I love this country and its people: David Shepherd

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Thursday, February 24, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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Whenever the scoreboard registers the figures 111 (triple one), known in England as a Nelson, this umpire, if he is on duty, skips on one foot, before taking his place behind the stumps at the bowling end, or at square-leg. He does the same when it's 222(double-Nelson) or 333 (triple-Nelson).

Burly and silver-haired David Shepherd, who is in Mumbai to umpire in the first Test between India and South Africa that started on Thursday, explained that this peculiar behaviour was due to a superstition in England that a Nelson brings in its wake some disaster. "I don't want anything to happen to anyone. It is just that and nothing else."

David Shepherd is the first international umpire who, with this Mumbai Test, will have completed officiating in 50 Test matches. Besides, he has supervised 92 one-day internationals.

In an exclusive interview, Shepherd dwelt on the pros and cons of having a national panel, which is financially supported by National Grid. He, however, fully supports the assistance of electronic technology in the job of umpiring.

The National Grid appointments provide the umpires with greater opportunities to stand in matches abroad. "An English umpire may not have his dream of standing in a Test or one-day match at Lord's fulfilled. But, say, an umpire from either India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, will certainly have that become a reality for him," he said.

"On the negative side, some of the home umpires' chances of getting international matches may suffer, as now we have to have at least one 'imported' umpire. It works both ways."

Shepherd said that for him and other English umpires, this arrangement was a big boon, as they now have jobs even in the off-season.

Shepherd, who came to umpiring after being a first-class player, having played for Gloucestershire, was all for the support of the TV cameras in the supervision of matches. "What is wrong if the players get decisions that are the closest to being perfect," he added.

David Shepherd last umpired in India in 1998 in the Test match that India played against Australia at Bangalore. He has stood in matches all over the world and is rated amongst the best three umpires in the game, India's Srinivas Venkataraghavan and Steve Bucknor of the West Indies being the other two highly rated umpires.

Shepherd is not much perturbed by the aggro of the players seen on the field. "I think the behaviour of players, after the introduction of the ICC code of conduct, is much better. There might be an odd incident of a player being carried away. But then they are as human as the umpires."

A preamble on the spirit of the game is being added now to the laws of the game which is being re-written and will come into force soon, revealed the umpire who will be doing his third Test in India.

"I love this country and its people. I do not think there is any other country that loves cricket so much. Here they make even umpires their heroes."

His attitude towards all that is happening on and around the cricket field, criticism, controversies etc., is best brought out by his final profound comment.

"The game is not played for the umpires. The ultimate aim is to get the correct decision for the players, who are the ones who toil. But then, I will hate to wait for ten minutes for a decision, whatever the complications or closeness of judgement."

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