Go down to the lower levels of club cricket and it’s often the case that you’re stood at one end as the umpire, with a teammate at the other end as a batter.
The ball’s thudded into the pads, and it looks pretty dead. You can see the fear in your teammate’s eyes. What do you do? It’s a moral dilemma for clubbies and one that was up for discussion between host Yas Rana and Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker on the first episode of the Wisden Club Cricket Podcast in association with NatWest.
YR: I find it very difficult to be totally impartial when you’re umpiring people you know. The league I play in is generally self-umpired. We’re quite lucky that we have an umpire who does both ends, but if he can’t come it’s self-umpiring. You’re faced with a moral dilemma every time the bowler appeals and you go ‘that does look pretty out… but also – Freddie has had a really bad week at work’. Then you say it’s hit him outside the line, but you feel bad because it probably was out…
PW: It’s quite a big confession that you’ve made. That essentially you’re quite happy to bend your own decisions, depending on who’s batting, when you’re umpiring your own team. That’s quite a big confession.
YR: Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of teammates who wherever it hits on the pad, the finger’s going up straight away! It goes both ways. I do try to be fair.
I had a really bad experience as an umpire. I was on a university cricket tour to Dublin and we were playing on a park ground in the middle of nowhere. These games were supposed to be friendlies and we were very lucky on their tour to be playing with hospitable guests who always gave us food and a memento to take home. This team had been really nice to us so far. But the game was really, really close in the run chase, and their captain was their best bowler, a spinner, and I’m happy to say this: he threw the ball. I basically had to stop it, it was really bad – this isn’t cricket! I didn’t no-ball him but I said, ‘I think your arm needs to be a bit straighter on delivery. It’s a friendly game so I’m not going to call you’. And he said sure. But he was ragging it. If you’re chucking it and it’s not really doing anything differently then I’m fine with that, but he was getting an obvious advantage from throwing the ball.
A couple of wickets fall and I have to pad up because I’m in soon and the guy who replaces me as umpire, first ball, no-balls him. The match descends into chaos, because the captain that has been really good to us is banned from bowling.
PW: Just let the bloke play! It’s a uni knockabout. I have seen many in that case and it’s difficult.
Generally you turn a blind eye and talk in disdainful terms from the pavilion when you’re looking on. But they’re going to be full of moral ambiguities, these shows.
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