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Men in the middle spice up

At the cricket World Cup, umpires boast stories as colourful as some of the players.

cricket Updated: Apr 02, 2007 17:16 IST

One has arthritis, another needs heart surgery.

At the World Cup, umpires boast stories as colourful as some of the players.

None more so than Billy Bowden with his flamboyant on-field gestures.

The crooked finger to indicate ‘out’, a staggered raising of the arms for a ‘six’, and a bizarre, crouched sweeping movement for a ‘four’ all make the New Zealander a favourite with the cameras and crowds alike.

The 44-year-old Bowden, who has arthritis in his elbow, started using the hooked finger for giving a batsman out in 1996. Bowden says it’s all a feature of his enjoyment of the game.

“It just came naturally. All cricketers and umpires have personalities and it’s just the way I express myself; I love the game,” Bowden said.

“The main objective for the umpires is to get their decisions right and work as a team. But one-day cricket is exciting. It’s got colour, music and I enjoy all that.

“I can be serious too, but at the best of times I like to enjoy myself. Today we are here, tomorrow we could be gone.”

Bowden has come under fire from traditionalists for his colourful approach.
But he has no regrets.

“I am not disrespecting the game, it is just me,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
Mark Benson has had a dramatic time in the job.

He was facing minor heart surgery after suffering palpitations during the second Test between South Africa and India at Durban in December.

“I wasn’t very well for a time because my heart rate suddenly went up to 190 beats a minute,” said the Englishman who had to leave the field.

“There’s no pattern to it and the doctors aren’t sure what triggers it.”
Veteran umpires Steve Bucknor of the West Indies and Pakistan’s Aleem Dar once received death threats when they were on duty in South Africa.

“I don’t mind constructive criticism,” Bucknor told the Sunday Telegraph.

“I enjoy it because it can help to make you a better decision-maker. I don’t like it when that criticism becomes personal.

“It can become stressful. The key thing is not the stress itself, because you can’t eliminate it, but how you manage it.”

There is little doubt that the greatest stress level was encountered by Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove in the now-infamous forfeited Oval Test in 2006.

Hair fought a bitter and ugly battle with the ICC in the aftermath of the game and is no longer a member of the Elite Panel.

Doctrove is still involved and is officiating at the World Cup. The 51-year-old West Indian believes the Oval controversy has made him a better umpire.
“I look back at it as a learning experience. I learnt a lot from that episode both personally and professionally,” said Doctrove on the eve of the World Cup. I’ve become not only a better umpire, but a better person.”

First Published: Apr 02, 2007 17:07 IST