We live in a generation where technology is the most preferred option to determine on-field decision-making in any sport. There are some people fearing a fact that the art of umpiring or refereeing could soon be buried six feet under the ground, with science and technology doing bulk of the work.
The cricketing world is certainly in a spot of bother with regard to umpiring quality, which might’ve tampered the result of the 2019 ICC World Cup. Yet, that shouldn’t throw a carpet and hide how brilliant some people have been in those roles in cricket’s glorious history.
Controversies were and will continue to be a part of umpiring because they too are humans after all. In the last few decades, some umpires have defied odds and portrayed metronomic accuracy in decision making, which uplifted the spirits of various others who wanted to make it big in this profession.
Here are 10 names from the cricketing world who will be remembered as the finest on-field officials of all time.
10. Darrell Hair
Darrell Hair, Umpire (Photo by Nigel French – PA Images via Getty Images)
One of the most under-rated, yet very renowned umpires the game has witnessed, Darrell Hair was one of the original members of the ICC Elite Panel in 2002. The Australian made his debut as an umpire in 1992 during the Test match between India and Australia at the SCG, Sydney.
A dark chapter of his career came in 1995 where he no-balled Muttiah Muralitharan 7 times in three overs for throwing. He was a very bold and unbiased official, who worked hard to ensure the game was played fair and square. Another one of the incidents where his boldness made headlines was in 2006, when Pakistan refused to take the field after the ball-tampering accusations against England and the umpires Billy Doctrove and Hair forfeited the match, declaring England as winners.
Hair was an on-field official for 78 Tests, 139 ODIs and 6 T20Is during his 16-year career. He stands 9th on the list of most International matches officiated by any umpire. He last stood in the middle during a T20I game between Kenya and the Netherlands.
9. Daryl Harper
Daryl Harper. (Photo by LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Another cricketer-turned umpire, Daryl Harper found no success as a player but earned great reputation during his 13-year stint as an international umpire. Just like Hair and many other umpires, he had his share of controversies during his time, but he did have some great games to back his mention in this elite list.
After making his First-class debut in 1987, Harper went on to make his first International appearance in 1994 during an ODI fixture between New Zealand and South Africa. Harper officiated the opening game of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and also was chosen for various high-profile games during those years.
He is also the third umpire for a trial of the ‘player referral’ system in 2009 but was later dropped after the 2010 ICC World T20 for general performance reasons. Overall, Harper umpired 94 Tests, 174 ODIs and 10 T20Is during his career.
8. Ian Gould
Ian Gould. (Photo by Stu Forster-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)
A man known not just for his sense of humor and ability to get along with players brilliantly, Ian Gould was a fine official who handled various critical situations with great ease. Having represented the country as a wicket-keeper in the 1983 World Cup, his career as a cricketer didn’t go beyond that year, which pushed him towards umpiring.
He first umpired in an ODI game in 2006 and within three years, he became a member of the ICC Elite Panel. He stood in the high voltage India vs Pakistan semi-final at Mohali in the 2011 Cricket World Cup alongside the legendary Simon Taufel. He is one of the three English officials to have stood in over 200 International games, the others being Nigel Llong and David Shepherd.
Gould was the on-field umpire for 74 Tests, 140 ODIs and 37 T20Is during his 13-year career and was one of the 16 selected officials to take charge of the 2019 World Cup. The final group game between India and Sri Lanka on 6th July marked his final appearance as an official in International cricket.
7. Steve Bucknor
Umpire Steve Bucknor. (Photo by CHRIS YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)
A lot of people remember the West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor for the wrong reasons, but none can disregard how brilliant he was during his prime years. Steve Bucknor easily qualifies as one of the finest on-field officials of all time and his remarkable accuracy during the 90s earned him a lot of appraisals.
Bucknor was known for taking his time before coming to a final decision, thus earning the sobriquet “Slow death”. Interestingly, Bucknor was also a FIFA referee before he came into cricket. The ODI between India and West Indies in Antigua (1989) marked his debut. He caught the attention of the audience and authorities soon and was given a chance to officiate in the 1992 World Cup, including the final.
He then went on to become the only umpire in history to be the on-field official for five consecutive World Cup finals from 1992 to 2007. His career had a controversial fag end which included rifts with media and broadcasting houses. Nevertheless, he was the first umpire in history to officiate more than 300 International matches and finished his career after the ODI between England and West Indies in 2009.
6. Aleem Dar
Aleem Dar. (Photo by Tom Shaw-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)
International cricket’s most capped official of all time, it will take some doing to beat Aleem Dar‘s records. By standing in the middle for 377 International matches (And continuing), no umpire in the history is remotely close to achieving these gigantic numbers in the near future.
After an 11-year career as a First-class and List A cricketer, Aleem Dar officiated in his first International match in 2000 between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He later went on to become the first Pakistani umpire to be a part of the ICC Elite Panel of Umpires in 2004. Aleem Dar won the David Shepherd trophy thrice from 2009 to 2011 and was widely appreciated for his calm and composed demeanor.
Aleem proved his accuracy at the 2011 Cricket World Cup when all the 15 Umpire Decision Review System appeals against him were struck down. Apart from officiating the final in that World Cup, he also was the main man in the middle for the 2007 World Cup final and the 2010 ICC World T20 final.
5. Rudi Koertzen
Rudi Koertzen. (Photo by Gareth Copley/PA Images via Getty Images)
One of the longest-serving umpires in cricket history, Rudi Koerzen from South Africa was well-appreciated for his remarkable accuracy while he was in the middle. In the list of most International matches officiated, he is second only to Aleem Dar with a total of 331 games to his name.
During an ODI game between India and South Africa in 1992, he made his debut and people began to notice how slowly he raises his index finger. He was one of the original members of the ICC Elite panel when it was formed in 2002 and went on to be the third umpire for the 2003 and 2007 World Cup finals.
He became only the second umpire in history to officiate in 100 Test matches after Steve Bucknor and stood in various other high-profile fixtures during his illustrious 18-year career. In June 2010, he announced his retirement and the Test match between Pakistan and Australia next month was his final appearance wearing the white hat.
4. Billy Bowden
Billy Bowden. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)
If we talk about cricket’s most entertaining figures in umpiring, the first one would be the Late great David Shepherd and the second would be Billy Bowden. The man with the crooked finger, Bowden hogged a lot of limelight with his unique way of signaling boundaries, wickets or others while he was in the middle.
Bowden officiated for the first time in 1995 in an ODI game between New Zealand and Sri Lanka. I 2002, the Kiwi was included in the Emirates Panel of International Umpires and from then on, he was the global map of cricket. He became the youngest umpire to stand in 100 ODIs in 2007, a record which was later bettered by Simon Taufel.
In an illustrious career which lasted nearly 21 years, Bowden umpired for 84 Tests, 200 ODIs and 24 T20Is. Another one of the remarkable achievements of his careers includes not getting a single decision overturned in the 2011 World Cup, which meant he had a 100% accuracy rate in decision making.
3. Simon Taufel
Simon Taufel. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
A name so familiar to the current generation of fans, Simon Taufel falls in a very elite bracket of umpires who wasn’t just pin-point accurate, but also was loved dearly by the fraternity. He witnessed some iconic moments of Indian standing in the middle, from Yuvraj Singh’s 6 sixes, 2007 World T20 triumph to the 2011 World Cup success.
Among the many names which come into the mind while talking about the history of umpires, Taufel is one name which is associated with no famous controversy. He won the ICC Umpire of the year award five times in a row from 2004 to 2008, a stat which indicates why he was the finest during his time.
Beginning his International career in 2000, the Australian stood in the middle for 74 Tests, 174 ODIs and 34 T20Is. After the 2012 World T20 final in Colombo, he announced his retirement and subsequently worked as ICC’s Umpire Performance and Training Manager until October 2015.
2. David Shepherd
David Shepherd. (Photo by Sean Dempsey – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
A name very close to the hearts of many cricket lovers, David Shepherd and his many superstitions still continue to live. He was much more than a man who folded his leg when there was a nelson figure on the scorecard. Shepherd was calm as ice under pressure was not one of those who would fall easily to loud and cringy appealing.
He played 282 First-class and 183 List A games during his playing days but is remembered mostly for his time as a match official. He and Dickie Bird are the only English umpires to have officiated in three consecutive World Cup finals. Having stood in the middle for 92 Tests and 172 ODIs, he till date holds the record for the most matches officiated by an Englishman.
Among other superstitions apart from the nelson leg-fold, he would tie a matchstick to a finger on Friday 13th, so he would be touching wood to bring good luck all day. Also famous was his tendency to shake his hand while signaling fours; to this day, many fans in cricket crowds mimic his action while celebrating fours. Shepherd passed away at the age of 68 on 27 October 2009.
1. Dickie Bird
Harold “Dickie” Bird. (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)
One of cricket’s most loved figures of all time, Dickie Bird was perhaps the greatest umpire the game of cricket has witnessed. Harlond Dennis Bird AKA Dickie Bird was born on 19 April 1933 and played 93 First-class games for Yorkshire and Leicestershire. After a playing career which lasted less than a decade, Bird became an umpire.
He stood in his first County game in 1970 and three years later, he made his debut as an umpire in International cricket during the game between England and New Zealand. He stood in the middle to witness West Indies win the 1975 and 1979 World Cup finals against Australia and England respectively. He also was one of the two umpires witnessing 1983 final which changed Indian cricket forever.
His keen eye for detail and ability to be spot on with most decisions astounded the cricketing world. He stood in the middle as an umpire for 66 Tests and 69 ODIs. In his final game as an umpire in 1996, the Indian and the English team players formed a guard of honor as a mark of respect for his outstanding career.
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