculls yesterday.  Raw emotion from start to finish as well.  Could her 3 silvers be topped off with a gold?


FB often thinks that a spell bowling up the hill against the wind is pretty tough on the physique.  But rowing is another dimension.  FB did the real thing for a year while he was idling away his post graduate studies at an institution of higher learning on the Thames.  And very enjoyable it was too - he remembers the serene beauty of the river in the early morning with great affection.  It is a mystery to him how he was not spotted by the Great Britain coaches and groomed to be another Steve Redgrave.  This is just one of many mysteries in FB's lengthy sporting career.

Rowing requires whole body fitness in a way that no other sport that FB has encountered does.  And racing requires everything to be given - the pictures of the crews at the end of their races tell their own story.  They are spent.  The rowing machine in the gym can still be a brutal experience.  Grainger and Watkins stroked 40 strokes per minute in the last dash for the line.  FB can manage this on the rowing machine for about 10 seconds and the machine just about takes off from the floor.  But the rowers have to balance and steer their boat as well.

Boathouses on the River Dee Aberdeen

Katherine says she first learned to row on the River Dee in Aberdeen.  So did FB - well almost.  When FB was a kid, there were rowing boats for hire on the Dee from the foreshore under Torry.  FB occasionally ventured forth.  The Dee is relatively speaking a fast flowing river, and the water is not the warmest.  In those far off days there was a different approach to safety and there was no thought of life jackets or any such nonsense.  Fortunately FB and his chums never fell in.  But it was poor grounding for FB's future as an Olympic rower and may well explain his being overlooked when he graced the Isis.

But all that doesn't matter - well done Team FB.  Well done Katherine Grainger, Olympic champion.  Heroine du nos jours.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Finn's Knee

Dead Ball
Fantasy Bob did not witness the incident of Finn's Knee at Headingley yesterday when umpire Steve Davis determined a dead ball when Steve Finn disturbed the stumps at the non-striker's end in his bowling action. Had the ball not been so disallowed, Smith would have been out caught at slip.

In a statement later the MCC said that the umpire's decision was made in accordance with law 23.4(b)vi which states that the umpire shall call dead ball when, 'The striker is distracted by any noise or movement or in any other way while he is preparing to receive, or receiving a delivery. This shall apply whether the source of the distraction is within the game or outside it. The ball shall not count as one of the over.'

This was not the only ball to be called dead during the day for Finn was demolishing the stumps at his end like a man possessed. But Graeme Smith was so distracted by the others that he clumped them for four - not that the runs or the ball stood. But the MCC statement acknowledged this point and said that they would review this law.

It is as well they do.  They should also consider taking evidence from FB who knows a thing or two about dead balls.  For if this rule were strictly applied in the lower leagues that Fantasy Bob inhabits, no ball would ever be deemed other than dead, so distracted are all the batsmen by a range of factors within the game or outside it.  Indeed FB has never knowingly faced a ball without being distracted.  Sometimes he is distracted by the fact that it is a straight one, indeed these seem to be the most distracting of all balls.  He finds too late in his career that they were all properly dead balls.  Had his umpires properly read the rules like Mr Davis, there is no telling the number of runs he might have accumulated.

In lower league cricket umpires generally throw themselves with some enthusiasm into signalling dead balls when the situation demands - when the bowler drops the ball in his run up, when he falls over in his run up, or when he just stops because he too has been distracted. It is obvious to all that no ball has been bowled but the umpire goes into an energetic St Vitus' dance in which his arms become a flurry and the risk of back injury is extreme.  Umpires get particularly agitated on windy days when the bails are blown off, until the umpire decides that he's tired himself out with all that arm waving and the bails are lodged in his pocket for the duration and everyone hopes that there is no run out with the stumps having to be hauled out of the ground in a manner consistent with the laws. 

But the Finn incident gives a new factor that the lower league umpire has not previously considered. Cries of Howsat? on Edinburgh's Meadows this weekend which last week would have elicited the raised finer may well be met with the crossed arm signal. 'Caught behind you think?  No sorry the batsman was obviously distracted by the sound of [delete where applicable] the traffic passing, the traffic not passing, the sound of bongo drums, the sound of the Lady boys of Bangkok warming up on the adjacent space, the sight of the Lady boys of Bangkok warming up anywhere,  the siren of the police car, the police chasing a group of hoodies across the ground, anyone of twenty two mobile phones which might go off at any moment with gratingly inappropriate ring tones, the screams of hoodies set upon by police but asserting their right under the European Convention, any other not listed above. 

FB has encountered many a bowler with Finn like tendencies to demolish the wickets in their bowling action.    Over many years he has come to recognise that he too is at risk.  Bowlers can shoulder charge the umpire as part of their action, or whip him in the face with a leading or trailing arm.  Those who barge with the greatest venom are frequently those who in coming on to bowl have given FB very specific instructions as to where to stand.  FB now realises that this is not for the purpose of ensuring that he is not in their way - just the opposite.  He is carefully positioned into the exact spot where the bowler can mow him down.  So great is the risk with some sides that FB has considered wearing body armour for his umpiring spells.  A strange variant of this happened this season when FB was asked to stand well to the side of the stumps to avoid being mowed down - the bowler then appealed for LBW at every turn with FB at an angle of 45 degrees to the stumps.

If lower league umpires applied law 23.4(b)vi, matches would never finish.  It is therefore as well that the MCC review it.

But all this is a distraction - proof, if proof be needed of the state of FB's mind at the crease.  Not out distracted.

Finn's Knee - not a remake of Eric Rohmer's charming  1971 film.