Monday, 25 January 2016

Robert Burns' Rant On the ICC

Here is further proof of Fantasy Bob's contention that Scotland's bard is a true cricket lover.  Sic a parcel o' rogues is generally held to be an invective against the machinations behind the Act of Union between  Scotland and England.  But this earlier draft seems to suggest that Burns had seen the excellent Death of A Gentleman and taken its message to heart

Oor cricket is a cantie game
That’s played the warld o’er
Wi' honesty its middle name
An' lo'ed by rich and poor
Ye’d jalouse this game is o’er-seen
By council weel electit
But fegs, there's just the gang o' three
Sic a parcel o' rogues running cricket

The Test match was the skyrit jewel
Thy grandeur’s been dilutit
By coontless twenty over duels
True cricket is pollutit
A twa Test series' meagre meal
For ODIs restrictit
Bought and sold for T20 gold
Sic a parcel o' rogues running cricket

Associates graced the warld cup
And had the michty crying
It drove them on, it fired them up
The dream of qualifying
They won't be there next time around
The minnows are neglectit
A selfish pact has slammed the door
Sic a parcel o' rogues running cricket

Olympic Games could spread the sport
To a' the warld's nations
The powers-that-be maun gie support?
But spurned the invitation
Maun we thole sic arrant failure
Wi' IPL gold complicit?
England India Australia
Sic a parcel o' rogues ruining cricket

For those who find Scots words as hard to read as leg spin bowling:

Cantie - cheerful
Lo'ed - loved
Jalouse - suspect, think
Fegs - by faith
Sic - such
Skyrit - shining, bright
Maun - must
Thole - tolerate

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


All that is holy is vinyl
What few remaining brain cells Fantasy Bob owns have been well exercised by reading a recent article by Ed Smith drawing out a comparison between Test cricket and vinyl records.

The substantive point that he makes is that vinyl recordings seem to be on the way back.  In 2014 sales in the UK leapt by over 50% passing the million mark.   From a position of near death following the introduction first of CDs and then of streaming, this is something of a resurrection and sales are higher than at any time since 1991.

Could this be a pointer for Test cricket, he asks, for which there are many suggestions that it is on its last legs, teetering on the brink of non-sustainability due to the rival attractions of the shorter formats.  Can vinyl Test cricket survive the onslaught of streaming T20?

The fan of vinyl will claim that by comparison with the CD, the sound is of a higher – more natural - quality (generally described as brown), it allows the concept of the album (or at least the half hour side) as opposed to the single song focus of streaming and encourages listening rather than consuming.  There is a parallel to the fan of Test cricket for whom it offers higher quality, greater sustained excitement and subtlety compared to the crash bang wallop of limited overs contests.

Is the route to survival for Test cricket to develop a similar niche status to that increasingly enjoyed by vinyl recording?

FB sees the point but is less than convinced.  He is sure that there is a parallel to be drawn between the behaviour of record companies, whose profit motives led them to abandon vinyl when CDs arrived, and the almost negligent behaviour of the ICC whose recent domination by the big 3 seems similarly designed to undermine Test cricket.  

But even if it is recovering a bit, vinyl is still a very small part of the recorded music market - a pretty small tail wagging a large dog.  Vinyl seems to be more like the heritage industry – it is about finding music in the format it was first recorded and issued in – there is little new music or recordings in the format.  This does not seem a proper comparison for Test cricket.

Like most cricketers of his age, FB has a sizable collection of vinyl recordings.  Even Mrs FB now treats this collection with respect having, after many attempts, given up her once enthusiastic suggestion that it might best be consigned to the charity shop.  

Like a proper cricketer FB ensured that these discs are carefully archived and stored in strict alphabetical and genre order. FB can recall where and how he purchased each one of these miraculous items and for most of them many of the times he played them - a set of reminisces that Mrs FB inexplicably finds less than compelling.  This orderliness went out of the window when CDs arrived which are stacked any which way and do no credit to anyone.   

FB's vinyl collection pretty much reflects his travel through music from the poptastic, through progressive rock and out the other end into the world of classical music which dominates his collection.  But there is something significant lacking at the centre of this collection.   He confesses with some remorse is that his collection contains no cricket recordings.  For there are a number of items in the catalogue that FB might well have added.  For example John Arlott Talks Cricket was released in 1982 but sadly failed to keep Duran Duran off the top of the album charts.  If ever there was a vinyl voice it must have been John Arlott's, but inevitably these discs are now downloadable.   Such treatment seems almost sacrilegious and FB has resisted the siren call of iTunes.

But the vinyl recording that FB most yearns after must be the record simply titled Cricket which was released in 1970 by the BBC. It took Bridge of Troubled Water to keep it from claiming its rightful place at the top of the chart. Cricket featured a collection of readings by Lords Taverners recorded to fill the tea interval of Sunday League matches.  John Arlott features here, but so do cricketers - Peter May, Alec Bedser - sportsmen - Graham Hill, Mick McManus and entertainers Brian Rix, Leslie Crowther, Eric Sykes.   As far as FB can tell this has not been digitised yet.  It remains holy.

Perhaps the solution is to get this on e-Bay and play it while watching yet another T20 thrash.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Exit Pursued By A Bear

Fantasy Bob hied him hither to a live stream performance of The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare.

FB understands that there is a dispute among literature critics as to whether this play should be classed as one of Shakespeare's problem plays.  FB can answer firmly in the affirmative.  The Winter's Tale is certainly a problem play - the problem for FB being that there is no cricketing content in it whatsoever.  FB accepts that this barely differentiates it from the rest of the bard's output, so to label it particularly a problem play might seem unjust.

But the title of the play would seem to offer more to the cricketer than many of the bard's other plays. Possibly it would disclose the drama associated with indoor nets on cold February evenings; or the excitement of waiting for the postman for that new bat to be delivered; or listening over the crackling airwaves to the faltering progress of the touring side overseas.

Disappointingly Shakespeare eschews all these possibilities in favour of a story about jealously, the passage of time and redemption.  Cricketers will recognise that these themes define a lower league fixture towards the end of the season when vital points are at stake.  But the audience is left hanging for this sensible content while babies are abandoned on rocky shores and statues come to life.  FB wonders if these are metaphors born of Shakespeare's experience as a junior of having to face the opposition quickie on a bouncy track or of the apparently stationary fielder at mid on suddenly leaping 3 feet in the air to pocket his blistering drive.............but this reading is not a conventional one among critics.

But one thing that everyone, cricketers and non cricketers alike, knows is that The Winter's Tale contains what is reckoned to be the most famous stage direction in the whole history of play writing, when at the end of Act 3 a character is instructed to - Exit run out without facing a ball.

Many critics have tried to deny this original text and contend that Shakespeare revised it to read Exit pursued by a bear. But that is obviously nonsense since no batsman has ever been dismissed in this way. And no bear otherwise features in the play.   Such a dismissal would of course be bizarre.

But bizarre dismissals may be becoming more common.  Not only has there in recent months been the Ben Stokes incident when he was dismissed for handling the ball as it was flung at the stumps, but this week the Australian Big Bash League saw an even more bizarre episode.
The ball deflects from Neville's bat onto Zampa's nose

Adam Zampa bowled to Dwayne Bravo who strode out of his crease and crunched it back down the pitch.  The non striker Peter Nevill was backing up several yards down the wicket.

The ball deflected from Nevill's bat onto the diving Zampa's nose and onto the stumps. (The link here contains video footage of this great incident).

Exit Run Out by the bowler's nose.  Now, if Shakespeare had written a stage direction like that it could have been the making of him.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Fat Cat Tuesday

Fantasy Bob has long concluded that the world is ill divided between those who can play leg spin bowling and those who cannot.

His conclusion received further confirmation with the publication of a report which labels this Tuesday as Fat Cat Tuesday.  This report reveals that in the few days since the start of 2016, a number of batsmen have already scored more runs this year than Fantasy Bob will over the whole year.  These include Ben Stokes, Johnny Bairstow and Hashim Amla.

As if this wasn't enough to stir FB's revolutionary fervour and demand that the authorities immediately introduce some positive redistributive measures - surely some of Ben Stokes' runs could be used for the charitable purpose of improving FB's average.

Fat Cats
But FB's sense of outrage is further provoked as he now reads that in the first few days of this year a young batsman has scored in one innings not only more than FB will in any one season, but more runs than FB has scored in his entire career.

Pranav Dhanawade scored 1009 not out in a school match in Mumbai.  In doing so he broke one of the oldest records in the history of cricket, that of fellow schoolboy AEJ Collins whose 628 not out scored in 1899 has long been held as the highest innings ever recorded.

As FB's post of some time ago records, Collins did not make the leap into first class cricket and was unfortunate enough to be killed at Ypres in 1914.

It will be interesting to see if Dhanawade's cricket career prospers or not - has he been a cat who has gorged too early on the cream?

Fat Cat gorging on cream or future star?