Like any Indian citizen, I love cricket. I played a lot of tennis-ball cricket, but couldn’t give much time and money to play the leather-ball cricket during my school and engineering college days. That unfulfilled desire or inner urge inspired me to choose the option to be an umpire and get associated with the game for a longer time.
I am immensely thankful to the former Test umpire Mr. Piloo Reporter – from my hometown Thane – who taught me the ABCD of ‘The Laws of Cricket’. He made me capable to pass the State Panel Umpiring examination conducted by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) in the year 1993. Senior Test umpire, the Late Mr. A. M. Mhamsa, guided me on the practical aspects of Cricket umpiring in the classes conducted at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.
After umpiring in MCA maidan matches for five years; I got an opportunity to appear for the Umpiring Examination conducted by the BCCI in 1997. Former Test umpire Mr. M. V. Gothoskar, who is a guru Dronacharya of the Mumbai umpires, took tireless efforts on our batch for three months. Nine of us from Mumbai passed the BCCI Umpires Examination and were selected on the ‘Ranji Trophy Panel’. Our batch is popularly known as ‘9/97’ in Mumbai Cricket. Former Test umpire Late Mr. Dara Dotiwalla and many other BCCI Panel Umpires from Mumbai continuously supported us to achieve this milestone.
I was very much excited when I got my first appointment card from the MCA to stand as an umpire for the first time in my life in a local match at the New Hind club ground in Matunga in 1993.
I still remember the happy moment when I called ‘Play’ for the first time in the BCCI match. I was feeling very proud to wear the BCCI hat and tie.
These are the great moments to be preserved for a lifetime.
It is really great to watch again and again the video of the magic ball bowled by Balwinder Sing Sandhu in the 1983 Prudential World Cup Final. You can imagine how proud and fortunate I would have felt when I got an opportunity to stand as umpire in the Times Shield matches where I could closely watch this great man bowling from my end in my early days of umpiring.
I umpired in a Ranji Trophy match between Assam and Bihar in December 2000. It was beyond my imagination that one of the boys from this match is going to be the World Cup-winning captain of India sometime in the future.
Every year, the BCCI conducts a pre-season workshop for the Panel Umpires where we discuss the changes in the Laws and Playing Conditions as required for the upcoming season. The umpires are also trained on various aspects of the game like communication skills, match management, fitness, etc.
Once we get the appointments; we collect all the required information related to the venue, ground, equipment, teams, players, etc. We get aligned on the same with all the stakeholders of the game before every match. A day before the match, we inspect and certify all ground preparations and facilities. A team meeting is conducted by the Match Referee where the important points on the Conduct and Implements of the match are discussed among the match officials, captains and managers. The umpires attend net sessions of both teams and work on their fitness regularly.
Memories and Highlights
The beauty of umpiring is that we get an opportunity to closely watch almost 3-4 generations of the cricketers and that too, from the best position - standing in the middle, right behind the wicket.
Like any other umpire, I also witnessed so many nail-biting and close finishes, great bowling, batting and fielding performances, great team efforts to turn defeat into victory.
The best memories for umpires are of course when we make some good decisions in the tricky situation and feel happy when those are appreciated by the knowledgeable players and coaches. Sometimes, we get a sleepless night, in case, we make any avoidable error in giving a judgment.
Personally, I believe in following the process of decision making. When we follow the proper process, there are more chances of getting the rating of the decision as ‘correct’.
Apart from the Laws and Decisions, there are many instances of man Management or match management, which can make or mar the career of the umpire. I am very happy that I was able to tackle some situations or take some spontaneous actions on the field using sense of humour and effectively using professional experience to prevent any unpleasant incidents to happen.
If your frequency matches with your umpiring colleague, then you really enjoy doing that and life becomes easy and enjoyable.
As far as umpiring career is concerned, I think I could have done much better. Unfortunately, after making the BCCI Umpiring debut in 1997-98, I couldn’t give my services to the BCCI from year 2001-02 to 2002-03, in 2004-05 and again from 2006-07 to 2010-11. I missed crucial eight seasons of my umpiring because of my IT Project assignments in the Asia-pacific and Europe. That was a huge loss to me in making better career as a Professional Cricket Umpire.
After working for 12 years in manufacturing and 12 years in Information Technology, in 2011-12 I took a cautious decision to leave my job and take up the BCCI Umpiring – my passion as a profession – and continued religiously till my retirement.
The umpires work hard on fitness in the off-season and also continue doing appropriate exercises during the season. They maintain their daily routine properly. Nowadays, the umpires are very cautious about their nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, etc. The umpires are getting used to frequent travel and also learning to get acquainted quickly to different weather conditions. Some of us are making attempts to learn different languages of different states, showing keen interest in their culture which is really appreciable.
Earlier, umpiring was purely a hobby and was not considered as a regular source of income. We were not so cautious about food, fitness, etc. We used to travel by train or bus and make our own hotel arrangements ourselves. The umpires were on their own on the field and they were really tested on their personal skills.
Now, it’s a full-time profession, a lot of money is involved. The BCCI provides us with the facilities of air travel and tries to give the best possible hotel accommodation in the town. The technology is playing a major role to assist the umpires in correcting the human errors. The presence of the Match Referee provides a lot of protection to the umpires. It is mandatory for the players and support staff to follow the ‘Code of Conduct’ guidelines strictly which is also a nice tool provided to the Match Officials to have a better control over the match.
Day by day, the players are becoming more and more professional. There are many support personnel, specialists involved in the game to help players boost their performance. The speed and accuracy of the game have increased like anything.
So, we are also expected to raise the standards of umpiring and deliver our best every time. Nowadays, an umpire has to work under tremendous pressure of high expectations, use of modern technology, smart tactics of players, criticism from the press/media, cut-throat competition, frequent travel, fitness level required to match the speed and accuracy of the game. An umpire needs to keep working on his physical and mental toughness regularly.
I did my job honestly and tried to give justice to my role and responsibilities sincerely. I got the opportunity to interact with many great personalities, not only with the world-class international cricketers but also with some great administrators in the nation.
I always thoroughly enjoyed my umpiring life, not just on the field but also off the field. Cricket has given me many good friends all over the country.
Thanks a lot to the BCCI for giving me this identity as a ‘BCCI Panel Umpire’ and opportunity to proudly wear the great ‘BCCI Logo’ which makes me feel very special.
To sum up, cricket is my passion. I made it a purpose and managed to make it my profession.
Chandrakant Mhase made his debut as a BCCI umpire on 13th November 1998 in a Cooch Behar Trophy match at Motera, Gujarat and went on to officiate in his first Ranji Trophy game a year later. Mhase officiated in his last BCCI match on 18th February 2020 during the Col C K Nayudu Trophy game at Mangaldai, Assam.