Fantasy Bob is sad to see so much media reference to Shane Warne whose return to active cricket duties in the Big Bash League down under seems to have included a clause in his contract to cause as much mayhem in the media as possible. Presumably part of some marketing executive's deluded thinking (which probably started from the false premise that getting Warnie back from the poker table was a good idea).
A juvenile bust up with Marvin Samuels during Melbourne's local derby lead to a one match suspension. Then on his return Warnie found himself in the dog house again for not declaring himself skipper of the Melbourne Stars during their most recent match in Perth. The allegation is that an alternative captain was nominated on the team sheet to avoid the risk of Warne getting another suspension because of slow over rate. Once the team took the filed however it was clear who was calling the shots. Media frenzy.
Now it is here that FB begins to wonder. Were the same media to take an interest in lower league cricket they would find the concept of the nominated captain and the leader (and the world is used advisedly) in the filed often diverging. FB has many times been the nominal skipper of a side (a status conferred in lower league cricket on the sucker who has spent all Friday night finding an 11th player). As such he has presumed as such that he had the exclusive rights over arm waving and general gesticulation, only to find that after the first couple of overs all ten of his teammates get hold of the same idea. Arms are waved all over the place - even the most junior player joins in enthusiastically. Fine legs are shortened and then lengthened, brought up and put back. Retired naval officers patrolling the cruel sea of the boundary have on occasion enquired why there is so much semaphore practice. They point out that semaphore is no longer used on active service. These gentlemen might have commanded battleships on the Shetland station but they obviously lack the leadership skills for the lower league.
The captain's role is to make sure that every one gets something to do as a reward for turning out and bringing sandwiches. If waving arms about and shouting incoherently keeps players happy then that is perfectly satisfactory. It is something at which many players display more natural skill than the more esoteric acts of batting or bowling. FB is happy to accommodate his players' ambitions and highly imaginative field settings can follow the collective efforts of 11 players - even though a filed with four cover points set at intervals of approximately ten yards between the wicket and the boundary. They arein happy symmetry with the four square legs on the other side. A filed setting that can present a challenge to the bowler's control of line and length.
A skipper's control of bowling changes can also be subject to excessive participation by team mates. FB recalls an esteemed veteran who used to grace his side. To protect the innocent, and to given an indication of his general character, FB will call him Meldrew.
'Fancy a bowl today, Meldrew,' FB would ask cheerily.
'Not really bit of problem with my shoulder.'
'You don't fancy the first over then?'
'Not really, ankle is also playing up.' '
Well maybe come on after the juniors?'
'Don't think so, back a bit stiff too.'
'You'll have to hide me in the filed too - and by the way,' says Meldrew with an expansive wave of his injured shoulder, 'you could do with another man behind the third cover point out there.'
So the innings goes on and FB happily contemplates possible bowling changes from his position at third square leg. Until the point comes when Meldrew marches to the wicket and hands his cap to the umpire. Uninvited and unannounced and to the consternation of the junior seamer who has just taken 2 wickets, his first in senior cricket.
'Eh.....'a high pitched voice sounds. 'Cover point boundary young 'un,' says Meldrew gruffly. 'By the way, FB, I'll have a bowl now - arm has loosed up, ankle feels fine and that rub with algipan has sorted my back.'
Many of FB's more inspired bowling changes have followed such a pattern, as he watches play unfold from his position at fourth square leg. Warnie has much to learn about this captaincy business.