Former umpire Shepherd dies

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David Shepherd

Tributes have poured in following the death of former umpire David Shepherd, a much-loved figure in the cricket world

Former Gloucestershire batsman and English Test match umpire David Shepherd has died aged 68, following a long battle with cancer.

A right-handed middle-order batsman from Bideford, Shepherd began his career in Minor Counties cricket with Devon, before joining Gloucestershire. He played 282 first-class matches and made 12 centuries.

Shepherd moved into umpiring after his playing career, standing in his first one-day international, between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, during the 1983 World Cup.

He went on to stand in 92 Tests and 172 ODIs, including three World Cup finalsm, and received a standing ovation at The Oval after officiating his final international match between England and Australia in 2005.

He is fondly remembered for his supertition of standing on one leg whenever the score was a multiple of 111, known as 'Nelson'.

Gloucestershire chairman John Light paid tribute to a favourite son of the westcountry: "He always put a smile on your face.

“As an umpire he has always been a familiar and much-loved face, not only here but at cricket grounds around the world.

“He was friendly, outgoing and straightforward. He believed cricket was a simple game and he took a straightforward approach to it in his cricket and his umpiring.

“He was tremendously superstitious. When the score was 111, 222 or 333, David would be hopping about on one leg and everybody in the dressing room had to do the same.

"We all do it in the committee room. When we do it, we say ‘Shep would have us dancing’. We do it, and we’ll go on doing it."

Light also suggested that a permanent memorial to Shepherd will be considered by the county.

“We have already spoken to people and there will be a service at Instow church, which was exactly what he wanted, and a large-scale memorial service, though we don’t know where that is yet," he added.

David Shepherd

Shepherd receives a guard of honour as he leaves the field in his final one-day international at The Oval four years ago

“We are redeveloping our ground at Bristol and it may be that we consider naming part of it after him. But certainly at Gloucestershire there will be an appropriate tribute because of the general respect we have for him.

“It’s not just his standing in Bristol - it’s his worldwide standing because he was popular wherever he went umpiring. He could communicate with the crowd, like the way he signalled a four with his little wave.

“I happened to notice when watching the final of the Champions League Twenty20 competition in India that some of the Indian supporters were celebrating fours exactly like he used to signal them, with the wave. It goes to show the international respect and appeal.”

A tearful Dickie Bird regularly stood opposite Shepherd in Tests and one-day internationals. “I’m very sad and shocked it’s happened," he said.

“He was a fine umpire. We umpired together all over the world. He was a character, a great man, and a tremendous bloke. I’ve lost a friend. A great friend.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan added: “He had a huge amount of respect; he was a really good umpire. He had a bit of character about him.

“He was also a nice man. He used to always say ‘well played’ or ‘good shot’. You do get a lot of umpires these days who probably don’t fee they’re allowed to say that.

“He used to like the odd beer. He loved to have his pints of ale at the end of play. Again, you wouldn’t see that too much these days.

“He was a real character of the game and he’ll be greatly missed because he has a lot of friends in and around the cricket fraternity all around the world.”

ICC president David Morgan said: “David was a true gentleman of the game.

“He was a fine player and a match official of the very highest quality. He will be remembered fondly by players, spectators and administrators who saw him as a great entertainer but also as one of the best umpires the game has ever seen.

“The example he set as someone who took the art of umpiring very seriously while also enjoying what he did immensely will leave a lasting legacy for the game.

"He was an engaging character which meant players and other umpires were always delighted to be around him. We have lost someone whose positive influence on our great sport has been immense.”

David Shepherd

Shepherd's honest and engaging style of umpiring won him fans all over the globe during his distinguished career

The current international umpires also issued a moving collective tribute to a former colleague who was universally respected within their number.

The statement, issued through the ICC, read: “Shep was one of the truly great cricket umpires that we have seen but, more importantly, he was one of the true gentlemen of the game of cricket.

"The international umpires will fondly remember his smiling face, his warm personality and his ever helpful demeanour.

“Shep helped so many umpires in so many ways and contributed to numerous umpiring careers – many are indebted to him.

"Every time we see Nelson on the scoreboard, we will be thinking of Shep’s little jig and saying a quiet ‘thank you’ for having him as one of us.

“As Shep would always say to every umpire he worked with on the way out to the middle, we now say to him, ‘Good luck mate, and may your God go with you.’

"Shep may have left us but his legacy of excellent people-management and top-class umpiring will remain with us forever.”

MCC secretary and chief executive Keith Bradshaw said: “Everybody at MCC was sorry to hear of the death of David Shepherd.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time. He was a much-loved and respected umpire throughout the world.

“Following his retirement he was made an honorary life member of MCC and appointed a member of MCC’s World Cricket Committee.

“As the only umpire representative on the committee, he was able to speak knowledgably on the laws and on umpiring at the top level of cricket.

“Even when he was unable to attend the World Cricket Committee meetings he remained passionate about the game, continuing to submit his thoughts from his home in Devon.

“‘Shep’ often reminded the committee that the game was ‘more about the players than the umpires’ and will be sadly missed by all those love cricket.”

The MCC flag on the Grand Stand at Lord’s is flying at half mast.

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