Cricketer's Diary: Umpire of the senses

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The Independent Online
WHO would be an umpire, in any sport? Never mind sledging opponents; angry words and gestures seem to be directed more towards officials these days.

It is no wonder, then, that retired players are becoming increasingly reluctant to don the white coat - a job as an ice-cream salesman would be infinitely preferable and might make more money.

Like the schoolteacher powerless to slap the insolent brat in the classroom, so the umpire is ill- equipped to punish the abusive competitor. At least in tennis points can be deducted for constant code-violations, but in cricket what can he do? Refuse to buy the player a drink afterwards? This would not make a lot of difference to the Pakistanis anyway as they arrive and leave in their whites.

The atmosphere between the two Test teams is on a knife-edge and was put in perspective by an umpire (you can probably guess who) destined to officiate in the fifth Test at The Oval. 'Aw gawd, they'll be fighting by then,' he said, trembling slightly.

The TCCB might be better appointing someone with the icy stare and ample forearms of Peter Willey (at present playing on the second XI circuit) for that match.

This only indicates that it is high time cricket umpires had more clout. It might be that they penalise misbehaviour by adding runs to the opposition total, similar to the procedure in rugby of awarding penalty kicks 10 metres further forward, or in the form of red and yellow cards, or by sending players into a sin-bin for a specified period (although this might be abused by fast bowlers fancying a rest).

And in case you think it is just not cricket, remember that a player has been sent off before. In a televised Gillette Cup match at Headingley, Ray East was legitimately dismissed last ball before lunch, but sneaked back after the interval wearing a different coloured helmet. It was only after several deliveries that the non- striker was correctly identified and directed towards the pavilion.

One cricket supporter has made a novel suggestion on a newspaper's letters page, proposing that John McEnroe be banned from the competitive tennis court until he has done a stint as an umpire, preferably in a Test match between England and Pakistan.

PLAYING a Cup match against your old team is an experience Clive Allen (the footballer) or David Smith would be an authority on. Subconsciously it lifts your game as you strive to show that they should not have taken you as much for granted as they did. Consciously you are aware they are willing you to fail so that your inadequacies are revealed, and their decisions justified.

Playing against Middlesex at Uxbridge on Thursday, I had taken three wickets and was returning to the long-leg boundary. 'Simon, why did you leave Middlesex?' said one kindly female spectator. 'We rather liked you.' 'I was asked to,' I replied. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it only takes a couple of misfields for the 'Eeyore' to return.

THE Duke of Kent was in conversation with one of his assistants at the Wimbledon Championships. Assistant: 'You know Kent are in the Benson and Hedges final next week?' Duke: 'Are they? What sport is that?' Assistant: 'Cricket. You're the patron of the club aren't you?' Duke: 'Am I? Oh yes. Where's the match?' Assistant: 'Lord's, 11 July.' Duke: 'You'd better organise me to go for the morning session then.'

AS THE North-east becomes more enthusiastic about cricket, here are some more phrases from the new Geordie bible of cricket:

'Canny Knacker' - good ball.

'Slog oot]' - play a few shots, mate.

'Hossin down' - rain that will call the day's play off.

'German general (Goebbels)' - urging trickling ball to the boundary.

Simon Hughes, of Durham, dictated his column on the 11am flight from Taunton to Darlington in Ian Botham's Mercedes.

Tomorrow: Keith Elliott