Cricket: Bucknor the anonymous

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The Independent Online
IT IS said that the best officials are never noticed. That does not quite apply in cricket as Dickie Bird, generally accepted as the world's best umpire of the last 20 years, is no better at being anonymous than the Princess of Wales, writes Glenn Moore.

Steve Bucknor, Bird's most likely successor and partner at Trent Bridge, is of different stock, as befits a man who begun as a football referee and rose to officiate in the 1978 World Cup finals.

It ought to be difficult to miss Bucknor: as well as being well over six foot tall he is the first independent umpire to stand in a Test in England. Yet, amid all the Illyhoo, the Jamaican's English debut has been largely unnoticed.

Having come to prominence by his performances during the 1992 cricket World Cup, Bucknor became the first independent umpire to stand in South Africa in late 1992. The first Test, against India in Durban, was also the first to use television replays for run- outs. Bucknor, having said he was against the system, had no call to use it in that game.

But in the next Test he decided against using the system when, with South Africa 61 for four, Jonty Rhodes, who ended with 91, looked to be run out for 28. It was a grave error as the cameras not only revealed Rhodes to be well out but also showed Bucknor to be way out of position.

He was censured by Clive Lloyd, match referee then as he is in Nottingham, and the following day in an over-zealous demonstration of South Africa's media-friendliness, was dragged before the press to admit his error.

It was a unpleasant enough experience for the press; for Bucknor it was humiliating. But he showed admirable strength of character both then and since. He umpired several Tests in the Caribbean this winter. How many? Can't say. The touring press corps present at Trent Bridge could not remember, that is the kind of umpire he is.