Fantasy Bob : Availability

21 Jun

Fantasy BobThe concept of happiness has been examined by philosophers through the ages.  Happiness is spiritual; it is material; it is illusory; it is transient; it is relative; it is absolute; it is a song by Ken Dodd.  

While the lower league skipper respects the right of great minds to think great thoughts and to express them in long words, in truth he is mystified as how these minds have failed to light on a truth that is to him self-evident.  And no more evident than at this time of year.  

As the summer holiday season approaches, the lower league skipper’s mood swings become extreme.  He knows in his bones, in his water, in his soul on what his happiness depends.  He can even express it mathematically.

A11=H where A is availability and H is happiness, a decent night’s sleep, a manageable phone bill, not having to call up that chap who ran him out the last time you got him to play. 

The formula applies in all situations known to the lower league skipper.  The contentment of knowing he has 11 players for the next match is truly the feeling that passeth all understanding.

A11=H is a simple formula, but like other such elegant expressions, a proper understanding of it requires many years of hard study. 

The terms are precise.  For example A12 ≠H – having 12 players available does not help the lower league skipper, who must then spend sleepless nights wondering who to leave out.  It would be helpful if he could use performance as a guide, but since it is unlikely that any of his players have actually performed with any distinction that may not help.  Instead he is forced to resort to other criteria not usually the mind of such as Andy Flower when picking the squad to retain the Ashes.  Who took the scorebook home last week?  Who has a big car for the away trip?  Who is most likely to bring empire biscuits for tea? 

Then again, available is a precise term.  Regrettably, skippers and players have a different view of this term.  For a skipper it is black and white. Available or not available – there are no stages in between.  Players however have a more nuanced sense of the concept.  The skipper will try to clarify:

-       Available next week, Jim?
-       Well sort of
-       Sort of – does that mean yes
-       Well, sort of, but, maybe not
-       So that means no
-       Well, sort of, maybe, but, it depends
-       It depends.  On what?
-       Well sort of, maybe, depends, kind of, on things
-       On things?
-       Yes.  Sort of.  Maybe. I’ll let you know.  Sort of. Maybe. 

Samuel Beckett?  No.  The lower league skipper has this dialogue ten times each Saturday for 4 months.  And MPs ask why the mental health services are overstretched? 

For the lower league skipper does not understand how it is that other events can be planned during the cricket season.  September is a perfectly fine month to get married.  IKEA is open when cricket is not being played.  Golf outings, if they are necessary at all, are possible all year round……………..rock festivals, country festivals, book festivals, film festivals, street festivals, sponsored walks, sponsored runs, sponsored swims, house sitting, pet sitting, getting kids from uni, taking kids to uni, taking stuff to the dump, hospital visiting, mother in law visiting.  ARE THESE ESSENTIAL!!?? 

But above all these distractions, it is summer holidays that are the greatest outrage. 

While these days the curse of can strike at any batting order dependent on senior players at any time, for Scottish clubs the first 2 weeks in July are when the mass evacuations, junior and adult, reach their highpoint.   People movement reaches the levels associated with refugee crisis following civil war. 

Fantasy Bob has written to the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Dalai Lama and all important authorities in between demanding tighter regulation of the holiday industry. They should be legally allowed to take only a defined number of cricketers away from their registered post code area in a defined period.  They should be required to match each cricketer taken away with an incoming player of similar ability certificated as willing to play as a guest for any club who requires him - notwithstanding pre-booking the bus trip to the Trossachs. 

For in these weeks, there is no end to what has to be done to find that elusive eleventh player to get the formula to balance - geriatric care homes have to be raided, hospital wards have to be combed, bribes involving drink and sexual favours have to be offered, favours are mercilessly cashed in. 

In this hunt, technology has been a mixed blessing.  At one time a man’s word on a Saturday night was his bond for the following week.  The lower league skipper had to send a native bearer with a message written in copperplate script to prospective team members.  But these days the text makes it easy for players to withdraw without the fear of the face to face interaction that was always disincentive.  Many a player couldn't stand the cross examination as they offered up their pathetic excuse - 'What do you mean you've broken your leg, you've got 2 haven't you?'  Nowadays they text ‘Sorry, on holiday.’  and switch the phone off, immune to any further pleading. 

The lower league skipper therefore makes invocations around the magic number 11.  It is on that that his happiness depends.  Happiness measured out in weekly doses. 

He has one source of relief in his agony.  He will recall that many years ago when cricket was young, just before he started as a junior member, teams were larger.  The 22 men of Kent would assemble to take on the All England XI.  A chill goes up his spine at the thought of the skipper of the time trying to find his 22 men encountering such pathetic excuses as – gone to fight Napoleon, press ganged into Navy, on prison ship to Australia, ……………. 

A22 ≠H was the formula that did not compute.  To the relief of the lower league skippers of the day, the powers that be decided, as an act of mercy, that a cricket team should be 11.


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