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Why and how to become a cricket umpire

Bangladesh v South Africa: Group B - 2011 ICC World Cup

It is the finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup. India is battling against Australia for the championship. Australia won the toss, chose to bat and set India an intimidating target of 315. India got off to a good start, largely thanks to Sachin Tendulkar. India is batting on 206/4 in 37.2 overs. Sachin is batting on 98*. The situation is critical. India needs to score runs in excess of 8.6 runs per over, and have only one recognized batsman to follow – Ravindra Jadeja.

Pattinson to bowl to Tendulkar. Slightly over-pitched delivery, pitches outside off-stump, nips back in and raps Tendulkar on the pads. Wait, there is an inside edge. The bowler and the fielders erupt in appeal. All eyes are now on the umpire. As two nations sit with bated breath, in a heart-stopping motion, the umpire raises the ‘dreaded finger’. Tendulkar watches in disbelief before he takes the long walk back to the pavilion.

He has made it to the headlines. He…? Who? The umpire.

Umpires are one of the least talked about members of the game – perhaps after the scorers. The most powerful character on the field only hits the headlines when he makes a game-changing wrong decision. The other occasion when an umpire gets recognition is during the annual ICC ceremony. A good job done is a part of their job description, and does not deserve special mention in the match report.

The cricket universe lacks quality umpires. ICC has its own elite panel of umpires, where only a select few have made it. Unfortunately, India has no representatives in that elite panel. On the flip side, being an umpire is a lucrative career option. Let us see what it takes to become a cricket umpire.

Fortunately, there is no pre-requisite educational qualification required to be an umpire. You only need to know all 42 rules laid down by the MCC in its entirity. Unfortunately, there is no institute which teaches these courses. You have to learn everything on your own. So what does it take to be an umpire – just 42 exhaustive rules? Yes and no. A good umpire must also be aware of the thousand nuances that happen on the field, which find no mention in the rulebook.

Australia v Sri Lanka - Third Test: Day 2

It always helps if you have played any recognizable cricket before taking up a career as an umpire. Each state conducts its own examination to accredit amateur umpires. Thus, being a club or a state player keeps you informed about the dates of these examinations, since they are the least publicized events in the country. This information is prominent only in its own relevant circle.

Once you clear the examination taken by your state cricket board, the board lobbies your name with the BCCI. A promising umpire can then undergo the annual test taken by BCCI. If you clear the test, you are on your way to becoming a national umpire. Your competence will be tested in the best of domestic tournaments – the Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare tournament, NKP Salve Trophy, etc. Commendable performers are then recommended to the ICC.

Having said that, you must be thinking what is in store for as a national umpire? Indian umpires featuring in the Vijay Hazare tournament are making around Rs. 10,000 per game. The stakes are only higher in the international arena. With cricket being played all round the year now, you enjoy a lot of working days. The intangible benefit an umpire can draw is to visit all the cricket playing nations and get paid for it. The only cons are that you might need to spend a lot of time away from home and family, and a dubious decision made in an important match can make you lose favour with a cricket board having deep pockets and a high influence over the ICC.

From an umpire’s point of view, the advancement in technology is a curse in disguise. It might have augmented the number of correct decisions using DRS and the third umpire review, but, in this process it has highlighted the human propensity to err.

So, to all those cricket enthusiasts, you can take your love for the game higher by becoming a part of the game itself. You will have an important contribution, though not in the form of runs scored and wickets taken, but in the form of controlling the entire game. Be an umpire and enjoy the match from the best spectator’s seat.

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