So 2016 eh? Where do you even start with reviewing a year like this one has been.
A year that’s left me feeling despondent, helpless, angry, tearful and terrified.
A year that’s left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed of where I am from.
A year that has seen a terrifying shift to right wing ideologies. Towards unprecedented selfishness and division.
A year that’s seen the normalisation of extremist views.
A year that’s seen an increase in hatred towards people purely because of an accident of birth.
A year where we’ve allowed a national newspaper columnist to get away with saying that she’d turn the gunships on desperate people, fleeing from a desperate situation.
A year that has seen levels of verbal and physical abuse rise to sky high levels. How did we let people like Hopkins and Farage shape our society. How could we let that happen?
Never before have I felt so strongly about something Political as I did about Brexit. I’ll leave the economic analysis to others but the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I felt on the 24th June hasn’t gone away. I thought I might go through the stages of grief from anger towards acceptance. I’m not there yet. Perhaps I might never be. I’m embarrassed by the arrogance of so many of the population thinking we are better than the other 27 countries in the Union. By the petulant toddler behaviour of the country wanting to take their bat and ball home. It staggers me that people could believe that we are better off alone. It’s always better to be in union with others – no matter what their origins or their country of birth. People are always better when they work together, when they try to find commonality rather than difference. We stuck two fingers up at that and I remain devastated by it and by the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric. I’m horrified by the hatred for “Johnny Foreigner”.
I want to wrap my arms round those from minority groups who must feel so terrified, so angry about the rhetoric and the abuse. Tell them that we’ll fight against it.
No doubt I’d have had far less personal abuse on social media if I’d have kept my opinions to myself and perhaps I have shut some professional doors by being so outwardly vocal about all of this. But I can’t stay quiet about it. So much of what has happened before and after the referendum is just plain wrong – silence would be complicity and I am not prepared to do that.
The year started with the tragic death of Sussex fast bowler Matthew Hobden. It hit me harder than I expected to and my heart broke for his family and for all at Sussex. I’d been messaging with him a few days before his death. Just light hearted silly stuff and he was so excited about his cricketing future. Such a terrible tragic waste. Matthew’s memorial service was a lovely occasion though. Almost 1000 people packed into the church. It was clear what an impact he’d made on so many despite being so young.
It’s hard to look back on 2016 without the overriding memory of it being one of sadness and desperation.
But from a personal point of view, it’s been pretty good in parts.
Professionally I have made some progress. I continued to find great joy from working with wonderful colleagues at the BBC and feel like I’ve got better at commentating and have formed some good relationships. I was privileged to witness some absolutely wonderful cricket.
Away from commentary, I had my first back page exclusive with the Times at the beginning of the season and have continued – I think – to unearth bits of news and write functionally about them. News getting is what drives me. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of working hard to get a news story and then breaking it. It’s one of the hardest bits of journalism but to me the most important bit. Clue is in the title – they’re NEWSpapers. My job is really to find out things that people don’t know and tell the about it. I am constantly in awe of some colleagues who do this day in day out and do it so well. They’re really my role models. Perhaps one day I’ll tell them that without sounding like a brown nosing wanker!.
I have to thank Tim, Alex and Joe at the Times for their absolutely incredible support and direction throughout the year. They’ve been such great people to work for. Sports editors and deputy editors rarely get the praise the deserve but when you work with good ones, it’s an absolute blessing.
2016 has been an interesting year on the cricket front. England have had mixed fortunes. County cricket remains a joy and a delight unearthing some wonderful talent. Women’s cricket continues to develop and there’s much to feel optimistic about there.
Conversely I’ve felt horribly let down by the ECB in many ways. The new leadership team have a clear vision for reform and whilst there are many merits to their thinking, the tactics they employ to show what they might call leadership and what I would call bullying leave a lot to be desired. The first nail in the coffin was the frankly ridiculous decision to make CEOs and Chairmen sign gagging orders around the T20 reforms and the final nail in the coffin for me was the willy waving reminder of who’s in charge that was behind the over the top sanctions placed on Durham. The latter made me so angry, I’ve been the equivalent of a scratched CD in exposing the lack of process, the lack of transparency and the over the top actions of the ECB and I’m not done yet. We may not be able to reverse any of the sanctions but we (I) can continue to make things uncomfortable for them.
Away from cricket and work, I turned 40 and I didn’t handle it very well as anyone who saw me at the PCA end of season do will testify (there was an incident involving a flowerbed and crying on Jimmy Anderson’s injured shoulder). I’m still not handling it very well. I’ve been trying to work out why. It’s just a number. But it is a significant one. I’m a 40 year old skint single mum. That wasn’t exactly how I thought it would be when I was younger.
I had a meltdown about whether I’d have to change when I got 40. Grow old with a bit of dignity. But quite frankly I’m not ready to give up my short skirts and high heels although I’m acutely conscious of mutton dressed as lamb syndrome.
Age milestones can often make one do a bit of soul searching and turning 40 made me think more about being single. I’ve reached 40 and never been married nor am I ever likely to be married. I pondered why I am single. Is it as simple as just never having met the right person or is more that I push people away or that actually I would rather be single. I don’t know. I can’t pretend it isn’t lonely – it is. But equally it feels very liberating to be entirely responsible for myself and my little boy – scary and hard work but liberating. My decisions are mine and mine alone. I don’t have to do much compromising and I feel vaguely proud of doing everything myself.
Having said all that, a life without love is one that isn’t, perhaps, complete. There is a reason why most people have a partner. But to shamelessly pinch lines from CJ Cregg in the West Wing. I missed the window. I missed the window to know how to share my life with someone. I’m not sure I’d know how to. I’m good at working. I’m good at my job. That’s what I know how to do. I’m good at “doing”, I’m not good at attracting a mate!. Besides, just how attractive a prospect is a 40 year old single mum with wobbly thighs. Not very I’m assuming.
James turned 10 and he remains an absolute delight. He’s turned into the loveliest, sweetest, clever, inquisitive and empathic child. We have a lovely relationship. We’re close and it’s very chilled on the whole. I’m not really the mumsy type but we bumble along despite me being shit at arts and craft and cooking. I really do love him very much. OK – I realise that’s not exactly big news – we all love our kids!
Hockey has been great again – I mean the hockey hasn’t – we’re the seventh XI – we are a bit shite. But my hockey club and my hockey friends are my surrogate family. They’re my community and the hockey club is my Cheers bar. My hockey friends are sparky strong women and I find a lot of comfort in them.
2017 terrifies me. Not just from a global political perspective – although that’s terrifying enough especially after the Orange man toddler takes charge on the 20th January. But I’ve resigned from my job in the civil service after 19 years. There are a number of reasons for me resigning which I’ll write about after I’ve left at the end of February but for the last few years I have been trying to balance my fairly stressful job in the civil service with cricket work and parenting and quite frankly the last couple of summers it’s nearly killed me. So I’m taking the leap from the civil service into trying to be a journalist full-time. Not just cricket but I want to write “grown up” news too – at the front end of the Newspaper. So yes. I’m an idiot going from the relatively secure world of the Civil service to the very not secure world of journalism. It’s terrifying but if I don’t try it I will regret it.
So 2016 has been a weird year. I’ve made some personal progress, had some successes, worked my metaphorical bollocks off. But I’ve cried a lot. I’ve felt helpless, angry and terrified. I’ve had some lovely times with wonderful people.
And as I wrote last year. I’ve loved. I’ve loved and lost. And my house is still a mess, I’m still skint and I still can’t cook. At least in amongst the global chaos, some things stay the same.
I hope you all have a lovely New Year’s Eve whatever you’re doing and that 2017 sees a fight back against the hatred and that you have years that are filled with love, fun, friendship and success.
European Championship 2016: Kicking off with a bang!
The competition in France has definitely had a lot of publicity lately. From Marseilles to Paris, this European Championship is well worth watching for the “beautiful game” in action! As with any Euros, there has been fierce rivalry between nations as they rush towards the end of the group stages, anxious to find their place further in the tournament. Overall, I am excited to see what happens next.
Edge of the Seat Football:
Tense moments have been shared by a variety of teams as the beginning of the tournament saw a high number of low scoring games. The first, between the host nation France against Romania, was definitely one of these. France, a dominant force with a lot to live up to; Romania, the underdogs with little to lose. This game was set to be fiery!
A reasonably docile first half was brought to life with the French taking the lead after 56 minutes from a well-timed header by Olivier Giroud. The French however were only to be brought down a peg by an unwanted penalty in the 64th minute from the Romanians. But of course a “shocking” ending is required. France manage to squeeze in a winner at the 88th minute from a wonder strike by Demitri Payet. This close quarter game would set the tone for the rest of the tournament, with currently 13 goals being scored near to the 90th minute, putting all of us on the edge of our seats!
Of course football has its favourites, with Germany being world champions; but currently the high flyers are the Spanish. They have guaranteed a place further in the tournament, but also set a dominating example, comfortably beating the Czech Republic 1-0, and Turkey 3-0. Having seen some textbook play, it is safe to say that Spain are ones to watch. Italy have also come out of the starting blocks with unlikely confidence, winning both their games against Belgium 2-0, and Sweden 1-0. The Italians are definitely getting the job done, and with one game left in the group stages, they show signs of progression.
Every tournament has underdogs, but one nation shines above the rest. Coming into this tournament with little chance of winning, Wales have gone on to beat both Slovakia 2-1, and Russia 3-0; but also top Group B with a collective enthusiasm to “keep the ball rolling”. An impressive performance, especially when it is their first European Championship ever!
A slow start by many a team has been uplifted by recently. Nail biting scores mean that some teams still cling on to hopes of progression. What this European Championship needs are some more wonder performances, goals, set plays and excellent displays of exciting football. But who knows? There are plenty of contenders, with underdogs rising to the challenge, and giants falling in their wake.
Who will win? Can you remember who has risen to the challenge before? Take this fun quiz at http://www.online-betting.me.uk/euro/european-championship-winners-quiz.php
Please forgive my soppy self indulgence
It’s 2pm on 31st December 2015 and as at this time every year, I become introspective and more than a little emotional. Another year of life gone and what happened?
2015 was fairly unremarkable for me in comparison to the things I see friends and acquaintances post on social media. I didn’t have any milestones. I didn’t get married, or have a kid or get a new job or win the lottery or write a book.
It was, in many ways, just another year but one I look back on in slightly silly overly analytical way.
More than any other year in my life, 2015 was one which left me feeling overwhelmed and helpless at the state of our world. The election result upset me. The lack of compassion towards the poor, the vulnerable and towards those fleeing war, destruction and death in Syria. Never before have I sensed so many being so self interested – self interest to the point that they are content to see children drowning in the sea rather than welcome them to our shores to provide them safety and security.
Everyday the news is barrage of death, suffering and destruction and the overwhelming sense of guilt as I sit in my little house worrying about my own issues and consumed by a sense of inability to effect any sort of change. I am overwhelmed and agonised by the cruelty we can show towards each other particularly those born with less privilege than we were. I hold out very little hope that next year will see any less suffering in the world but very often I see reminders of wonderful people doing wonderful things to help others and see some small patches of light in amongst the searing darkness.
On a personal note, 2015 was a year of contrasts.
Professionally thing went pretty well. I had another wonderful cricket season working with fantastic people at the BBC and The Guardian. County cricket remains my joy and my passion. Full of passionate dedicated people trying, on the whole, to make things work despite some huge challenges. Special thanks to all my BBC cricket colleagues and to all the county press officers especially Adam Matthews at Sussex who is the benchmark on how to do that job.
I made my TMS debut for a women’s ashes match and whilst it may be a one off, it may never happen again, I enjoyed it immensely. I also made my debut on the Sky programme Cricket Writers on TV and despite being terrified by live TV, I don’t think I made a total pillock of myself.
I challenged myself in a new area covering nine weeks of the Chris Cairns trial for The Cricket Paper and got big showings in the Guardian and the Times. I can’t say it was a highlight because something like that is, by its nature, a bit depressing but professionally speaking I felt it did an OK job.
My son continues to grow into a wonderful little boy who is caring and compassionate and it’s a delight to watch him discover the world, find out about his passions. I love his constant questions about everything from who is Aston Villa’s centre back to Einstein’s theory of special relativity. We learn together and that is so fulfilling
Personally, things were difficult. My self-confidence took a serious battering a year ago and it’s never quite recovered. It’s not an easy thing to do to try to get over the paralysis that self doubt can bring and it’s resulted in me not being quite the person I want to be. I had to admit that I am a bit lonely and that’s not a nice thing to have to admit. It feels like a life failure rightly or wrongly. Weirdly though I became a little more content with my looks and my body – I have had a 25 year battle with this. As women, we are pitted against each other and if you aren’t one of the “pretty ones” it’s certainly pointed out to you fairly early on in your life and I am not sure you quite can ever get over that. Some people learn to feel comfortable in their own skin – I never have. I have felt a little better about it this year, in the sense that I am ageing OK – I think.
2015 also saw me lose a couple of people out of my life. I am, I suspect, better off without them but occasionally I miss them. I have a natural instinct to completely eradicate people from my life once there’ s been any element of hurt or conflict; a fairly natural defence technique but perhaps in 2016 I need to learn to both apologise and forgive.
I remain amazed and inspired by so many talented, dedicated people in many industries and one day I might even have the courage to tell them that without thinking I’ll sound like a twat.
I’ve loved. I’ve loved and lost. I have felt disillusioned, angry and confused by love but I’ve remained sure that I have plenty of love left in me if I were to meet someone.
I’m still skint, my house is still a bomb site, I still eat too much chocolate and smoke too much and I still can’t cook. I kind of like that some things remain constant!
Happy New Year and lots of love xx
Earlier on this evening I saw someone on my facebook post something – something which was both factually inaccurate, unsourced and a bit silly.
It was this:
a) illegal immigrants by definition can’t register for benefits – the clue is in the name, if they are here illegally then try and register for benefits they would be found to be illegal and probably arrested. If they’re asylum seekers they get around £5 a day whilst their claim is being processed.
b) Asylum seekers do not get more than pensioners in the UK – as it quite clearly states in this UK parliamentary briefing paper http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05621.pdf
Having pointed out those couple of facts – the person in question unfriended me on facebook and then unfollowed me on Twitter. OK OK I know that’s hardly a big deal – it’s only social media but it rather upset me. Hey ho – that’s the way it goes but nowhere did I tell him he couldn’t have views on immigration just pointed out that the article in question is factually wrong on a number of counts.
Deeply disappointing that someone who I liked had that reaction to my factual evidence based response to his post. You live and learn I guess but it’s depressing that this stuff gets spouted when it’s just simply not true.
Despite my obsession with the leather on willow, my son James has never really been that bothered about it. Mostly he would watch a few overs with me and then disappear off to watch football on his ipad or play FIFA on the x-box.
I didn’t want to try and push him to like cricket – what’s the point? He’d only end up hating it if I tried to make him love it. You can’t make someone like cricket.
That was until a couple of months ago.
Thanks to a very enlightened and dedicated teacher at his little primary school called Jane Keightley, the boys and girls of years 3-6 at Bishop Perrin C of E school play a bit of cricket. Something that’s very rare in state primary schools.
It’s only an hour or so on a Tuesday afternoon in the summer term but it’s been enough to invoke an interest in the game.
All it took was for him to have a blue plastic bat and to feel the windball hit the middle of it a few times and now he thinks he’s Brian Lara.
For the last two days James has been on a coaching course at the MCC academy at Lord’s and I can’t sing the praises of it highly enough.
James is in year 3 and has spent two consecutive days between 10am and 5pm in the company of 12 other year 3 boys (sadly no girls on the course) and being taught by patient, calm and clearly passionate coaches.
The course – called “Rising stars” is for children in years 3 and 4 who have had some exposure to cricket but even those with quite limited experience are catered for.
The course began with fun games – catching, running, working together and then moved on (gently but quickly enough for the kids not to get bored) to really drilling down into the three key skills of bowling, batting and fielding.
Of course, all eight year old boys want to try and smack the cover off the ball and the coaches struck a very good balance between allowing them to do that and gently teaching them the benefits and techniques of defensive shots.
The bowling is something more of a struggle. Nearly all the boys on the course struggled with bowling the required length of 18 yards but
The first day culminated in a six a side match which was played competitively but sportingly.
Day two, started with more focus on bowling technique drilling down into the shape of the body coming through into landing and the follow through. It has to be said that my lad struggled with this – kept bowling off the wrong foot. But if it was good enough for Mike Procter
They split into three very small groups which gave opportunity to the coaches to give advice to each child and look at where they could help them. In two days you can’t teach a kid who can’t bowl at all to have a perfect technique but they made good decisions about what level each child was at and coach appropriately
It was a fantastic two day course, although seven hours each day is quite knackering but he certainly slept well.
In the words of the eight year old himself “the best bit was that I got much better at batting and I made some friends and we had a lot of fun.”
The MCC run lots of courses for all ages either an on-going week by week programme or an intensive course in the school holidays.
I would say it’s definitely worth the money if your child has even a passing interest in cricket. The coaches, who all wear full whites too – no tracksuits at the Home of Cricket – are all clearly passionate about inspiring children and have a full range of techniques to suit children of all abilities.
My little boy is showing no great natural talent for the game. He’s only 8, I’m not writing him off yet and neither did the coaches and he’s come away with greater knowledge of and greater love for the sport.
I feel sad, frustrated and confused. I don’t really understand how the election went the way it did.
I’m an average woman, with a pretty average unextraordinary life. I’m also a socialist.
How is it that I am just so out of kilter with the popular vote in this country?
The ironic thing is that I may well be a bit better off financially under a Tory government but that is not the point. I’m ok. Millions of people like me are ok. Millions are also much better off than me. We’re OK. But this isn’t about us. This shouldn’t be about whether I can be better off so I can buy a bigger house I don’t need or more clothes I don’t need or send my kid to private school he doesn’t need.
This is about those who aren’t OK. For those that the rest of us should be happy to pay our taxes to help. To give a strong welfare system that provides education and health to all and looks after the poor, the disabled the vulnerable.
Because for those of us that are doing OK – and especially those of you who are doing really rather nicely for yourselves – civilised society works when we look after our sick, our poor, our old people, our vulnerable and yes even those who weren’t born on our shores.
But clearly I am out of kilter with what people outside my liberal bubble think. And that makes me feel unbearably sad.
But this is a democracy and that is far better than any of the other alternatives. People have voted for what they wanted.
I just feel desperately sad that we had an opportunity as a country for something a bit different and we didn’t take it.
Those three words that makes every mum audibly sigh. Just three, one syllable words. But ones that come around every year as wanted as your letter inviting you for your annual cervical smear.
Yup. WORLD BOOK DAY.
Uh oh. And there it is in the school newsletter “Thursday 5th March is world book day. Your child should come dressed as their favourite character from a book they’ve read”.
Tentatively I ask my little boy James “who would you like to dress up as for World Book Day” knowing full well that some of his friends’ mums will spend weeks making, sewing and creating something incredible.
“Well my favourite character is Harry Potter” comes the reply. Predictable.
“But everyone will go as him. So how about Fantastic Mr Fox?”. Outwardly I smile, inside I’m dying with visions of fur and waistcoats and stuffing tails.
“OK darling, any other ideas just in case I can’t quite find the right fur?” (knowing full well I won’t be looking anywhere for any fur)
“Well I saw a Tintin outfit on Amazon mum. I think that would be best because you are so busy and you work really hard and you don’t have anyone to help you”. (I’m a single mum)
Well bloody nora. An eight year old boy with empathy. And with a flood of relief mixed with guilt at being one of those hopeless mums, we head to Amazon. £9.45 and a click later and Tintin was ordered, it arrived last week. And World Book day is sorted.
Till next year.
Nothing in life is a certain as change.
This blog was my starting point. The place I first started penning my rambling rubbish on cricket. Since then things have moved on. I’ve started earning something of a living from cricket through writing, reporting, broadcasting and all that. And now I have some pennies to run a new website. So from now on all my cricket related writing that isn’t in one of the newspapers or on Holding Willey or Cricket365 will be on www.boundarynews.org – where I (and my contributors) do bitesized news and opinion pieces.
So from now on, this blog will be a much more personal site. Where I blog about my life, my family, my worries, my fears, my dreams and my hopes. (I know – pass the bucket).
That sort of stuff is quite self-indulgent and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. So if it’s cricket you want, head to boundarynews. If it’s me and my dysfunctional life you want to read then I’ll be blogging here.
Thanks to everyone who’s read and commented on this blog over the last four years. I’ve really appreciated it.
Sheffield born Richard Kettleborough has been voted ICC umpire of the year for the last two years. And having watched him make a series of outstanding decisions in the recent Australia v India Test series, it’s not hard to see why.
But it’s not just the standard of his decision making that makes him an excellent elite umpire, it is his match management, his calm and understated presence and the way he gets respect from the players through being understated. Very different to some other elite umpires, Kettleborough mostly goes unnoticed, he doesn’t do anything in an ostentatious way and doesn’t make anything about him. He’s respected by players across the world and gets a handle on potential situations with quiet authority.
Elite umpires don’t speak very often to the media about themselves and it’s certainly not something Kettleborough feels comfortable with. He’s clear that his job is to facilitate and officiate international cricket matches; to ensure that the match can be played within the laws in the right way but without making any moutains out of molehills. He doesn’t like the limelight, he simply wants to be the best umpire he can be.
I spoke to him a few years ago just after he was first appointed to the ICC’s elite panel but the interview has been lost to the internet ether so I thought I would re-print it here. He had some interesting things to say.
Congratulations on being appointed to the elite panel. Did you always want to be an umpire after you gave up playing?
I started thinking about it whilst I was at Middlesex and what I was going to do after I finished playing. I really didn’t enjoy living in London. I went for a chat with John Hampshire who at the time was on the first class panel. He was the one who pointed me in the direction of umpiring. He said I was the right age and that if I did well then maybe the ICC would be looking for someone my age to go on and go forward. It made a lot of sense to think about something that could provide me with a career path and some longevity.
And what’s the process you have to go through?
It has changed a bit now but when I started I had to do my ACU+S (association of cricket umpires and scorers -now the Association of Cricket Officials) exams – 2 written papers and an oral exam. Yorkshire were really good to me, they let me officiate in a number of second eleven games as a non first-class umpire standing with a first-class umpire. This allowed me to get practical experience and get assessed and marked. Those marks go back to the ECB and then at the end of 2001 I applied to get on the ECB reserve list. I got on the ECB reserve umpire list for the 2002 season. I did four seasons on the reserve list before getting on to the first-class list for the 2006 season.
Presumably the reserve list doesn’t give enough income to make a living? What did you do for those 4 seasons?
I played as a professional in League cricket for Sheffield Collegiate CC (a presitgious club in the Yorkshire league where Michael Vaughan and Joe Root played their cricket as youngsters). That along with income from coaching supplemented my income from the reserve list.
And how do you move from the first-class umpire list to doing International games?
It goes on the marks you are given by captains. We all have mentors as well who, apart from David Byas, are all ex-first class or international umpires. They also report back to the ECB on how they think you are getting on and make an assessment of whether you are ready to go to the next level. So from there, the ECB pick people to go on the International panel. Firstly as a TV (3rd) umpire where again your performance is regularly assessed. And if you are good enough you become an on-field International umpire and then obviously those assessed to be the best are selected for the elite panel. My contract on the elite panel started on July 1st this year.
You were called out to the West Indies at very short notice recently to cover for the Test match against India when Daryl Harper announced his retirement – does that happen often?
That was a one-off scenario but it was quite mad. I did the ODI at Headingley on the Friday and that night drove from Headingley to Gatwick, got on a plane to Barbados, transferred to Dominica and a day later I was standing in a Test match. It’s not normally like that and it was quite tough because just like players it’s important to have a little bit of preparation time.
The DRS is obviously a highly contentious subject, particularly at the moment given India’s opposition to the ball tracking element of it. What’s your view of the technology? Do you find the DRS helpful or do you find it undermines you?
Before I umpired a match using the technology, I thought it really did have the potential to undermine us but having stood in Test matches and then the World Cup this year with the full UDRS in place, I am more than happy to have it. People clearly have differing opinions on Hawkeye but we are marked against it and I am personally very content with it – I don’t have any issues with the technology at all. It’s been tested, the ICC are happy with it and I’m happy to go with it.
The BCCI, as we know, have an issue with the predictive path element of hawkeye but we are marked on what hawkeye says and I personally think we should fully go with it.
We seen a few high profile cases of dissent leading to fines or bans lately – do you think it’s on the increase in both County and International cricket?
I’ve not seen very much dissent at all in International cricket in the time I’ve been officiating, I may have just been lucky but I do think the match referees and umpires do a very good job in containing it. Yes, there have been some issues in county cricket over the last few years but we have an effective discipline committee in place which does its job effectively. We given very clear guidance on it and most of us have played the game, we know what goes on, we understand where the lines are and what is just heat of the moment passion. No one wants to remove the passion from the players. I don’t think it’s a major issue at all but incidents of dissent do get quite a lot of publicity so I can see how it might seem that way.
One of the biggest elements of being a good umpire is man management. We know how and when to have a quiet word with a player and we are given the trust of the ECB to use our discretion within the guidelines.
There is a theory that because of the DRS players feel they can question the umpire much more than they might have done – is that something you have thought?
No, I don’t think so at all. There’s always been an element of questioning the umpire in the game and there’s always been players who are a bit more “hot-headed” than others. I don’t think it’s vastly different now to how it’s always been.
There are emotional players, cricket is an emotional game. Players are never happy when they’re given out – you wouldn’t expect them to be.
Do players come and apologise to you if they’ve overstepped the mark?
It’s been known but I wouldn’t say it happens often!
You’re the youngest on the elite panel, and some of the guys who you grew up playing with are still playing on the county circuit- does that feel strange?
I’m the youngest at 38 and Kumar Dharmasena is the next youngest at 41. To be honest, there’s not many of my peers left playing now. When I first started umpiring there were a lot of players who I’d played both with and against. I think actually that was an advantage, it helped me build relationships with the players but obviously from a purely decision making point of view it makes no difference whether I’ve played with them, against them or never seen them before in my life.
Do you ever get a bit star struck? You officiate in games with really famous players like Tendulkar.
Well obviously it’s fantastic I get to see the best players in the world executing their craft but in terms of decisions, it has no impact whatsoever. I heard a comment from Bumble recently when asked about whether players like Sachin subconsciously affect your decisions and his response was bang on “when you’re umpiring you don’t give a flying fairy who it is at the other end”. You judge each ball on its merit, if it hits the batsman on the pads, you give an honest decision based on what you think. It doesn’t make one bit of difference who is batting.
And for you, getting on the elite panel is clearly a big step and gives you a solid career for the future?
It’s an enormous honour and obviously it means you are the top of your profession. But it’s all very well getting there, the trick for me now is to stay there for as long as possible. But there’s a fine balance between umpiring here, there and everywhere all over the world and family life. I have 2 very small children and I’ve barely seen them over the last 10 months. But being an umpire is just like being a player, you want to get to the top.
We are continually assessed on our decision making, our man management, how we handle rain breaks and disruptions and if you aren’t up to scratch you will be removed from the panel.
The ICC have regional umpire managers who gives us mentoring and guidance and if you’ve had a good game the bosses in Dubai will always get on the telephone and give you praise and feedback. That’s a really big boost to your confidence.
Have you ever given a real howler that you want to confess to us?
The worst decision I’ve ever given was in my first ever 50 over domestic semi-final – Durham v Kent. I gave Michael De Venuto out LBW when he got an absolutely MASSIVE inside edge.Obviously at the time I didn’t pick that edge up but looking back at it, it was a bit of a howler yes. That’s the one that sticks in my mind because it was one of the first times I’d been umpiring a televised game.
How was the World Cup for you?
To be selected to umpire in a World Cup at my age was a great honour and an achievement and something I’m very proud of and then to be selected to umpire one of the quarter finals was a massive thing. Cricket in the sub-continent is special because of the atmosphere and passion. It was a great experience.
Court-siding, Sniping and Anti-corruption
A 30 year old man has been arrested in Sydney during the Big Bash match between the two Sydney teams having been ejected from two other matches in the city in the previous week. The man is suspected by police and anti-corruption officers of taking part in what is known as “pitch-sidiing” or “court-siding”.
Re-posting this article I wrote in the summer after a man was ejected from the SWALEC stadium in Cardiff during England’s ODI against India.
At the time, the reports suggested that the man in question was somehow linked to illegal bookmakers in India and was ejected for feeding information back to them in real time ahead of the 5-8 second delay in the Television pictures.
However, these reports were not wholly accurate. A member of the public was ejected from the SWALEC ground. He was seen at the back of the stand at the Cathedral Road End of the ground just below the Media Centre working on two laptops – one with cricinfo on the screen and the other with the trading exchange website Betfair on it.
The stewards at the SWALEC stadium were alerted to his presence and his activity and the decision to eject him was taken by Glamorgan county cricket club for being in breach of their ticket terms and conditions. He was not ejected by the ECB or the Anti-corruption unit.
It has been reported that the man at the SWALEC was ejected for undertaking what is known as “court-siding” or “pitch-siding” – this is the term used for the practice of relaying real-time information from the ground back to bookmakers (in most cases illegal bookmakers on the sub-continent).
However, in the case of the man at the SWALEC, he was, in fact, ejected by Glamorgan for being in breach of the terms and conditions on their tickets. The man, who is regular at international and domestic cricket, across the Uk was not relaying information via an ear piece; he was trading on betfair – a legal betting exchange.
It is important not to get the two things confused. ‘Sniping” (trading from the ground; which is what this man was doing) is not illegal and not necessarily against the ground regulations. It is also most not a threat to the integrity of the cricket. It is simply betting via an exchange with other ‘punters”. The only people who lose out in the case of sniping are the bookmakers – and noone’s heart is breaking too hard over that.
“Court-siding” is far more of a problem and one the both the ICC’s and ECB’s anti-corruption unit take strong and immediate action on. This is the relaying of information via phones and ear-pieces and is almost always in someway linked to illegal betting markets.
In the 2014 season alone, upwards of 20 individuals were evicted from English cricket grounds for partaking in “court-siding” and during July 2014 one man who was evicted from Northamptonshire county cricket was subsequently found to have links with the well-publicised case of fixing undertaken by Lou Vincent and Naved Arif in the 2011 quarter final of England’s domestic one day competition between Kent and Sussex.
During the Natwest T20 Blast finals day, a member of the crowd was spotted with an ear-piece, someone known to the authorities who was clearly feeding information back to bookmakers in the sub-continent. He didn’t have a laptop – just an earpiece and phone – he wasn’t trading or betting. He was spotted in the midst of a 22, 500 strong crowd and was removed from the ground. Information being fed back to illegal bookmakers ahead of the TV pictures is clearly a risk to the integrity of the game and feeds into the murky world of illegal gambling, fixing and corruption.
The Anti-corruption and security unit are active on the ground for every televised game. Often you can see the anti-corruption officers from either the ICC or ECB with their binoculars panning round the crowd trying to spot either anyone known to them or anyone who seems to have an ear piece or spending most of the match on the phone. Other tell-tale signs are when someone is sitting alone and doesn’t appear to be at all involved in the match – not applauding boundaries or wickets.
The ECB and ICC’s anti-corruption units work together very closely at International matches in England to share information about court-siders who may be known to them.
It is also worth remembering that when these individuals are identified, it may not always be the best course of action to simply eject them from the ground and send them on their way. They may be very useful sources of information to anti-corruption officers and may, indeed, lead them to the “bigger fish”.