Simon Taufel, who gave up the white coat recently, talks about umpiring and the patience needed for it. G Krishnan is all ears.
When you took up umpiring, did you think you’d stand in an ODI just before your 28th birthday and in a Test at 29?
No way. I did not take up umpiring to officiate in first-class cricket or even internationals. It was a hobby for me.
You were officiating in matches where players were older than you. Were you nervous?
It’s not about age but performance and merit. I derived confidence from the fact that we wouldn’t be given a game unless we were capable of doing the job. All my age did was help me focus on earning players’ respect by giving them what they expected.
I’m always a little nervous before a game, which is good. It shows I care for my role.
You could easily have been mistaken for a player...
I’ve been stopped at a few venues by people who did not believe I was one of the umpires (including at the Lord’s). Being from the same generation as the players has helped me appreciate the hard work and professionalism they have put into their careers. It helped me focus on the importance of my job and its impact on the players if I did not deliver my best.
You have seen great performances in matches you have officiated in. Is it tough to restrain yourself from congratulating the players?
Yes, I’ve witnessed some special performances, not just in terms of statistics but also courage, patience and determination. Umpires are human too. When a batsman gets a hundred, I wink at him after the over. And I say well bowled to a bowler as I hand back his cap. That’s my style.
With age on your side, would you consider a second innings at international umpiring?
I have deliberately not used the word ‘retire’ in any of my answers. Who retires at 41? It is unlikely however, that I would return to international umpiring. That’s for the younger guys who want it more. My focus is to help others reach and go beyond their potential. I’m pursuing new challenges too that are important for my own development. We only get one shot at life and it’s vital to experience as many things as possible before we leave. It may be possible to come back to umpiring but there is so much I want to do and achieve.
You have seen rules change over the years? Any laws you want changed or wish they hadn’t been tinkered with?
I feel we have too many playing conditions that differ from the laws. There is so much for the umpires, captain and players to know and understand. Have you seen the size of the recent handbook detailing the playing conditions? It’s thicker than a phonebook. I’d like to see it get smaller and desire more emphasis on the laws of cricket. Keep it simple.
Does the 2009 Lahore attack still give you nightmares?
It never did and doesn’t even now. It was a very sad day for those who died — the policemen in the convoy and our driver. I feel for our driver Zafir and his family – he was only driving us to a game of cricket and lost his life. It was a sad day for Pakistan and international cricket. I’m sure we have learned a great deal from that day. The bond I share with Steve Davis, Chris Broad, Ahsan Raza and Peter Manuel is a very close one – we got through it and emerged stronger. The incident had more of an impact on my wife and children, for they required counselling afterwards.
If a youngster tells you “I want to be an international umpire”, will you encourage him?
It’s really important to do what you love and love what you do. If you want to become an international umpire, go for it. Chase that dream. If you work hard enough and apply the principles that I did, anything is possible. Umpiring is a game of patience. It is a tough road and not everyone is suited to the role. Be prepared for setbacks, learn from them and be ready when the opportunity comes along.