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The Ten: Greatest Umpires Of All Time According To Bumble

by Wisden Staff

David Lloyd, a former first-class umpire himself, is a student and a champion of the white-coated art. A little while ago he guest-edited an issue of our magazine, and listed his top 10 officials of all time. Here they are…

10)
 ROY PALMER (1942-) 
& KENNY PALMER (1937-)

I couldn’t split them, the brothers Palmer, so they’re in together. Somerset men, Kenny ‘Pedlar’ Palmer and his sibling, the Judge – after the western character, Judge Roy Bean – were both top decision-makers. Pedlar was a steely-eyed man, with a nice sense of humour, whereas Roy used to shoot you out, true to his cowboy namesake, with the slowest raised ‘trigger finger’ in the west (country).

ROY: TESTS: 2 (1992-1993) ODIs: 8 (1983-1995)

KENNY: TESTS: 22 (1978-1994) ODIs: 23 (1977-2001)

9) DAVID CONSTANT (1941-)

Always umpiring with a smile on his face, I think Connie was unlucky in the way he fell foul of officialdom and I think that was unfair. When he was out there and at his best he was the sort of fella that brought the fun out during
 a day’s play – he was the life and soul of the game. And as an umpire I’d rate him as one of the very best at explaining things properly to you – why things were happening as they were and why he’d made the decision he had.

TESTS: 36 (1971-1988) ODIs: 33 (1972-2001)

8) HARRY BALDWIN (1860-1935)

Harry used to umpire in the longest coat of all time – almost down to the floor it was. And to count the balls in the over he used to flick coins from his left hand across to his right – it was his trademark, the way he used to do it. He had enormous ten-to-two feet and all, which made him look even funnier.

(NO TESTS FOR HARRY)

7) ALAN WHITEHEAD (1940-)

I know that Alan wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea as an umpire, but I can say that he was comfortably one of the very 
best to stand with. He had a bit of a reputation for looking for controversy on the field, and you were best advised, as a player, not to mess with him. He was also an umpire who loved his fitness training. I remember him going for a run in the Parks at Oxford once and found himself bitten by a dog! Alan’s reaction to the bite was to thump the owner! Having said all of that, there was no one more loyal to stand with. And no one that would back you on the field quite like Alan did.

TESTS: 5 (1982-1987) ODIs: 14 (1979-2001)

6) SIMON TAUFEL (1971-)

I put Simon Taufel and Aleem Dar right up with the very best as technical umpires.

TESTS: 74 (2000-2012) ODIs: 174 (1999-2012)

Funnyman: Umpire Billy Alley

Funnyman: Umpire Billy Alley

5) BILL ALLEY (1919-2004)

Bill was so funny. One of the funniest blokes you could ever wish to be on the field with – a great sense of humour. I remember him catching Lancashire’s Peter Lee picking the seam one day. And Bill had a fair reputation for doing the same, during his playing days. He shouted across to Peter, tossing him the ball after examining it, saying: “You’ve done a brilliant job with that – so good in fact that if you don’t get seven-fer, I’ll report you!”

TESTS: 10 (1974-1981) ODIs: 9 (1974-1981)

4) SID BULLER (????)

Sid was the first of what you might call the celebrity umpire. It was deemed an honour to play in a game that was being officiated over by him. He was a disciplinarian and a figure of great authority and also of huge standing in the game, of this day. So much in fact that he was as revered a figure as cricket writer, EW Swanton.

(NO TESTS FOR SID)

3) BILLY BOWDEN (1963-)

Billy is an 
old-fashioned 
character – a 
real personality 
and someone I call a friend. I think his decision-making is exemplary and I also love the way he umpires with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

TESTS: 80 (2000-) ODIs: 191 (1995-)

Number one: Ray Julian

Number one: Ray Julian

2) ARTHUR JEPSON (1915-1997)

There must be a million stories about Jepo. All of them hilarious and all of them undoubtedly true. He had this head of slicked back hair – it definitely wasn’t Brylcreem holding it in place – it was more likely chip fat or something like it! He was indiscreet, insensitive and unbelievably funny on the field. He had a big booming voice, which used to echo around the stands. I remember him commenting on Neal Radford’s bowling. Radders was struggling for a bit of rhythm on the day and had what you’d have to describe as a shuffling run to the crease. “‘Ere, can he bat?” shouted Arthur from his position at square leg. And before anyone could confirm or deny the question, he said, “’Cos he can’t ****ing bowl. And he runs up like he’s shit himself!”

I wasn’t spared Arthur’s cutting tongue. Lancashire were playing against the students at Fenners and there wasn’t much happening in the game so I came on to bowl my slow left-armers. I was bowling these huge bombs, trying to get them to play a few shots. At the end of the over, as Jepo hands me my cap, he says, “I’ve umpired some poor bowling in my time – Fred Price, he was a bad ‘un, but I reckon you’re worse.” Before retaking his position at square-leg.

1) RAY JULIAN (1936-)

I don’t think there’s ever been an umpire that was as complete as Ray Julian. He was wonderful company to stand with, incredibly popular with the players and a far better umpire than his self-deprecating sense of humour belied. I remember sitting back after umpiring together and he shouts across the room, “Well Mr Lloyd, another perfect day for me – I’m not sure about you!”

Ray had a reputation as an umpire that ‘kept the game moving’, shall we say. A reputation he played up to. He loved standing at Richard Hadlee’s end when the tyro was playing for Nottinghamshire in the Eighties. Ray would always find out in advance which end Sir Richard was bowling. He also was unafraid to give tough decisions, never shied away from anything. For me, as well as being a prince of a bloke, Ray was spot on.

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  1. Daniel 3 years ago (Edit)

    What a brilliant read. Being 27 though, I can only comment on the more recent umpires and Simon Taufel has been the stand-out umpire since I began watching the game at the age of 10. That said, give me Bowden and Gunner Gould for entertainment value! Worst umpire of all time (ok, the last 20 years) - Russell Tiffin -Horrendous is generous

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