Nigel Plews, who has died aged 74, was an extraordinary character whose colourful life encompassed two successful careers. Following 25 years in the police force, he later found considerable fame as an international cricket umpire and, in the process, became one of the foremost authorities on the laws of the game. What made his achievements all the more remarkable was the fact that, unlike almost all of his colleagues, Plews had never played cricket beyond club level.
Born in Nottingham on 5 September 1934, Nigel Trevor Plews was educated at Mundella Grammar School in the city. After joining the local police, having taken his School Certificate in Commercial Subjects and RSA Advanced Book Keeping, it seemed a natural progression that most of his time in the service should be spent in the Fraud Squad. Here he reached the rank of detective sergeant.
Plews took up umpiring after his playing days as a more-than-useful club cricketer wound down. Having served his apprenticeship in local leagues, he soon progressed to the Second XI Competition before, in 1980, graduating to the Minor Counties Panel. Two years later, having completed his statutory service in the police, he made his first-class début at Fenner's as Cambridge University played Essex.
Throughout his 17 years on the domestic circuit, Plews, 6ft 6in tall and generally resplendent in a distinctive white woollen cap, became a readily identifiable and popular figure. Exuding a natural authority borne of long experience, this, together with his slightly serious but always carefully considered commonsense approach, meant that both captains and players were never less than appreciative of his efforts. Totally self-deprecating, he soon found his gentle dry humour more than capable of diffusing even the most volatile of situations.
Plews made the first of his 16 appearances in one-day international cricket at Old Trafford in July 1986. Two years later, at the same venue, he became only the fourth Englishman with no first-class playing experience to umpire in a Test match. In all, he umpired in 11 Tests, later travelling the world as a member of the International Panel.
From 1992 until 2006, Plews served on the Laws Sub-Committee of MCC, playing an integral role in the extensive revision of the laws of cricket, which were subsequently adopted worldwide in 2000. An inveterate traveller, he remained unstinting in his efforts to encourage and train the next generation of aspiring umpires. As an Honorary Member of MCC, fittingly, he became the inaugural recipient of an Honorary Fellowship from the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers.
A devoted family man, he was diagnosed with inoperable kidneycancer in March 2007. He was initially refused specialist treatment on cost grounds by Nottinghamshire Primary Care Trust. However, following ahigh-profile fund-raising campaign involving former colleagues, the Trust eventually relented. Typically, he later campaigned unstintingly for fellow sufferers to be granted the right to medical care.
Nigel Trevor Plews, policeman and international cricket umpire: born Nottingham 5 September 1934; married 1956 (one son, one daughter); died Nottingham 19 October 2008.