Saturday, 14 May 2016

Peak Stuff

Peak Stuff?
Fantasy Bob has been reading in the more erudite press earnest discussions of the concept of peak stuff.  Boffins are suggesting that increasing numbers of people in the developed world have as much stuff as they could ever want, far less need, far less find places in the cupboard under the stairs for.

They point to such facts as the stagnation of sales of iPhones and iPads, the downturn in household spending on physical goods, including furnishings, clothing, cars and gadgets.  National statistics show that the amount of  material stuff used in the UK – including food, fuel, metals and building materials – has fallen dramatically since 2001.  So much so that Steve Howard, head of Ikea’s sustainability unit, has been moved to declare: “In the west, we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff… peak home furnishings.”

Peak home furnishings? Yikes!  Are things that bad?

Desperate though this sounds, FB can offer his handful of readers some hope - the cataclysm is some way off.  For the boffins have failed to include in their analysis one area where we are only in the foothills - peak cricket stuff is still some way off.

Player's kit store 1990
In the salad days of FB's long and undistinguished career in the lower leagues, cricketers would arrive for a match bearing only a small haversack containing a box, a pair of boots, a pair of whites. Perhaps a towel if they thought they were on a promise that night.  Perhaps a Mars Bar if they had read something about a new fangled concept of sports nutrition.  Wicket keepers of course had to stagger under the additional burden of a pair of gauntlets - the extra weight of which probably explained the solid foursquare frame of most wicketkeepers in those halcyon days.

Nowadays, even the most youthful of FB's team mates will arrive encumbered with a veritable pantechnicon of kit.  Both parents will follow like native bearers carrying additional items.
Player's kit store 2016

Over the years, FB has watched his junior colleagues unpack their pantechnicons and has observed the relentless growth of cricket stuff:

  • No self respecting junior will have fewer than three bats - one for a quick wicket, one for slower tracks and one that is being knocked in.
  • Alistair Cook may be able to bat for hours in the heat of Perth or Hyderabad without casting a drop of sweat and without changing his gloves.  However, in the sweltering heat of Scottish grounds, a change of gloves is necessary every 5 overs.  At least 3 pairs are needed - along with associated inners.
  • Spikes, half spikes, astros, rubber studs, flat soles, bowling boots.  It is impossible to survive the rigours of the modern lower league tussle with just one set of footwear. Sometimes wellies are essential items too.
  • Match kit, training kit, warm up kit, travel kit, post match uniform.  A player needs a full travel wardrobe - skippers need to make sure that an iron and ironing board are available.
  • A box, arm guard, batting pads, thigh pad, inner thigh pad, keeping pads, fielding pads, chest protector, helmet, cap.  In the salad days a thick cable sweater was deemed sufficient protection.
  • Against all empirical evidence Scottish players also insist on sunhat and sunglasses, the later of which at least keep the biting wind out of a player's eyes.
  • Base layers for cold conditions, base layers for warm conditions.  Scottish players must also add a special base layer which can deal with all seasons in one day.

Gradually senior players are catching up and emulating their junior role models.  Of course they have to add some additional items in particular:

  • Knee support, ankle support, elbow support.  Most senior players also need continual emotional support.
  • A pharmacopoeia of linaments and stimulants (all within the guidelines of the World Anti Doping Administration's list on prescribed performance enhancing substances).

Peak cricket stuff is still far off.  Continuing growth seems essential to the survival of the Western economy.  The sooner IKEA get into self-assemble cricket gear the better for them.

But FB can also offer some hope for those with environmentalist leanings who despair at this relentless material growth.  Is it sustainable they ask.  FB can assure them that the impetus to recycle is strong. At least half of this gear is left behind in the dressing room after each match.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

The Age Gap

In February 2011 John Davison and Nitish Kumar opened the batting for Canada in their World Cup match with Zimbabwe.  Davison was 40 years old and counting, Kumar 16.  The 24 years between them is reckoned to be the widest age gap between batting partners in international cricket.

Kumar and Davison
This might impress some, but it does not impress Fantasy Bob.  During the first match of the new season last weekend FB was his usual shambolic presence at the crease when he was joined by an 11 year old with all the talent and style that are so conspicuously absent in FB.  Despite the age gap of 50 years and then some more, spectators found it hard to discern who was the senior partner so commanding was the youngster.  FB was in no doubt.  Age was no barrier; the 2 gelled splendidly and the partnership blossomed.  There was talk around the boundary of the great partnerships of old, Hobbs and Sutcliffe, Greenidge and Haynes, Hayden and Langer.

Both were not out at the innings close and they put on nearly 50. It would surely have been more but for FB's inability to connect with any of his characteristic closed-eyed heaves in the final overs. FB and his youthful partner had easily outperformed Davison and Kumar not only in matter of the age gap, since the Canadians were both back in the hutch with a mere 7 on the board.  FB assumes the mantle of greatness with all due modesty.

It is one of the many life affirming charms of cricket - particularly at the elite level that FB plies his trade - that the generations mix, and work together for the same outcome.  Even though FB barely knows what an x-Box is, and his youthful partner was unable to address during their between over conferences FB's questions about the relevance of Wagner's thinking on the gesamtkunstwerk to the concept of theall rounder, they enjoyed mutual respect.

Such inter-generational respect is important.  Senior players ignore it at their peril.  Many times FB has seen senior, so-called mature batsmen saunter to the wicket, take a dismissive look at the youngster serenely tossing the ball from one hand to the other at the other end before pointedly eyeing choice areas of the boundary to which he imagines he will crash the ball in the next few moments.  Moments later the bails lie on the ground as the senior so-called mature batsman trudges his way back to the pavilion - deceived in flight, beaten by the bounce, undone by the spin - whatever.  It is the situation for which the word hubris was invented.   No doubt that was the word on the Melbourne crowd's lips when in 1877 18 year old Tom Garrett dismissed England's James Southerton, then aged 49 and still Test cricket's oldest debutant. The 31 year gap between bowler and victim remains the widest in international cricket.

Many times also has FB witnessed senior, so-called mature batsmen, play the ball and set off with the thought bubble coming out of  his head,  'An easy single to the wee laddie' only to be surprised as the wee laddie in question swoops on the ball and in a single move and with one stump to aim at guns it in a single movement.  The stumps fly, leaving the senior player a long and embarrassed journey to the far pavilion to consider the issues of age discrimination.

Mind you, all this pales into insignificance when considered with age gaps in some other fields. When Hugh Hefner married former Playmate Crystal Harris in 2012 he was 60 years her senior.

Hefner adn Crystal about to open the batting

Monday, 2 May 2016

Another Season?

Earlier this week Mrs FB found Fantasy Bob sitting with a look of worried concentration on his face. That attracted her attention in that it was a noticeable change from the look of amiable vacantness which normally describes FB's demeanour.

'What are you doing, dear heart?' she inquired.

'Nothing,' he replied.

'You did that yesterday.'

'Yes, but I didn't finish.'

There was a pause while Mrs FB returned to the start of her run up.  This time she put a bit of pace on her delivery.

'What are you thinking?'

'I can't help wondering.  Another season might just be too much.'

Mrs FB sighed: she had heard the same moan at this time of year for as long as she could remember.

'It could be the end,' FB felt a lump in his throat.

'You say that every year.'

'It's been one season too many.'  His lip trembled.


'They're gassed.'  A tear started in his eye. 

'What is it this time?  Shoulders?  Ankles?  Knees?'

FB looked askance.  Not that he really knew what askance meant, but he gave it his best shot. He was not sure that his life partner had the full measure of the seriousness of the situation.

'No,' he said as the emotion swept over him.  'It's my boots, they'll never last another season.'

Another Season?