Friday, 21 September 2012

Apologies

Nick Clegg has apologised.  At length.  Profusely. On YouTube, no less. But it's no good.  He was still excluded from England's Tour Party for India.  There are rumours that he is in contract talks for the Big Bash, but it is unclear whether this refers to the Australian T20 competition or what his supporters intend to do to him at the imminent Party conference.

It is all very well for top level cricketers such as Clegg and Pietersen to issue filmed apologies and to make a bit of a meal of it.  This leaves lower league cricketers uncertain as to when they can apologise and how best to do so.  For it is unlikely that they will face concerns about  their abandonment of election promises or their propensity to tweet suggestions to South African bowlers about how to dismiss their skipper.   Opposition players have all too readily worked out how to dismiss Fantasy Bob's team.  Any player therefore tweeting suggestions would simply be wasting tweeting time.  Not necessarily something to apologise about.

But for cricketers who are uncertain, here are the situations in which apologies are appropriate and indeed obligatory.

The run out - the call of 'Yes...No...Sorry' has an inbuilt apology and needs no further explanation.  It is infinitely adaptable to a wide variety of situations.  Sometimes it is reversed so that it runs 'No...Yes... Sorry.'  But it is rarely that the sorry comes first.  Cricketers finding a batting partner inclined to use sorry as his first call might well spend the afternoon firmly in their crease.  On many occasions, the basic structure of this call can be interrupted by other comments, observations about the futility and absurdity of life or the dubious parentage of the batting partner.  It is often developed by creative players into a full dialogue; 'yes' and 'no' can sound between them with astonishing rapidity leading to a cry of 'sorry' in perfect unison.  Musicologists suspect that Gustav Mahler arranged a version of this for soloists and choir, but the manuscript appears to have been lost.

The LBW - it is a scene that is repeated week after week.  A lower league umpire will startle from his reverie at the call of 'Howzat'.  He has no idea what has just taken place but in a spirit of sportsmanship he will raise his finger.  His team mate 22 yards distant will look incredulously at him - point at his thigh, point at his foot outside the leg stump, point at a mark on the wicket further outside the leg stump, look heaven-wards and trudge off.  At the innings end the umpire returns to the dressing a room and breezily says to his victim, 'Sorry, buddy.  You had to go.  Plum as plum.'  His victim demonstrates considerable restraint before asking whether it was the fact that the ball pitched outside leg stump or caused a nasty bruise on his hip bone about 2 feet above stump height that rendered that particular ball plum.  Apologies in these circumstances may never be fully accepted.  Batters become obsessed with which of their team mates is likely to be umpiring when they bat and many a lower league batting order is mystifying to the observer until this factor is taken into account.

The drop -   Lower league cricketers are not unfeeling.  They know that not all chances will be taken.  When a player has dived six feet to his left and stuck out his hand in an heroic attempt to hold on to a ball travelling at the speed of sound 2 feet above ground only to see it fall to the ground, the may have some sympathy.  Unless they are the bowler.  A bowler expects every connection of bat on ball to deliver a catch.  'Catch it' he will scream on every delivery.  A complete pointless instruction.  Players are generally aware of that part of the game so the instruction is otiose.  They know what they are meant to do.  Unfortunately there can be a gap between intention and execution and having some lunatic scream 'Catch it', just as you cup your hands in the path of the ball is the surest way for you not to catch it.  This has been scientifically proved.  But in such situations, there are  different schools of thought about how to behave.  Some will wait to the end of the over and approach the bowler personally with a remorseful apology.   They may offer some explanation which will boost the bowler's ego - spinning too hard for me or too much pace are the most obvious. Some will think it inappropriate to talk directly to the bowler but will communicate an apology to the skipper thus making him share the guilt.  A better skipper would have placed such a hopeless fielder nowhere near where a catch would go.  Others will stand on the spot of the crime and beat their breast and fall to lamentations and self recriminations.  Generally the bowler finds that the last option is most pleasing, and many will encourage self immolation or hari kiri.

Fantasy Bob hopes cricketers find this guidance helpful.  A good apology can make a game.  It will certainly set up an enjoyable drink in the bar at the end of play.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Aarr again

Aarr -  International Pirate Day.

Who can forget how Fantasy Bob celebrated this important day this time last year? Who can forget?  Just about everybody.

But FB is looking for some acts of piracy in the T20 World Cup.  Ireland couldn't get the Aussies anywhere near the plank far less get them to walk it.  Afghanistan got nearer the buried treasure against India but still ended up down among the deadmen.  Who can give the black spot to one of the big boys?




Monday, 17 September 2012

Depression

Iain O'Brien
Fantasy Bob notes the growing concern about cricketers'mental health.   There seem to be increasing numbers of players acknowledging that they have problems.  Former NZ paceman Iain O'Brien confronted the brittleness of his own psychology last year and has written openly and eloquently about it.  Last week Tim Ambrose and Darren Cousins spoke to Steve James about their own demons.  A couple of years ago Mike Yardy left an England tour with psychological problems.  Further back there are the tribulations of Marcus Trescothick, Peter Roebuckand David Bairstow.

David Frith's book Silence of the Heart: Cricket Suicides, first published in 2001, contends that cricket is the sport with the most frequent suicide rate. He suggests that the game promotes thought patterns and anxiety levels required to tumble the vulnerable into depression. There may be a correlation between the type of personality attracted by cricket and the propensity to depression, and at the top level cricket is a particularly difficult environment. The long periods away from home - Australia's cricketers will spend an average of 44 weeks in every year on the road. The stress of individual performance within a team context. It is also possible to draw an analogy with Major League Baseball players who have been shown to be two and a half times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the American male population.

This is thought provoking and disturbing.  Supporters are used to seeing players leave the game permanently or temporarily for all manner of physical injury.  But mental injury is less well understood.  Careful player management should help and psychological support alongside all the other support structures for elite players seems likely to grow in importance.

The lower league cricketer can also be prone to depression, for one in six of the population is likely to succumb to the condition at some time in their life.  For everyone who finds cricket a release from the cares of everyday life there will be another who may find their demons follow them into the changing room and playing field.  They deserve all the support they can get.

Teams of sports psychologist may not be on hand to the lower league player.  Fantasy Bob is therefore grateful that the enlightened Scottish baker Goodfellow and Steven has developed what could be the miracle cure.



 The empire biscuit with a smiley face.  

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Friday, 14 September 2012

A change of pace

A glorious end
to the
golden summer of sport
Two years ago to the day the first substantive post appeared on this blog.  Since then there have been 768 posts including this one. There has been at least one post each day since then - Fantasy Bob's mastery of all things technical has meant that there have been posts even when FB has been elsewhere.  A stunning achievement?

768 is more than any batsman has ever scored in any innings.  It may be more than Fantasy Bob has scored in his entire career.

Fantasy Bob therefore thinks he is due a wee rest.  Time to take his sweater from the umpire and graze for a bit at fine leg before coming back to sweep up the tail.  FB needs some thinking time.  For the next innings, his posts will therefore be less regular than daily.  There is no guarantee that they will be more thoughtful than they have been but it is worth a try.

FB is grateful  to his worldwide readership of 3 for their patience.  To their number must be added a faithful but shadowy audience of spam sites and bots who seem to find his witterings irresistible but ensure that FB has no idea what his real readership is.

In common with all cricket writing over the last 2 years, the most frequently occurring name in this blog has been Kevin Pietersen.  FB leaves it to others to follow the next twist in this sad tale.  If KP's innings at Headingley is his last great effort on the big stage, then FB is only too pleased to have witnessed every stroke of it.  It was truly great.

Mahler -
could he have helped KP?
But KP's domination was not FB's intention when he set out 2 years ago.  His primary objective was to examine from all sides the many controversies surrounding Gustav Mahler's bowling action, including the radical suggestion that he did not have one.  But where has Mahler featured in this blog?  How has he been treated?  Shamefully.  Indeed while Wagner and Beethoven and Mozart have featured from time to time, as have several others who can only be described as pop musicians, Mahler is notable by his absence.  FB's lack of attention to the great symphonist is something that is of deep concern in the higher levels of the MCC.  If nothing else Mahler could teach Kevin Pietersen a thing or two about orchestration.  KP's attempts to orchestrate opinion have been unsuccessful.

Fantasy Bob sees all around challenging issues facing cricketers across the world. Too many questions, not enough answers.  Cricketers will have to make up their own minds on these issues without FB's guidance.  His brain hurts. For instance, they must work out for themselves who in their right minds would buy a book written by Stuart Broad or Jimmy Anderson?

But the key question to end this golden summer of sport is far more vital -  can Vaughany's knees survive the Latin section of Strictly Come Dancing?


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Glenrothes

The dancing in the streets of Glenrothes just goes on and on.

Hot on the heels of the victory of Glenrothes CC at the weekend in the play-off for a place in the Cricket Scotland League next season, comes news that Glenrothes has been named the cleanest, most beautiful community in Scotland by the environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful.

This is a big turn around for Glenrothes was named the most dismal place in Scotland in the 2009 Carbuncles Awards. But impressive efforts by the Council and community together have turned that image around. There have been anti-litter campaigns and flowers planted here there and everywhere. Last year the town won gold in the RHS Britain in Bloom competition.

Britain in Bloom carries a special meaning to Fantasy Bob. For when he was growing up in Aberdeen the city annually won its class in the competition. Its displays of roses along its ring road were the stuff of dreams and its parks a source of great pride. So predictable was its annual victory that the city was eventually banned from entering.

The step up to the national cricket leagues will also be a big fillip to the town. Fantasy Bob recalls with great affection playing in Glenrothes many times, although not recently.

His trips to the Fife town preceded sat-nav and other aids to navigation. In those days drivers were on their own, and finding the cricket ground presented an annual challenge equivalent to tracing the source of the Nile. There was something in common. A river is involved in each venture.

The Glenrothes cricket ground was variably named Town Park or Hippo Park (due to the equipment in the play park, although at several points in a season such as this the aquatic animals would have felt well at home) or Riverside Park.

As a new town Glenrothes was, like all its peers, designed by a roundabout fetishist. Fantasy Bob and his team mates knew that the ground was near a roundabout - but which one? After a half hour circulating identical roundabouts, Fantasy Bob would pluck up courage to ask a local for directions.

'Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the cricket ground?'

'The what?'

'The cricket ground.'

Blank Look

'Town Park.'

Blanker look.

'Riverside Park.'

Even blanker look.

'Hippo Park.'

'Oh, Hippo Park, where the cricket is. Why didn't you say so. It's............it's. ..............'

FB's interlocutor was clearly struggling. He would face one way, then the other. He would orient to the sun. He was troubled. There was nothing for it, assistance was required. At this point in the dialogue there would invariably pass a young mother labouring behind a push chair inhabited by a screaming infant. It was often with ill grace that she would stop, and a firm instruction to the infant to calm himself would be necessary. The infant would simply scream louder on receiving this trenchant encouragement from his mother.

FB's acquaintance of some time would explain the quandary.

'He wints the Hippo Park.'

A loud scream from the infant.
'Where?'

'Ken - Riverside Park.

A louder scream.
'Where?'

'Town Park.'

Adjacent windows are shattered by the infant's scream.

Eh?'

'Where the cricket is.'

The infant is pacified.

'Oh, where the cricket is why didn't you say so. It's...it's..........'

Once it is located, Riverside Park nestles in a pretty location. Its proximity to the river presents a challenge to the doughty groundsman in preparing a hard fast wicket. In a season such as this year, the challenge was immense. FB remembers a string of close matches - never high scoring but close and competitive.

Good luck to Glenrothes in the SCL East next year and good luck and well done to all the flower planters.
Riverside Park Glenrothes


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

1936 all over again

Murray with trophy
Fantasy Bob joins assorted politicians and commentators in congratulating Andy Murray for his momentous victory in the US Open.

As has been reported continually, Murray is the first British winner of a men's grand slam tournament since Fred Perry won the same tournament in 1936.  Like Murray's match that contest went to 5 sets with Perry securing the final set 10-8.  But with no transatlantic communications Brits could go to bed at a sensible time and wait for the news of the outcome in the morning.  There was no reason to tweet every five minutes about Perry's progress.  Those who tried were sorely disappointed in the absence of retweets.

Perry with trophy
Nor did Perry have an aborted T20 contest to compete with for the nation's sporting attention.  England's 9 over joust with S Africa was just the thing for those who complain that even T20 lasts too long.  FB struggles to see the point of T20 at the best of times - exactly what the point of a N9 was escapes him.  The weather gods obviously agreed, but not before they had enjoyed Amla smacking England's bowlers about yet again.

Murray's final lasted just under 5 hours - considerably longer than the usual T20 and not far off the duration of a 50 over match.  Obviously this is far too long and the tennis authorities will have to compress the match - 20 serves each player should be enough.  They could call it T20 (Tennis 20).

In 1936 First Class cricket finished on 8 September with the final overs of the Scarborough and Folkestone Festivals.  In Scarborough Leveson-Gower's XI drew with a MCC Touring Australians XI; there was the same result in Folkestone between the Players and  the Gentlemen.

But the competitive season had finished on 1 September.  Derbyshire were County Champions, the only time in their history that they achieved that honour.   This year they have been promotion contenders in Division 2 of the Championship.

But if Derbyshire were unfamiliar victors, the players topping the averages had a very familiar ring to them.  Walter Hammond topped the batting averages 2107 runs at 56.94) and Harold Larwood the bowling averages (119 wickets at 12.97).

Many congratulations to Andy Murray - and belated congratulations to Derbyshire and Fred Perry.

It's Over

It's over, it's over, it's over.

This refrain is dominating the airwaves as the so called glorious summer of sport comes to an end.  Not a glorious summer of sport for Andrew Strauss perhaps, now ex-England captain.  Not a glorious summer for KP.  Nor even a glorious summer for FB, for whom the continuous rain reduced his opportunities for that exceptional innings.  But a glorious summer of sport none the less.  And now it's over - only the T20 world Cup to look forward to.  Ah well.

It's Over is the only cricket song recorded by Roy Orbison, one of the greats of 1960s music.  It takes its inspiration from the umpire's call at the end of six balls.  some say 'And that's over', some say 'Over up' some simply say 'Over'.  But Roy Orbison says It's Over.  And why shouldn't he?  He may well have had the greatest voice in pop music.

Orbison had toured the UK in 1963 alongside The Beatles - his familiarity with the phrase had obviously been acquired during that trip.  When the tour was planned the Beatles were billed as the support act, but their rapid rise meant that all the attention and publicity went to them.  This was to Orbison's chagrin - when he arrived he had never heard of the Beatles.  'What's a Beatle anyway?' he asked a bit crossly.  'I am,' said John Lennon who was standing behind him.

It's Over entered the United Kingdom Singles Chart on April 30, 1964, reaching No 1 on June 25. It's Over spent 2 weeks at No.1 out of a total of 18 weeks spent on the chart. The week it reached No 1 was a wet week too - the Lords Test against Australia that finished that week lost more than half its time to rain.  This Test marked the debut of Norman Gifford. Australia won that series, by virtue of winning the only match that produced a result - the weather restricted play for much of the summer.  One highlight in the series was the 300th Test wicket of Fred Trueman, taken in the final Test at the Oval having Neil Hawke caught by Cowdrey.  Trueman had one more Test summer left in him - he played 2 more Tests against New Zealand in 1965 and then it was over for him too.

Its Over was Orbison's second UK No 1 single the first was Only the Lonely in 1960.  His next release in 1964, Pretty Woman, also went to No 1.  Neither Only the Lonely nor Pretty woman was inspired by cricket. 

Orbison's career had its up and downs but many of his songs are still alive.  His early contact with the Beatles was also to bring benefits for in 1988 he teamed up with George Harrison, and Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty, to record as the Travelling Wilburys bringing his unique and soaring vocal style to a new audience.

Sadly Roy Orbison died from heart failure in 1988 at the age of 52. His contribution lives on - a distinctive song writer and unique vocalist. Test Match Quality.



Monday, 10 September 2012

The Paralympics


Fantasy Bob is sure he is not alone in finding the Paralympics inspiring, humbling and deeply enjoyable.  Just as with the Olympics he is disappointed that the programme did not contain cricket.  For there is a developing world of disability cricket, although FB is unaware whether any takes place in Scotland.

The most developed form is for Visually Impaired (VI) which has long been supported by the Primary Club.  The Primary Club is open for membership to any cricketer at any level of cricket who has been out first ball.  By some quirk of fate, completely unrelated to any skill on his part, FB failed to renew his membership this season.

In VI cricket, the ball is filled with ball bearings so it jingles and the rules require that it bounces twice - once in each half of the wicket.  Just as in some of the team sports seen at the Paralympics, the team must consist of a mix of players with varying levels of visual impairment.  For those with the most significant impairments, runs they score count double.

There was a series of matches this year between England and Australia.  England won both the ODI and T20 series.  There will also be a T20 World Cup in November in India.

There is cricket for the deaf and for those with learning disabilities.  There is also a significant programme under the ECB for cricket for the physically disabled including a County Championship with both hard ball and incrediball competitions.  On the ECB website is a set of rules for this competition which contain the following adjustments to the rules and confirm how deeply inclusive the game can be -

4.7Wheelchairs or other walking aids etc. will be classed as
a normal part of a batsman's equipment and will be
treated as such with regard to `Law 36 LBW' and `Law 35
Hit Wicket'.
4.8 When fielding, wheelchairs and walking aids may be
used to field the ball without penalty under `Law 41 Illegal
Fielding'.
4.9 A ball struck by the batsman which rebounds from his
wheelchair and is caught by any member of the fielding
side without being grounded before or after hitting the
wheelchair, will be considered a fair catch. However, a285
ball which lodges or rests in or on a wheelchair will not
constitute fair catch.

Other special rules apply to runners.

Pakistan v England - T20 Feb 2012
Although England and Pakistan did play some ODI and T20 earlier this year in the Dubai, as yet there is no recognised international cricket for people with physical disabilities.  One of the barriers that needs to be overcome is the standardising of a classification system that will be accepted globally.  Perhaps the paralympics will give momentum to this task.

FB offers his support to all disabled cricketers and those working to develop the game.  The British Association of Cricketers with Disabilities includes in its website the following inspirational text:

Why Cricket?

Amongst the major sports, cricket is, perhaps uniquely placed in the width and depth of opportunities it presents for participation by people who have disabilities. It is a game played locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

It Is a game played by men and women, boys and girls and by all ages, races and creeds. It is a game open to people with a wide range of impairments. It requires not just players, but administrators,umpires, scorers, groundsmen, coaches and health specialists.

All of these roles represent an opportunity for disabled people to participate. There are now, and have been in the past, disabled people working at the highest levels of the game in these support roles.


It is a game that can be enjoyed at all levels of ability, from school team to full England team. It provides participants with the chance to develop their cricket skills and techniques to as high a level as their ability allows. 

This sums it all up really.  Cricket is for everyone.




Sunday, 9 September 2012

Hangover

Cricket and hangovers are not easy bedfellows.  Nevertheless several times a season lower league skippers such as Fantasy Bob will be confronted by one or other of his chosen elite eleven turning up with some indication that a good time was had by all the evening before.

Sometimes it is the power of the player's breath as he strides confidently into the dressing room that is the giveaway.  The paint peels under the chemical spray he exhales as he utters his cheery welcome to his colleagues.  This bright front rarely lasts long and half an hour later he is quietly slumped in the corner with his head in his hands.

Other players shamble into the ground and to no one's surprise confess that they did not manage to get to bed.  They will then say cheerily that they didn't manage to together for tea but had improvised.  It is shotrly after that they discover that lower league cricketers are not gastronomically as bold as they might be and will shun the Weetabix and mayonnaise sandwiches.  In his early career there were occasions when FB was that player when that last drink on the Friday night really did for him.  But no more.  FB's pre-match preparations are legendary for their abstention from anything that could undermine his performance on the next day.

Heightening desire but inhibiting performance
However this season there was one regrettable lapse.  Particularly so since the offending player who crawled in ashen faced and trembling with the indulgence of the night before was only 11 years old.  A quick examination of his player's demeanour revealed to FB all the indications that tequila slammers had been involved.  But not a drop of tequila had passed the young man's lips.  His hangover was instead produced by Haribo - vast quantities of which had been consumed late into the night as part of a sleepover with a friend.  FB expects that there will soon be a campaign for minimum pricing of Haribo legislation in the Scottish Parliament.

There was nothing to do but to suggest to the young man that he went home for a lie down and a replacement was successfully foraged for.

Fueled by Haribo or something
FB will stick to his view that cricket and hangovers - both alcoholic and Haribo are uneasy bedfellows.  However there are examples which disprove his view.  One of the most famous concerns Gary Sobers, by reputation always a man for a party.  In 1973 he was called back into the West Indies side touring England.  At the end of the First Day of the Lords Test, Sobers was unbeaten on 31.  Rather than return to the hotel with the majority of his team he  hooked up with an old friend with whom he made a night of it.  At 9 o'clock he put his last drink down, had a shower and got to Lords in time to pad up and get to the middle. His head cleared slowly, but his stomach began to complain.  With great resilience he soldiered on completing his century.  But at the afternoon drinks interval it became too much and he rushed off.  Asked by skipper Khanhai what was wrong sobers said that his stomach was acting up and the only thing that would help him was brandy and port.  So he was plied with a couple of large ones, had a lie down for a couple of hours and returned to the crease later in the day ending up undefeated on 150 when the innings was declared.  This was to be Sobers final Test hundred. He was 37.  Could he have achieved so much if Haribo had been a constant temptation to him?

The hair of the dog worked for Sobers.  Might the Haribo of the dog worked for FB's 11 year old star?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A birthday

Today is Mrs FB's birthday.  Fantasy Bob's week has therefore been a frantic pursuit of a fitting tribute to her.  He tried to interest her in a new pair of batting gloves, but this suggestion was spurned.  Eventually he recieved an instruction to abandon his serial visits of Edinburgh's more prestigious jewellery shops.  This may have been just in time.  For the cctv systems in these shops were recording the visits of a shifty looking character whose only action was to hover in front of cases filled with all manner of treasures which even a casual observer could see to be well beyond his means.  It was only a matter of time before the police arrived and nicked him.

Mrs FB thought a painting would be nice.  As FB put his easel up and looked to get to work, she added in clarification, '....by a proper artist.'  So there could be no doubt.  FB's expressionist study of doughty groundsman at work in the midday sun will have to await another commissioner.

FB is interested to discover that Mrs FB shares a birthday with some cricketing eminences - including Geoff Miller, the current England selector and the late Terry Jenner spin bowler and coach, and mentor to Shane Warne.  She also shares her birthday with some notable non-cricketers including Richard the Lionheart - fact of no relevance and scant interest.

A more interesting co-birthday holder is the great comic actor Peter Sellers, one of FB's all time favourites.
Regretably Sellers was not a cricket fan.  In the movie What's New Pussycat, Sellers plays a psychiatrist treating Peter O'Toole who attempts to convince him that he is not in need of psychiatry by the means of reciting the laws of cricket.  Sellers as the psychiatrist listens patiently before asking 'Cricket?  Is there any sex in it?' 'No,' says O'Toole, 'cricket is a game for gentlemen played by gentlemen.' 'Then it is sick....sick.'

At other times however, Sellers put on a show of being a cricket obsessive.  He did this particularly to gain the good opinion of the Boulting brothers, highly important film producers in the UK in the 1950s.  The brothers were cricketophiles of the first order.  John Boulting ran a charity side in the area of London in which Sellers at that time lived and he thought that it would do his career good if he offered to turn out as a celebrity player.  His cricketing skills were untested, but he ended up with a valuable 5 year contract.  The brothers said they signed him because he was handy with a bat and can talk cricket.  and he continued to talk cricket in their presence.  Fine films such I'm All Right Jack and Heaven's Above followed, but no film about or featuring cricket, more's the pity.

As far as FB is concerned, Peter Sellers' greatest performance was in Stanley Kubrick's Doctor Strangelove.  Which was not a cricket movie.  Despite this, it also carries the approval of Mrs FB.

Here is a birthday present in the form of a clip from this great movie.


Friday, 7 September 2012

Who Bowled JR?

Cricketers will welcome the return to TV screens of the US soap opera Dallas, the new series of which was shown on Channel 5 on Wednesday night.  According to reports some 3 million viewers tuned in.

Cricketers will recall that the most famous episode of Dallas was at the end of its 3rd series in 1980, which spawned the great cliffhanging mystery 'Who bowled JR?

21 million viewers in the UK tuned in to see the reviled opening bat JR Ewing, a man who never walked when he snicked it, clean bowled by a mystery bowler.  Speculation ran rife throughout the 6 months and more to the start of the next series as to the bowler's identity.  Bookies took bets and issued odds, T shirt were printed and there was endless speculation in the press.  Everyone wanted to know 'Who bowled JR?'

Who bowled JR?
Eventually the next series revealed the bowler to be Kristin Shepard J. R.'s scheming sister-in-law and mistress, who shot him in a fit of anger. J. R. did not press charges, as Kristin claimed she was pregnant with his child as a result of their affair.

John Shepherd
It is here that the mystery deepens for FB, for there was no first class cricketer of the name of Shepard active at the time the incident took place.  The revelation must therefore be regarded as unconvincing.

Fantasy Bob suspects that the true culprit may well have been John Shepherd, who was playing for Kent at this time.  Shepherd only 5 Tests for the W Indies, taking a 5-fer in his very first match against England at Manchester in 1969, but he had a long and productive county career eventually ending up with 1157 wickets and 13359 runs.  An accurate swing bowler he was capable of causing trouble for any batsman and there is no doubt in FB's mind that he would have delivered the in-swinger that did for JR.

After all, JR may not have been as great a batsman as he claimed to be.  He does not feature in Wisden and the whole Ewing clan can only muster one cricketer with any Test level experience - Gavin Ewing played 3 Tests for Zimbabwe in the mid 2000s.  Not much to found an empire on.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

DNA

Cricketers will share the excitement in the scientific world with the news that the most detailed analysis to date of the human genome has just been published. The Encode project has analysed all three billion pairs of genetic code that make up our DNA.
DNA

Among the important discoveries are that a far larger chunk of our genetic code is biologically active than previously thought - previous views suggested that a large proportion of the human genome might be junk DNA performing no specific function.   But recent studies reveal that 80% of the genome is performing a specific function including switching certain functions on or off.  These may be related to the development of risk factors for certain conditions.

This carries important implications for cricketers.  While scientists have yet fully to confirm it, Fantasy Bob expects that an announcement soon will lead to the identification of the gene sequence which leads to the common condition 'swinging across the line.' A parallel race is on among scientists to identify the gene sequence which produces 'missing the straight one'. Gene therapies may soon become available for these distressing conditions which were previously considered untreatable in the majority of cases.

Scientists have also confirmed that humans share significant amounts of genetic material with other species. In a highly secret piece of research in the world famous Carlton BioLab, Fantasy Bob's genes have been subject to intense investigation which have revealed that FB shares 99% of his genetic material with a mouse, 85% with wheat, but 0% with Sir Donald Bradman.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Bowling


Fantasy Bob's father has played bowls for as long as FB can remember.  Family members may think that FB is committed to the point of obsession with playing cricket.  But they acknowledge that FB's disorder is nothing compared to his father's commitment to bowling.  Indoor, outdoor, all season, all weather.  Bowling is the thing.

An idyll or not?
FB has therefore long acknowledged in the back of his mind that when the exertion of a long spell up the hill against the wind finally becomes too much, or the challenge of another all run three seems beyond the call of duty, his future sporting life might well lie on the bowling green.  He is sure his action, which has delivered the occasional unplayable in-swinger, will readily adapt to working with the bias.  And he understands that in many bowling clubs tea is an important ritual and empire biscuits may be available.  But the time is not right yet.  FB has a few more overs in him yet and his cover drive can still draw gasps of surprise, if not admiration, from observers.

It is just as well.  FB has assumed that the world of bowls is tranquil and polite.  There may be the occasional, 'Bother' uttered as a bowl ends up not in its intended place. 'Dearie me,' will occasionally echo across the lawn.  But nothing beyond that and the quiet clicks as the bowls collide.  Idyllic in its own way.  However FB has read this week how wrong that impression is.

Not
At a recent incident in an Edinburgh club, a player - who says he is considered the John McEnroe of bowls - divested himself of his shirt, dropped his trousers and was head butted by a 76 year old steward trying to remonstrate with him.  The player claims he was provoked by the taunts from spectators and opposing players.  He also acknowledges that he had four or five pints of beer before the match.  In a long interview he describes bowling's booze culture amongst its elderly fraternity and players and spectators alike.

There is another report, this time from Forres, where a 68 year old player exasperated when a 71 year old player fell off his chair dragged him out of the club by his heels kicking him twice before dumping him outside.  The Sheriff fined him £265.

This does not seem the kind of world that Fantasy Bob should enter with equanimity.  His father is obviously made of stern stuff to have survived so long.  But for FB, another season bowling up the hill and against the wind seems preferable, with only the taunts of the junior members to disturb him.  Bowls will have to wait.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Eastwooding

An all American hero saves the world from Fantasy Bob

Hollywood stars and other celebrities alike joined the Twitter outburst stimulated by the veteran star who appeared to be rambling and incoherent in addressing an empty chair at length.

'How could they let it happen,' said actress Mia Farrow.  Critic Roger Ebert described it as 'Sad and pathetic.'

However a spokesperson for go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton said, 'They should leave Fantasy Bob alone.  We don't know what the fuss is about.  This is just what he does.  After every match he rambles on and on.   If he's been given out LBW it could go on for hours.  Sometimes the chair is occupied but it empties pretty soon.  We are sure that this latest incident must have been stimulated by an adverse wide decision while the veteran was bowling.  But FB is completely harmless.'

Nevertheless there are concerns that imitators of Fantasy Bob are growing.  A would-be FB look-alike gatecrashed the recent US Republican Party convention in Tampa Florida and attempted an improvised tribute to the Carlton has-been.  Luckily Dirty Harry was on hand to restore order before he got on to describing his favourite empire biscuit.

Conference organisers everywhere are warned to protect themselves against this practice of FantasyBobbing by ensuring that no empty chairs are left lying about.

Monday, 3 September 2012

An All Rounder

All rounder
It was almost a year ago that Fantasy Bob paid tribute to the late Max Bygraves, who died at the weekend - making much of what is perhaps regarded as his most famous song Hands and its cricketing significance.

Bygraves was one of that dying breed, the all round entertainer.  All round cricketers are indispensable to the balance of a side but suddenly seem scarce at the top level with only Jacques Kallis fit to rival any of the greats of the music hall or variety eras.  So it is that all round entertainers seem at risk of becoming a thing of the past.  The song and dance man that can tell a story and hold the audience - will they be able to survive in the T20/MTV world?

FB is an all rounder after all - he is equally bad at bowling and batting.  So it is fitting that he should campaign of the revival of the all round entertainer.  Here is is all rounders XI (not in batting order)

Max Bygraves
Des O'Connor
Danny Kaye
Bruce Forsyth
Dickie Henderson
Dean Martin
Sammy Davis Junior
Ken Dodd
Eric Morecambe
Andy Stewart
Garry Sobers

All rounder
FB accepts that there is no evidence that Garry Sobers had a song and dance act - quite apart from uncertainty over his ability to tell a gag.  But FB has no doubt that so supreme was he as an all rounder he could have done so if he wanted to.

Whether Max Bygraves could have scored 8032 Test runs, far less taken 235 Test wickets, is a more open question.





Sunday, 2 September 2012

Jencks

Jencks' landform at
Edinburgh's National Gallery of Modern Art
Fantasy Bob had admired for some time the work of landscape artist Charles Jencks.  His is the swirl of grass and ponds in the grounds of the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh which fascinates kids and adults alike.

He noticed with some interest the latest work of Jencks - called Northumberlandia - The Lady of the North -  in which the site of an open cast coal mine in Shotton has been  modelled into a reclining naked lady.  She is 400 metres long and at her highest point is 34 metres high.  To model the figure it was necessary to move 1.5 million tonnes of rock, stone and soil.  A series of paths at different levels allow visitors a series of different routes through the site with many different vistas.

Northumberlandia
FB was inspired.  He had long noted the concern among the cognoscenti associated with go ahead Edinburgh cricket club Carlton that the vast expanse of Grange Loan needed some livening up.  For much of the year it lay empty and drab.  What was needed thought FB was some landscape art on the lines of The Lady of the North.   Excitedly he drew up the plans.

But his idea that flew so high crashed to the ground.  First the Doughty Groundsman expressed some reluctance to move the requisite amounts of material observing that his wheelbarrow only had limited capacity and an increasingly dicky wheel.  These problems were not insurmountable.  But it was Mrs FB who put the nail in the project's coffin when, in her usual succinct manner she advised FB 'You can forget any thought you had that I'm modelling for that.   No way.  Jose.  End.  Of.'

So Grange Loan will remain a green field of dreams and those who wish to see the work of Jencks can visit the Gallery or take the trip to Northumberland.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

September

As Fantasy Bob's cricket season reaches his end he welcomes the arrival of September.  There is only one September Song, which FB discussed last year.  But while Carole King's It Might As Well Rain Until September has been all too an accurate description of this season, FB will not feature it.

Instead he wishes to bring to the attention of his world wide readership the following song lyric which mentions September in its first line.  It is perfect.

It is sung here by David Bowie.

It was a day in that blue month September
Silent beneath the plum trees' slender shade
 I held her there My love, so pale and silent 
As if she were a dream that must not fade 
Above us in the shining summer heaven 
There was a cloud my eyes dwelled long upon 
It was quite white and very high above us 
Then I looked up 
And found that it had gone 
And since that day, so many moons in silence 
Have swum across the sky and gone below 
The plum trees surely have been chopped for firewood 
And if you ask, how does that love seem now 
I must admit, I really can't remember 
And yet I know what you are trying to say 
But what her face was like, I know no longer 
I only know I kissed it on that day 
As for the kiss, I long ago forgot it 
But for the cloud that floated in the sky 
I know that still and shall forever know it 
It was quite white and moved in very high 
It may be that the plum trees still are blooming 
That woman's seventh child may now be there 
And yet that cloud had only bloomed for minutes 
When I looked up 
It vanished on the air

The song is Remembering Marie A and is by Bertolt Brecht.  As a lyric it is as near perfect as it can be.  It is about young love and the passion of the moment of course, but a cricketer will find the same nostalgic wistfulness about scoring that first 50 long ago - When I looked up, it vanished on the air............

The song is from Brecht's play Baal written in 1918 and the great man's first full length play.  It was televised with Bowie in the title role in February 1982.  

At the same time as the play was transmitted, Australia were playing West Indies in Adelaide.  West Indies won by 5 wickets to square the 3 match series.  But the match was a gripping affair, as Australia recovered from a disastrous first morning of 17-4 to set a fourth innings target of 236.  Even when West Indies were in sight of the finishing line a series of dropped catches by Australia made things easier than they should be.  Clive Lloyd in particular was given several lives and was not out on 77 at the end.  Alan Border's typically back to the wall 126 in Australia's second innings got him the Man of the Match award.  He reached his hundred on the same day that the play was transmitted.