UMP VISION: Cricket as Simon Taufel sees it

Former umpire talks about his officiating days and the challenges of calling a game

Mumbai 05 April 2014
There was hardly any room for error when he was on the field. Off the field too umpire Simon Taufel was immaculate and precise with his answers when he was asked about his life after umpiring. Be it his camaraderie with players, his want to give a lot more to the gentleman’s game or professing his love for butter chicken and butter naan, we got stumped by the ump in this free flowing chat with

You started off as a medium pacer in your playing days; how did umpiring come into the picture?

I stopped playing due to a back injury, and then I just went along to do an umpiring course. I wanted to earn some extra cash on a Saturday afternoon, and it went from my hobby to a part-time job. And how lucky am I!

Why did you call it quits when you were at your peak?

I chose to do something different. I thought I had done enough in umpiring and I wanted to help the sport in another way. I had exhausted myself as much as I could in the world of umpiring. So now I have taken on a performance and training role, which is really worthwhile. I was not giving up something; I just chose to do something else.

And how is your new role of an umpire performance and training manager?

I love it! I have been on the job for nearly a year and a half and I cannot believe how quickly it has gone by. We have only just scratched the surface and I am very lucky to be working with a great team of fellow coaches and other umpires.

With the game changing at such a rapid pace, how does an umpire keep himself in sync?

One of our big focuses is to keep pace with the game. Playing conditions will always keep changing, technology and third umpire tools will keep changing, and it is extremely difficult to manage up to seven or eight sets of playing conditions at a time with the different formats that you might be umpiring. Umpiring is not easy, and it was never designed to be easy. It is a part of the job.

Who has the tougher job – the on-field umpires or the third umpire?

I think being a third umpire is the toughest job. You have to manage the match, support the on-field umpires and work with various forms of technology with the expectation that you cannot get anything wrong. People forget the odd mistake on the field, but they do not forget a third umpire’s mistake.

Bowlers and batsmen have brought about a lot of innovation in their game. How challenging is it to be an umpire when you have spinners like Sunil Narine or an R Ashwin bowling at batsmen? Have you picked the doosra yourself?

It is very challenging. It is as challenging for the umpire as it is for the batsmen. If a batsman is struggling to hit the ball in the middle, it is challenging for the umpire to get his decisions right. But the point is I do not watch the ball out of the bowler’s hand. I watch the batsman. Also, a part of our programme is to go to the nets, look at players bowl and plan accordingly.

Do players or teams ask umpires for advice regarding certain nuances of their game? Any incident that you can recall?

Occasionally teams might ask you for advice. Mohammad Yousuf was one guy who would always come down the non-striker’s end and ask you, “Am I falling too much across.” I am actually surprised why many coaches do not ask the umpires what they thought about certain things, because they have got the best view.

How do you react when you see someone like a Chris Gayle hitting a ball towards you? Do umpires need protective gear?

(Laughs)It has been spoken about and I hope that day does not come. Some umpires have considered it though. You do need protective gear when you see guys like Chris Gayle, David Warner and Virender Sehwag bat the way they do. Cricket bats these days are so powerful that the first thought that comes to your mind is to get out of the way.

How difficult is it to give caught behind decisions or listen to faint edges in a jam-packed stadium?

Extremely difficult, and if I go back to that one-day series between India and Pakistan in 2004, it was tough to even hear someone standing beside you. The stadium was packed to capacity and it gets difficult to hear the players, leave alone your faint edges. I challenge any cricket lover to stand in the middle at Wankhede Stadium and try to make a caught behind decision.

What has been your funniest moment on the cricket field?

Watching Daryl Harper chase a dog out of the field. They were going around in circles and you could not understand who was chasing whom.

What was your first reaction when you saw Billy Bowden on the field doing his customary steps?

I went like, “GEE, WHAT IS THAT! Certainly not the way I was brought up.”

Do you follow any IPL team? Do you have a personal favorite?

Unfortunately, I do not have a passion for cricket the way I used to now that I am a match official. So you almost become more clinical in what you do and how you do it. You do not appreciate the skills of cricket; I just watch the umpires and stick to facts.

What is the best thing about umpiring?

The best thing about umpiring is the challenge, the job satisfaction and walking off the field at the end of the day after giving your best; also, being part of international cricket at the highest level and working with some great athletes. It is a great journey of self discovery, being able to compete at the highest level in different countries and you learn a lot about yourself.
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