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As part of his job as the ICC International Umpire, umpire educator Denis Burns has spent considerable time in India. Over the last decade, he has worked closely with Indian umpires and overseen their rise to the international level. Currently, India have four umpires on ICC’s International Panel and until recently S. Ravi was also a member on the ICC Elite Panel of Umpires.
The inclusion of Janani Narayanan and Vrinda Rathi to the ICC Development Panel has come as welcome news and Burns is particularly delighted with their promotion. “I think Janani and Vrinda represent the ‘new wave’ of female umpires in India. I first worked with them last year when I conducted the induction course for new umpires in Chennai. S Ravi and the BCCI International Panel of Umpires assisted me. I have had the privilege of facilitating courses in India for over 10 years and the enthusiasm, commitment and work ethic of last year’s group was extraordinary,” Burns told BCCI.TV.
After umpiring for over 20 years in England as well as a career as a university lecturer in psychology and education, Burns took up the role of educating umpires in 1997 before moving to Melbourne for five years as Cricket Australia’s Umpire Educator and First Class Referee. He was appointed to the ICC in 2013. Having seen the growth in the profile of umpires over the years, Burns feels umpiring has now become a full-time profession and the Board is playing an important role.
“By investing in umpiring the BCCI have raised the status and recognition of umpiring in India. Umpiring is now a full-time occupation for many young, aspiring officials. This was evident in the induction course. All attendees were highly motivated and eager to develop their knowledge and understanding of the Laws and their skills as potential TV umpires.”
Making most of the lockdown break, Burns has been conducting online discussions, video simulations with a large group of Indian umpires. “Our international umpires send answers to our coaches’ quiz every week and this is followed up with a group Skype session based on the quiz. Vrinda and Janani join the group each week and we invite a member of the Emirates Elite Panel to join us. Both Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong have joined us so far. We go beyond the quiz questions and discuss the wider issues of managing the game and working with players and captains. Janani and Vrinda take a full part in discussions and they always come with probing questions to share with the group,” he shared.
While the DRS may appear like a straightforward exercise on the television, it is a complex process involving the third umpire, the television director and a combination of all the different camera angles and technologies available at his or her disposal. It is the synergy of these elements that result in the third umpire making his or her call. Burns is preparing them for the role in this break.
“Every week we conduct a one-to-one 3rd Umpire simulation session and the progress of Janani and Vrinda has been excellent. We began with the expectations of the ICC’s accepted protocols of communication with TV directors and we are now exploring the technologies used in the DRS system. This also includes the need to develop relationships with the TV director and his crew.
“In these simulation sessions, the coach plays the part of the director and the umpire carries out a series of reviews using footage from a wide range of scenarios. The demanding environment of an Outside Broadcast Unit needs to be understood and fully appreciated if umpires are to work in an effective partnership with our media colleagues,” he explained.
Janani said the exercise has helped her understand the role of a third umpire in a practical manner. “Our sessions last for an hour. I am not used to third umpiring and it’s something new that I am learning. By practicing this, we will be ready whenever we get televised matches. Though this drill we get accustomed to the order we need to follow and the exact phrases we need to use. We have looked at many different dismissals and Denis’s feedback is highly useful.”
Vrinda believes the video simulation will help her to improve her decision-making abilities. “Denis has so many different videos of different dismissals. We have studied the boundary footage, boundary catches, no-ball videos and also the DRS. He has been very patient with me and encourages me to do better every time. It has been a confidence booster and I even take notes and refer to them later even after the session is over.”
Burns said the two female umpires from India are putting in the hard work and improving day by day. “They continue to push themselves to be the best umpires they can be. Their progress has been exceptional. They are determined to hit the ground running when the opportunity eventually arises.”