Golden Jubilee for organised umpiring in Berkshire

Posted in ECB ACO

Berkshire

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I am often asked why anyone would want to become an umpire in the first place –let alone in Berkshire where the surrounding countryside provides so many other alternatives for spending weekends away from home.

After all, apart from good eyesight and hearing, an unsurpassed knowledge of the Laws of the game, the interpretative skills and judgement of Solomon, great powers of concentration and the skin of a rhino there is no more needed to don the white coat than to pass a pleasant Saturday or Sunday afternoon strolling along the banks of the Thames – is there?

The fact of the matter is of course that in broad terms umpires do it for no more than a simple love of a great game –whether officiating a Test match at Lord’s or a Village XI turning out against the Vicar’s occasionals.

It does not matter that for every batsman who thinks it was too high, there is a bowler convinced that it would knock down all three. It does not matter that summing up the evidence in a couple of seconds to give a decision he believes to be correct is often unreasonably compared with armchair adjudication made with the benefit of hindsight aided by a multitude of cameras assisted by Hawkeye, snickometers and hot spots.

It does not matter that the odd howler is always remembered whereas more often than not (and modern technology has reiterated this) the umpires make far fewer mistakes than the players, and are more often right, than wrong.

Of course at the recreational level, umpires still cannot be ‘proved’ wrong by the inglorious intervention of a TV camera or a third official and we are spared that moment of judgement for a batsman similar to days of old when a Roman crowd in the Coliseum looked to the Emperor for a thumbs up or a thumbs down to seal the fate of some poor gladiator.

In the recreational game the umpire can give a decision in the secure knowledge that he is backed up by the Laws of Cricket which pronounce that the outcome of any appeal depends solely on his opinion.

As for that appeal, well of course it should only have been made if the player thinks the batsman is out! As a historian by trade, I like to consider the present in the perspective of the past and in that context it is worth remembering that when cricket was first played, the umpiring as such was somewhat different.

If there was a disagreement, respected former players were called upon to arbitrate and umpires only became essential components in their own right to protect the integrity of the game when gambling (betting on the outcome of games) became prevalent in the early 18th century.

They often carried a club or a bat which although intended as a symbol of authority, was more often than not used as a means of self defence when the stakes become too high and the spirit of cricket impugned. How things have turned a full circle?

Although thankfully there is no longer a need for umpires to carry implements for protection, nevertheless there seems little doubt that increasing dissent and indiscipline has had a detrimental effect on umpire recruitment and although this may be unpalatable fare the game ignores this at its peril.

I therefore salute Berkshire’s ACO’s initiatives in keeping the maintenance of high standards of player behaviour at the top of their agenda.

They may be 50 years old but I am also pleased to record that Berkshire ACO is at the forefront of umpire support and development through the implementation of their mentoring programme, which has not only enabled Berkshire’s umpires to move more speedily through the ranks to officiate at the top level, but has also served as a model of good practice for other Associations of Cricket Officials.

I am therefore particularly delighted to write these few words on behalf of ECB ACO to celebrate 50 years of organised umpiring in Berkshire; to proffer my thanks to all involved in officiating in the county whether as participants or as administrators, and tender hearty congratulations and very best wishes for the next 50 years.