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‘Our job is to see that mistakes are eliminated’

Veteran umpire SK Bansal says he loves sharing his knowledge with young umpires

Like cricketers, umpires too have to go through the grind before they are deemed fit to officiate in an international game. While we are well aware of the role coaches play in grooming a cricketer, a similar role is also in practice for the match officials. Young umpires are being groomed by senior officials who share their knowledge and prepare them for the tough task ahead.

Veteran umpire SK Bansal talks about coaching young umpires in an interview with

You have been part of the umpires’ review committee. Tell us about your role.

As part of the review committee, some of us senior umpires travelled to various venues and observed performances of young umpires. We would observe their body language, appearance and alertness on the field. We noticed the decisions made by them for no balls, wide balls and other modes of dismissals. We made notes and gave marks, and passed on the information to the Board. Our job was to see that the mistakes committed on the field of play were reduced and eventually eliminated.

What would the review committee do with the data that was collected?

If it was observed that lbw decisions made by some umpires were not up to the mark, then they were called to the BCCI Umpires Academy in Nagpur and given lectures for about a week. They were apprised of the mistakes made and how they can overcome their doubts. You are bound to make mistakes and if you are being observed by somebody, it means there is a definite scope for improvement.

Was there a similar concept during your time as well?

During my time, we did not even have books on the law. We were guided by our senior umpires. Earlier, I would sit at one corner of the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi and read out the laws to young umpires to help them prepare. The BCCI is doing a wonderful job now. There are regular classes on the laws of the game, reviews and very soon the Academy in Nagpur is going to start functioning again. We will have a new batch in January.

What is the central topic of discussion in your conversations with young umpires?

I give lectures to umpires at Vidarbha Cricket Association and Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association. I teach the boys for three hours in the morning and then again in the evening. I am interested in talking laws to as many people as possible. The first thing I teach them is laws. The other aspect is how to implement those laws. If a bowling side makes one strong appeal, you should not be trembling. You should be certain about your decision.

A batsman is always told to focus on the next ball and concentrate all over again. Is it the same for an umpire as well?

I tell them to forget everything around them and focus on the task. It is easier said than done, but you have to do it. If you give a wrong decision in a big match, the media will highlight it and it puts more pressure on you. If you have made a mistake, you have to think what went wrong and overcome that and not let it hamper you.

So do you share your experiences to help them understand better?

Yes, experience is the best teacher. I encourage them to give right decisions under pressure. Umpiring is an art with courage. When I officiated in the Eden Gardens, Test match against Australia (VVS Laxman hit 281), there were over one lakh people inside and countless people outside the stadium. The support for the Indian team was massive and it was very difficult to concentrate. The ball was pitching and moving. My job was to detach from the all the noise around and channelize all my energies on the movement of the ball. That was certainly the high point of my career. It was something very different. I tell the boys that there will also be a day in their career and they must not be overawed by the occasion. 

Moulin Parikh

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Officiating in India has been an eye-opener: Jele

South African umpire Bongani Patrick Jele shares his experience of officiating in the Ranji Trophy

He is only 29, but has been officiating in first-class matches for six years now. An early starter, Bongani Patrick Lele has also been to Australia and New Zealand and is now in India to officiate in the Ranji Trophy. The affable South African took some time out to chat with BCCI.TV to narrate his experience of umpiring in India as part of the umpires exchange programme.

Is this your first time in India?

Yes, this is my first time in India and I have been enjoying every moment of the time spent here. My first game was between Uttar Pradesh and Punjab at Kanpur. The Mumbai-Gujarat match will be my last and I will head back after that.

You have also officiated in New Zealand and Australia? How would you sum up your experience here?

In India, cricket is played hard and with a lot of passion. Umpiring here has been an eye-opener. It has been a great experience. People are nice and friendly. I had been looking forward to my trip to India for a very long time. I would have loved to be a part of a more turning wicket as both the matches I officiated in were green tops. Overall, it has been a very pleasing experience.

The umpires exchange programme is a wonderful initiative, isn’t it?

It is a very good initiative from the boards who are involved in this programme. One grows as an individual and also gets valuable experience as an umpire. It opens up your eyes on dealing with different players, cultures and conditions. I have found first-class cricket to be of very high standards in the countries I have been to. There is so much for the players to achieve and at the same time, there is so much for umpires to achieve.

Did you have to do any prior homework before coming here?

I needed to prepare myself as to what conditions I am going to come across, so that when I come here, I am not shell shocked. You need to make sure that when you get an opportunity, you hit the ground running and are not found wanting. I spoke to senior international umpires in South Africa who have officiated in India and all of them gave me positive feedback. They told me what I must do rather than what I shouldn’t.
You are still very young and have quite a bit of experience under your belt. People your age are trying to establish themselves as professional cricketers. You chose a different path.

I get that question a lot. I played U13 and U15, but started umpiring when I was 14. A friend of mine was the coach of an U11 side, and he would drag me along whenever his team played. I would often stand as an umpire when they played and that is how it all began. I appeared in all the related exams and began officiating in national age-group tournaments in South Africa. Since then umpiring has been my passion and I have steadily climbed the ladder. I have loved every minute that I have spent on the field as an umpire. Now, I don’t really feel young and my age does not affect my decisions. We now have younger guys coming through and I hope that the experience I have gained by starting early helps me in my career.

Would you recommend cricket fans to take up umpiring as a career option?

Definitely, I would encourage guys to consider taking up umpiring as a career. Also, for a cricket fan, this is the best seat in the house. I would have loved to play at the higher level, but I am very happy that I could reach this level thanks to umpiring. It is definitely an alternate career choice.

Does it ever get intimidating when some really big names are playing?

When you cross the boundary rope, all players are equal. I don’t have friends or enemies when I am on the field. I don’t see a name, I just see a player. That has been my thought process throughout. It has helped me not to get star-struck. 

Umpiring is a demanding job. How do you unwind?

Post-match, I take deep breaths. I take a shower and try not think much about the game. You try and go out. In Mumbai you have a lovely beach, so I go for walks by the beach at Marine Drive. I try and get to know players and officials. Those are the types of things you want to be doing as it is important to unwind and relax. Cricket brings people from different backgrounds together and what we can do is share those backgrounds.

Moulin Parikh

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