Umpiring is certainly an inseparable aspect of cricket. However, in the earlier times, even if an umpire did a great job, his efforts went unnoticed but it all took a major change when in March 1995 Brent Fraser "Billy" Bowden made his international umpiring debut. The realm of cricket saw a fresh and entertaining change that was wholeheartedly welcomed by the cricket fanatics.
He introduced a whole new dimension to umpiring. For over 84 Tests, 200 ODIs and 24 T20Is that he featured in, one could see an entire stadium cheer every time Bowden, with his trademark exaggerated signals and friendly interaction with players, tried to entertain the crowd whilst taking charge of one of the most tedious jobs on the cricket field. Despite the serious job that he had to take care of, Bowden ensured that he kept the atmosphere as light as possible.
Bowden's unique signals were not just because he tried to be entertaining all the time but because of the fact that he was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis since his early 20s. He was not trying to be extra jovial on purpose whilst donning an umpire's hat every time he raised his finger in a crooked manner to give a batsman out. Due to rheumatoid arthritis, it was painful for him to raise his finger straight. He had to use the crooked finger sign to avoid the pain.
However, instead of feeling down because of his medical condition, he choose to bring out a whole new colour to his job. With his infectious smile, he made his job as entertaining as possible, for both himself and the fans. He certainly made a lemonade when life handed him lemons and brought a smile to everyone's face. Hats off, Bowden.
Billy brought a lot of funny and memorable cricketing moments in his career. In this piece, we'll take a look at 5 of them.
#1 When he got really excited about a four
It was an ODI game between India and England when this funny moment emerged on the screen. Kevin Pieterson and Jonathan Trott were holding the fort for England. At 75/2, Pieterson struck a glorious loft over the mid-wicket for four. This was when Billy went deep in his reservoir of never-ending energy to signal the boundary in his own unique style. The crowd loved Billy's performance and the cheers echoed loud throughout the stadium.
#2 Holding hands with fellow umpire
It was day 5 of the 3rd Test match of the Ashes series in 2013 when this funny incident took place. Umpires Billy Bowden and Marais Erasmus were walking out to the center to commence the day's play when Erasmus, courteously, extended his hand for Bowden to shake but instead, Bowden tried to hold hands with him. Erasmus immediately withdrew and extended his hand further so that Bowden can shake hands properly. Bowden was seen chucking about it and the commentators laughed too.
#3 Wait a moment, Mr. Johnson
Another Billy Bowden moment was onserved in an ODI match between Australia and West Indies. Mitchell Johnson bowled a sharp full-length delivery that struck the pad of Deonarine Smith. Johnson followed this with a loud appeal but Billy, not convinced enough, walked away from the stumps to judge the ball trajectory clearly, halted for a moment, and moved back to his original position once again to raise the "crooked finger of doom". Johnson watched Billy in surprise and Deonarine, who meanwhile completed a single, was visibly disappointed.
#4 When Bowden did splits whilst chasing his hat
Another addition to "Bowden's classic moments" came in the 2013 Champions Trophy at The Oval where Sri Lanka and England locked horns. A shot by Ravi Bopara forced Bowden to duck and he lost his hat in the process. Owing to the windy conditions, the hat flew away and Bowden started chasing it but just when he could collect the hat, he fell down and ended up doing splits. The commentators and spectators chuckled when they witnessed it and Bowden himself was seen laughing about it moments later.
#5 When Bowden flashed the first ever Red card in cricket
In what was undoubtedly one of the funniest moments ever in cricket, Bowden made history by flashing out the first ever red card in cricket history to Glenn McGrath, who with this incident, itched his name in the history books of cricket as well.
In a T20 encounter between New Zealand and Australia, NZ required 45 runs off the last ball. Realising that it was an impossible chase for the Kiwis, Glenn McGrath jokingly tried to emulate the infamous underarm delivery by Trevor Chappell in 1981 that created a huge controversy back then. Bowden, certainly not impressed with this violation of the ICC code of conduct, took out the red card and flashed it to McGrath in his own epic style. McGrath was seen laughing and so were the other players, commentators and spectators.