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Thursday, December 15, 2005

the men in white

Cricket umpires are the men in white who raise the finger to convey a decision on the field – they have a real tough time. The players are young when compared to the umpires and none of them stay for the complete day either to score runs or prevent runs from being scored. If runs are to be scored, the player takes the field, performs his duty as best as he can and returns to the pavilion to make way for the next one in line. While on the field, he swings his bat, runs between the wickets and ensures that his body muscles are kept in motion. If a bowler, he has his spells of direct action followed by periods of relative inaction when he relaxes – to the extent possible – and exercises to get ready for the next spell. If positioned near the boundary, he may take upon himself the responsibility to entertain the spectators. In comparison, the umpire has to remain standing or crouching and be attentive to every aspect of the game.

He has to see if the foot of the bowler crosses the popping crease while delivering the ball and yell ‘no’ if it does. In a fraction of a second, his eyes have to follow the direcvtion of the ball and lock themselves on to the batsman – where has the ball pitched, does it come under the purview of being labeled as a ‘wide’, does it qualify for an ‘lbw’ decision. The umpire has also to be alert as to the sound of ‘snicks’ that carry to fielders behind the wicket. Stump microphones assist him to a certain extent in arriving at this decision. If a catch is taken inches above the ground, did it come off the bat or the glove or the pad? Then comes the run-outs – whenever the batsmen take off for runs, the umpire has to keep his eyes glued to check if the bat is grounded before the bails come off. In cases where he finds it difficult to arrive at a decision, he consults his counterpart on the field – in cases of close run-outs, he refers the matter to the third umpire who conveys his decision after examining the video footages.

Apart from these, the field umpires have to decide if the ball needs to be changed when it goes out of shape or becomes dirty. They also have to keep light meters so that play can be called off before time, if requested by the batting team.

All in all, the umpires have to be present for the complete duration of play. If the player feels uncomfortable, he can always leave the field and the reserve player can fill in for him. Unfortunately, such facility is not there for the men in white.

Our very own Venkataraghavan is a member of the elite umpires panel –

More on Dickie Bird who umpired in 66 Test Matches and 92 ODIs including Three World Cup finals around the world.-


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